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NEWCASTLE OPTS FOR LEADER AND CABINET

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Newcastle City Council has confirmed its commitment to a leader and cabinet structure following a meeting of the fu...
Newcastle City Council has confirmed its commitment to a leader and cabinet structure following a meeting of the full council last night.

The government has required all councils to consult the public on three possible options for their future structure:

* A directly-elected mayor with a cabinet

* A leader with a cabinet

* A directly-elected mayor with a council manager

Newcastle City Council set up an independent constitutional forum to carry out this consultation and assist the council to make an informed decision on what proposal to adopt for a new constitution.

The 15-person forum, contained eight independent members from the media, commerce, voluntary sector, education and other areas, including a representative from Newcastle's youth parliament.

Their consultation, which involved a series of public meetings, exhibitions, a public hearing and an opinion poll carried out by NOP, was completed earlier this month and a report was made to a special full council meeting at the civic centre last night.

Following a long debate the council decided that it would opt to retain its current leader and cabinet structure as the consultation had been inconclusive and revealed little desire for change.

Council leader Tony Flynn explained their decision: 'Ideally I believe we would support a referendum on this subject if we were allowed to present all of the options to the people,' he explained.

'However, the government guidelines preclude that and only allow councils to hold a referendum if they are proposing to have a directly-elected mayor. It appears to be set up to bounce people into one of the mayoral options.

'The consultation has shown that there is little desire for change in this city and certainly not enough support for a mayor for us to consider holding an expensive, binding, referendum which people have shown little appetite for.

'It was also apparent that the general level of apathy regarding these proposals could easily translate into a very low turn-out at a referendum. Given that any referendum question would have to propose a mayor and would be binding we could easily end up with a new system which only a handful of people in the city want - that isn't a situation that anybody could support.

'I believe that our consultation has been as comprehensive as any in the country and am confident that the secretary of state will accept our proposal for a leader and cabinet structure in Newcastle.'

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