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Borough warned over cost of scrapping elected mayor

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Holding a referendum on scrapping the elected mayoralty in Newham LBC will cost at least £370,000, a report to the council has said.

Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz (Lab) took office last year pledging to hold a binding vote on whether her post should be scrapped.

She told LGC at the time: “The mayoral model leads to a democratic deficit and people feeling even more disillusioned in the ability of politics to change things. It’s no surprise that voters are being drawn into polarising politics - there needs to be a correction.”

The council passed a motion supporting a referendum last November, but the report said this had no legal force as a valid motion would have to “comply with the statutory requirements for such a council resolution and [this] did not provide a rationale for holding a referendum”.

A stand-alone referendum could cost up to £500,000 to hold, but this could fall to £370,000 were it combined with other elections.

But the report warned that combining the referendum with the scheduled London elections in May 2020 would see “a potential risk of greater voter confusion” as voters grappled with ballot papers for the referendum, London mayor and London-wide and constituency assembly members, each on a different voting system.

A Newham spokesman said the council accepted the report and would continue preparations for the referendum.

Torbay BC’s elected mayoralty will be abolished next month at the end of incumbent Gordon Oliver (Con)’s term following a referendum in 2016.

Elected mayor posts have also been abolished at Hartlepool and Stoke-on-Trent BCs.

The Conservative opposition in Hammersmith & Fulham LBC this month launched a bid to create an elected mayoralty there.

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