Our relatively new council leader Peter Jackson has dismissed the idea of holding a referendum on the plans for an elected Mayor ‘North of the Tyne’.
My thanks to county councillor Georgina Hill for being the first elected member to raise this issue in County Hall.
Here’s why Coun Jackson should change his mind.
The North East is the only region in England which has voted against devolution, overwhelmingly in 2004, largely on the basis that people did not want an extra layer of local government.
The elected-Mayor proposal brings with it a new combined authority, extra to the existing three local authorities. No one locally has asked them to provide this, no one has campaigned for this at an election, and no one has voted for it.
The world has changed since 2004. There may well be a case for ‘devolution’, but it is fundamentally undemocratic for local authorities and government to go against the decision of a referendum without another referendum. Or is this what they will eventually decide to do over Brexit?
Coun Jackson has apparently spoken of the cost of another referendum. But how can this possibly compare with the costs of a new authority and a Mayor? What about the costs to democracy?
Democracy is currently under threat from terrorists who kill schoolchildren at a pop concert in the name of establishing a caliphate and from others who last year murdered a woman MP in the street.
Democracy should be supported by all of us, not undermined by people who are, themselves, elected.
Our local politicians and the Government intend to hold a ‘consultation’ on this matter. However, consultations are meaningless. Votes are what count.
Devolution would be enormously strengthened by a referendum. On the other hand, if we opposed it that might just show that there is something wrong or inferior in the proposal, again.
We should be allowed to vote and politicians of all parties should remember to whom they are accountable.
Our money, our councils, our Government, our democracy.