Newham LBC’s directly elected mayoral model could be scrapped, according to Labour’s candidate to take up the role in May’s election.
Campaigning on a platform of increased democratic participation, Rokhsana Fiaz (Lab) beat Sir Robin Wales (Lab) in an internal election of 2,050 Labour party members in Newham.
Sir Robin Wales was deselected by the Labour party on Friday after 23 years in power in the borough.
Cllr Fiaz expressed on Twitter her “deepest thanks to all those Labour Party members in Newham who voted for me to be” the party’s candidate in May’s election.
Speaking to LGC before her election win, Cllr Fiaz said: “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.”
If elected mayor in May, Cllr Fiaz said she could set up a commission on possible future ways of running the borough, led by an independent chair. The findings of this commission would then be referred back to full council for a vote on whether to call a referendum on its findings.
Cllr Fiaz said: “I want to emphasise that the reason for this process is not to kick reform into the long grass, but to ensure we demonstrate a transformation of council culture. It’s part of a wider ambition to make sure the council moves away from its present experience, which is very insular and difficult to access.”
As a member of the audit and overview and scrutiny committees, Cllr Fiaz said a number of councillors had become disillusioned with the way the council was being run.
“All the power currently lies in the hands of one directly elected mayor who has all the power to make decisions - he doesn’t delegate,” Cllr Fiaz said. “Councillors become redundant, even if they’re all from one party. What’s the point of anyone putting themselves forward?”
Under Newham’s current council system, any motion passed by full council does not automatically become policy until it is passed by the executive branch.
On 26 February, a motion which opposed forced academisation was passed by full council with Sir Robin Wales’ support. Yet earlier this week the London branch of the National Education Union said it had received confirmation from council officers that the policy had still not changed as it had still not been passed by the executive.
By comparison, Cllr Fiaz says she wants to enhance the democratic accountability of the executive, should she win the election in May.
“I want the council to adopt a much more partnership, collaborative way of working,” Cllr Fiaz said.