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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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May day to be D-Day for a vote on elected mayor

COPELAND residents WILL vote in May on whether they want an elected mayor to lead the borough.

A petition calling for a referendum that could result in an historic shake-up of the council’s leadership has been successful – and a yes/no vote will be held on May 22.

In the event of a ‘yes’ vote, the election of a mayor would take place on October 16 and the successful candidate would take office four days later.

A ‘no’ vote would see the current set-up, of council leader Elaine Woodburn and her five-member Executive, remain.

Bern Birbeck, of the group campaigning for a referendum, said: “This is absolutely wonderful news. We are overjoyed that a referendum will be held.

“However, even though the biggest hurdle has been cleared there are other challenges. All through the process we have been confident, yet not overly confident and it looks as though we are on our way.”

They will now launch an advertising campaign, put up posters around the borough, post leaflets through people’s doors and, hopefully, set up a telephone helpline.

If the referendum returns a ‘yes’ vote, candidates will be able to put themselves forward for election. They have to meet criteria including either living or owning property in Copeland.

“We said we wanted to change the form of Government in order to bring democracy at last to the people of our area,” said Mr Birbeck. “When I was collecting signatures, I was asked quite often what was in it for me and it is a sense of order for the borough.”

An elected mayor would hold the policy-forming and decision-making powers currently held by the council leader and Executive team – all of who would revert to being regular ward councillors if a mayor is elected.

To secure a referendum, five per cent of the electorate needed to back the plans. The petition received 3,197 valid signatures; 420 more than required.

The referendum will be held on the same date of the MEP elections, and the £120,000 cost will be halved between Copeland and the European Parliament.

The £120,000 for an elected mayor vote would be met by Copeland alone.

The are currently 16 elected mayors in the country, including two district councils – Watford and Mansfield.

Paul Walker, Copeland’s chief executive, said: “In the coming weeks, there will be information in the local press and elsewhere to help people understand the two systems of governance, so people can make an informed decision about which model they would like.

“As there can be no subsequent change of governance model for a further 10 years, it is important that people do have their say in this referendum.”

Those who wish to vote in the referendum must be registered to vote in Copeland. People who are 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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