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Monday, 20 October 2014

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Making your vote count...

YOUR questions about the referendum for an elected mayor answered.

electionvote
Make your vote count: The referendum on whether to have an elected mayor will take place on Thursday, May 22

On May 22, locals will take to the polls to decide if they want a directly-elected mayor to lead Copeland Borough Council. As things stand, if people vote ‘yes’, an election will take place on October 16. The elected mayor would be in post until May 2019 (with elections every four years after that) and take the decision-making power currently held by council leader Elaine Woodburn and her five-member Executive, all of whom would revert to being ward councillors if replaced.

Q: What format will the referendum take?

A: Each resident will be asked: How would you like Copeland to be run? By a leader who is an elected councillor chosen by a vote of the other elected councillors (this is how the council is now run) or by a mayor who is elected by voters. This would be a change from the way the council is now run.

Q: How will the votes be counted?

A: The votes will be counted at Egremont Market Hall and the result, on a simple majority, is expected in the early hours of May 23.

Whatever the result, there cannot be another referendum for 10 years.

Q: If the result is ‘yes’ to an elected mayor, who can stand?

A: A person must be a British subject, or qualifying Commonwealth citizen, or a citizen of the Republic of Ireland, or a citizen of a member state of the European Union.

They must be aged 18 or over, and have a “connection with Copeland”. The candidate, on the day of nomination, must be - and thereafter - continue to be a local government elector for the area of the local authority; or during the whole of the previous 12 months, occupied as owner or tenant any land or other premises in the area of the authority; or during the whole of the previous 12 months have had his/her principal or only place of work in the area of the authority; or during the whole of the previous 12 months have resided in the area of the local authority

They must also not be disqualified. This includes being employed by the local authority; politically restricted post in any local authority; bankruptcy; conviction of offence with a prison term three months or more within past five years; disqualified under RPA 1983 for corrupt electoral practices.

An existing Copeland councillor can stand, and must resign his or her seat if elected. There are no restrictions on parish, town or county councillors standing.

On October 16, the single transferable voting method would be used, with electors asked to list their first and second preferences among the candidates.

Q: What is the role of the elected mayor?

A: He or she will be the first citizen of the borough and the council’s principal spokesperson.

The mayor will give overall direction to the council, will delegate executive functions, and has first refusal to attend civic functions. The traditional civic mayor (it is expected to be Eileen Eastwood by the time of a vote) would become council chairman and it is expected the elected mayor and chairman would share civic duties.

Q: What is the role of the mayor’s Executive?

A: The mayor must appoint an Executive committee from existing councillors – minimum two and maximum nine – with one designated deputy. The mayor can delegate functions to the Executive. However some are specified as non-Executive, ie planning, licensing and appointment of staff.

Q: How is the rest of the council affected?

A: Other than the Executive, the position of 51 councillors is unaffected. The mayor cannot reduce the number of councillors (this can only be set by the Boundary Commission), and the full council continues to set budget and policy (with direction from the mayor).

The mayor has no impact on staffing, although can appoint an assistant.

The chief executive, a civil service position, would be unaffected.

Q: What will the mayor be paid?

A: The mayor’s allowance (and that of Executive members) will be set by the full council after taking recommendations from the Independent Remuneration Panel.

The allowance paid to the current council leader and her Executive would no longer be applicable.

Q: What will the referendum, and what would a vote, cost the council?

A: The referendum is on the same date as the European elections, so the £120,000 (approximate) cost is split 50/50 between Copeland and the European Parliament.

The full cost of the elected mayor vote would be met by Copeland. The council has written to the department of local government secretary Eric Pickles to ask if there are any upcoming changes in legislation that could see the vote delayed until May 2015 to tie in with the general election and local borough and parish elections, thereby cutting admin costs.

  • Those who wish to vote in the referendum must be registered to vote. Those not on the electoral register have until May 6 to apply. Call 0845 054 8600, email elections@copeland. gov.uk, or visit the main reception desk at the Copeland Centre.

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