Torbay’s two Conservative Mayors could not have been more chalk and cheese in character. The first having all vision and no detail, spending huge amounts, over £600,000, on consultants to write his plans. The second shied away from vision and strategy ignoring professional advice, closely controlling the councillors and seemingly reacting to situations in a random and haphazard manner.
In both cases the Mayors have pursued their own agendas despite opposition from their own councillors, sponsoring vanity projects such as the Babbacombe Downs fish restaurant and the building of beach huts, in both cases at great cost and the latter with an uncontrolled overspend.
The mayoral system has centralised power and decision making to such an extent that many of your councillors, irrespective of their political persuasion, feel that they cannot represent the people that have voted for them. Councillors feel unable to make a difference or influence the will or direction of the Mayor. The ability of the councillors to hold the mayor to account (scrutiny) is minimal.
One theme that has linked both the mayors is the complete lack of listening, consultation and delivery skills for Torbay residents.
During February, Torbay Liberal Democrats conducted a Mock Election inviting people to cast their vote on the streets of Torbay using the actual wording of the Referendum; Keep the Current Mayoral System or Axe it for a Leader and Cabinet system. 88% of those participating wished to Axe the mayoral system.
Many of the comments collected from Torbay residents were very telling:
- Concern over the power in the hands of one person
- The Mayor doesn’t listen to anybody
- Does nothing about (affordable) housing
- Concerns over the handling of Oldway mansion and the Pavilion
- Willingness to damage the harbour side areas and give away greenspaces.
- Lack of delivery of better paid jobs.
- Too much attention to developers
- Cost of mayoral system
This is directly comparable to the result in March from Bath and North East Somerset who rejected a directly elected Mayor with a huge 79% No vote.
As Liberal Democrats we believe that the decisions should be made as close to you as possible and that your elected councillors should be heard and able to influence, on your behalf, the decisions the council makes. The only way forward is one of accountability and openness, sadly missing in the mayoral system. We need the ability to make change.
Change to tackle the economic and social issues and enable the creation of a strategy for the growth of the Bay’s business and employment opportunities. Only then can we take the bay forward and unleash its great dormant potential.
Take part and make a difference on the 5th of May. Give your ward councillor the chance to get things done and represent you properly, by voting for the leader and cabinet option on the ballot paper.
Vote to Axe the Mayor in Torbay’s Mayoral Referendum.