Petition to hold a referendum to replace the ‘Directly Elected Mayor’ in Tower Hamlets

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That we hold a referendum in Tower Hamlets to replace the ‘Directly Elected Mayor’ system after an informed debate so that residents and not just politicians have a say on the structure of how we should make decisions that affect us all.
 
We the undersigned petition the Council:
1.     that should Councillors vote to hold a referendum to replace the ‘Directly Elected Mayor’ model of government that voters be presented with a choice including the Committee system as more likely to solve the problem caused by having a single person holding all of the power;
2.     that any such vote be held on a day separate to other major elections, we believe that this is a serious matter deserving a proper debate, that won’t be possible on the same day as a party-political election;
3.     that before any vote that residents are provided with impartial information about the different governance options so that they can help choose what the right system of government is for Tower Hamlets, that they are assisted in this by independent bodies like the Local Government Association and the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny, a national charity based in Tower Hamlets;
4.     that Tower Hamlets also look at what Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz did in Newham with a Democracy and Civic Participation Commission, that looked at a wide range of democratic issues and which made recommendations for changes to how democracy works in Newham;
5.     That following this process we then hold a referendum on whether to keep or replace the directly elected Mayor model of government which includes options so that residents and not politicians make the final choice.
 
A referendum to establish a directly elected Mayor of Tower Hamlets with all Executive powers was held on the 6th May 2010 on the same day as national and local elections, it meant as a result that there was little time to debate the advantages or disadvantages of the Mayoral system, and no opportunity was provided to look at other options.
 
That referendum result can only be changed after ten years have passed, those ten years are now up and it is time to look again collectively about who makes decisions in Tower Hamlets in the future.
 
We believe that in the future we need a different system of government from that which has served us in the past. The challenges facing us are increasing in complexity, COVID threatens many parts of the economy of Tower Hamlets, the population continues to grow. This all makes it increasingly difficult for any one person however hard-working to effectively cover everything with sufficient attention to detail and that therefore power and responsibility need to be more widely shared so as to ensure governance better suited to our future challenges.
 
In Tower Hamlets we could choose between four different types of leadership and governance to achieve these objectives:
a.     today we have a directly elected Mayor, where all executive power and responsibility lies with one person, first Lutfur Rahman and now John Biggs, Councillors have no powers in this model except to ask questions (in planning and licensing committees they can reject or accept officer recommendations);
b.     a Leader and Cabinet, where a Councillor is elected as the leader by other Councillors but otherwise executive power largely remains in the hands of one person but Councillors (usually from the largest party) choose who that person is, the model we used before the year 2010 and was rejected in the 2010 referendum;
c.     a Committee system (the most common system before the year 2000) where power and responsibility is shared by Councillors in different committees, now used by some London Councils, it creates a more open and transparent decision-making process less reliant on one person;
d.     a hybrid model that combines elements usually of the Leader in Cabinet model and the Committee structure, to ensure that not too much power is held by one person and that there are more checks and balances in the system.
 
Once a referendum is held, the result cannot be changed for another ten years so it is important to get this right.
 
If on Change.org you have supplied an email address, we may use it to contact you with an update purely on this issue alone, Cllr Andrew Wood on behalf of other Tower Hamlets Councillors