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No mayor appetite, ministers warned

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Civil servants warned ministers the public was unlikely to approve more directly elected mayors months before the publication of the community empowerment white paper.

Communities in Control: Real people, Real Power proposed making it “easier for people to demand their local leaders move to establishing a directly elected mayor”.

But documents released to LGC under the Freedom of Information Act show the evidence on which the white paper was based threw doubt on whether public appetite exists.

“Public demand for mayoral authorities is limited and when given the choice the public has more often rejected the option than accepted it,” a ‘rapid evidence review’ by Department for Communities & Local Government civil servants said.

“This raises questions about the extent to which any further roll-out of a mayoral model can be achieved voluntarily.”

The revelation came as DCLG published a consultation on making it easier to change council governance arrangements. The chief proposal is to lower the petition threshold to trigger a mayoral referendum from the current 5% of the local population to as low as 2%.

Online petitioning and the reduction of the moratorium time between referendums from 10 years to four are also being considered.

Communities secretary Hazel Blears said: “It is right we make it easier for people to decide which form of council leadership is right for them and relaxing the referendum rules ensures the whole community has a say.”

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