Stoke’s unique system of power with an elected mayor and council manager is doomed under the 2007 Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act, and must change by May next year.
Councillors have backed proposals to return to a council leader and cabinet system. Retaining a directly elected mayor and a cabinet is another option. The final decision will be made by residents in a referendum on 23 October.
The referendum will ask: “Are you in favour of the proposal for Stoke-on-Trent City Council to be run in a new way, which includes a councillor, who will be elected by the councillors of Stoke-on-Trent to lead the council and the community which it serves?”
A “yes” vote will see the new system introduced; if the answer is “no” a mayor and cabinet system will be introduced.
Forty-one councillors voted in favour of reverting to a leader and cabinet system at an extraordinary meeting last week. Seven voted against and seven abstained.
Elected mayor Mark Meredith (Lab) said the vote would be a chance to “lance the boil” of anti-mayor sentiment in the city: “The referendum will give us an answer once and for all.”
He added that he believed many councillors supported the leader and cabinet model to secure a referendum rather than because it was their preferred system.
Public opinion is hard to gauge. A city council consultation found 68% of respondents in favour of a leader and cabinet system. But a telephone survey by Ipsos MORI suggested that 57% of residents would prefer a directly elected mayor.