The district council's chief executive, Ron Thompson, announced the
result today after a count at the offices of the Electoral Reform Service in London.
11,357 or 44% voted yes in support of a directly elected mayor. 14,438 or 56% voted in support of a 'no' campaign that was led by all three main political parties. Turnout at the referendum was 36.3% which is above average for an all-postal referendum of this type.
The result of the referendum will mean that Shepway DC will now introduce its fall-back option of a leader and cabinet and the council's new constitution will come into force in May 2002. The leader of the council (chosen by his or her fellow councillors) will work with a cabinet and have responsibility for executive decision-making at Shepway DC. The leader and cabinet will be responsible for implementing the major policy framework and formulating budget proposals that will continue to be approved by the full council.
Councillors who are not in the cabinet will be responsible for scrutinising the work of the leader and the cabinet and representing their local communities.
Shepway was one of the first district councils in England to experiment with the leader and cabinet system that it introduced on a pilot basis in May 1999.
Speaking about the conduct of the referendum, Shepway's chief executive, Ron Thompson said:
'I am delighted that the referendum has gone so smoothly and that 25,795 people in Shepway have taken the time and trouble to participate. I am grateful to the Electoral Reform Service and their officers for the care which they have taken over the conduct of the referendum and I and my staff must now prepare to introduce the new constitution in May.'
Rory Love (Con), the leader of Shepway DC, said of the result:
'This is a decisive endorsement of the trial leader and cabinet system we introduced
2.5 years ago, and I am pleased that community leaders from all shades of the political spectrum were able to work together for a 'No' vote. The public has shown their faith in the new system's ability to produce results for our district, and we must continue to ensure we do not let them down.'
Linda Cufley, leader of the council's Liberal Democrat group, said:
'I am delighted that the electorate of Shepway has rejected the option of a directly elected mayor. The Liberal Democrat Group will work to ensure that there are improvements to the current leader plus cabinet system here in Shepway so that the business of the district council is conducted in a more open manner.'
Labour group leader Bernard Sealy added:
'We are glad that the people of Shepway voted no as we feel that it would have added a layer of bureaucracy with additional cost and no appreciable benefit.'
Shepway DC decided to hold a referendum in September 2001 after public consultation on the three options, mayor and cabinet, mayor and council manager and leader and vabinet, showed support for a mayoral option. All three political parties represented on the council campaigned for a 'No' vote.