Debate ponders if Newport needs an elected mayor

DEBATE: From (left), Rob Southall, Cllr Chris Evans, Nick Webb, Jen Mills, Prof Russell Deacon, Kevin Ward, Canon Rev Andrew Willie

DEBATE: From (left), Rob Southall, Cllr Chris Evans, Nick Webb, Jen Mills, Prof Russell Deacon, Kevin Ward, Canon Rev Andrew Willie

First published in News
Last updated

A HEATED debate over whether Newport should have a directly elected mayor took place at the city’s civic centre last night. The debate co-hosted by The Civic Society and Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA) saw a panel of six give their views on whether or not the city would benefit from a directly elected mayor.

Directly elected mayors are local government leaders who have been directly elected by the people who live in a local authority area. A directly elected mayor is established instead of a council leader who is chosen by other councillors.

Speaking in favour of a directly elected mayor were Rob Southall, lecturer in Government and Politics at Coleg Gwent, Nick Webb, conservative parliamentary candidate for Newport West and Chris Evans, founder of Voice magazine and Labour councillor for Rogerstone.

Speaking against the proposal were Canon Rev Andrew Willie, who is chairman of the Civic Society and was vicar of St Marks Church in Goldtops for 15 years; Russell Deacon, lecturer in Government and Politics at Coleg Gwent and also the Administrative Director of the Welsh think tank Gorwel and Kevin Ward, editor of the South Wales Argus.

Dozens turned out for the debate chaired by Argus reporter Jennifer Mills, which saw each panel member put forward their views, before questions and arguments were welcomed from the floor.

Rob Southall was the first to speak on the issue.

“I feel that Newport needs a charismatic advocate,” he said.

“I think it would be so good for the city and would make it unique in Wales.”

Nick Webb said: “An elected mayor would be a powerful person.

“But the real power would be with the individual voter.”

He argued that a directly elected mayor would be positive for the city as it would re-engage the electorate.

Chris Evans also speaking in favour said a directly elected mayor would give the public someone they could hold to account and ‘bang the drum for Newport.’ “The buck stops with him or her,” he said.

”The position of elected mayor would bring about a change we all want to see, “An elected mayor would be about the vision, energy and real accountability to Newport.

“A directly elected mayor wouldn’t be able to hide when things go wrong.

“An elected mayor would have to reach out to people and would define our city.”

On the other side of the debate Canon Rev Andrew Willie argued that a directly elected mayor would not have time for the routine visits that the current mayor does and said that he believes accountability would pose a problem.

“I shudder to think what would have happened to a directly elected mayor if they had been a part of the controversy over the Chartist Mural,” he said.

While Russell Deacon argued that there would be no scrutiny if there was to be an elected mayor as a directly elected mayor would not be obligated to answer questions, and added such a mayor would not provide any more accountability than the current system.

Kevin Ward also against a directly elected mayor said a new set of elections would be too costly and argued that they would not be more accountable as many believe.

“There are lots of things that Newport needs. Another politician with even more power isn’t one of them,” he said.

“I believe there needs to be fewer, better and more able politicians.

“It is not about whether an elected mayor would be a new, shiny idea in this city because they are not.”

Mr Ward said that elected mayors are believed to be more accountable but said that people only have to look at the people of Rotherham to know that is not the case.

Mr Ward also argued that it is not as easy as it is made out to ‘get rid of’ a directly elected mayor as you cannot just get rid of a mayor before his current term and said an elected mayor will not solve the problem of voter apathy.

“I firmly believe that the way to change that is to engage people properly,” he said.

“I am not a betting man but if you call an election in Newport, I would be amazed if the turnout was higher than it was for the Police and Crime Commissioners.”

Comments (6)

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3:56pm Tue 2 Sep 14

Good Job No Kids says...

Mayors

Many councils have a civic mayor or chairman of the council. They carry out ceremonial duties and chair meetings, but can’t make decisions about council business.

Some councils have an elected mayor. They’re responsible for the day-to-day running of local services.

Councils can have both elected and civic mayors.



In light of the above extract from the UK government website, why bother at all?

Scrap the ribbon cutting and save money.

Would you trust the Mayor to do the latter?
Mayors Many councils have a civic mayor or chairman of the council. They carry out ceremonial duties and chair meetings, but can’t make decisions about council business. Some councils have an elected mayor. They’re responsible for the day-to-day running of local services. Councils can have both elected and civic mayors. In light of the above extract from the UK government website, why bother at all? Scrap the ribbon cutting and save money. Would you trust the Mayor to do the latter? Good Job No Kids
  • Score: 0

5:10pm Tue 2 Sep 14

DavidMclean says...

This story wins Picture Caption of the Day. The panel are looking somewhat stoney faced ;-)
This story wins Picture Caption of the Day. The panel are looking somewhat stoney faced ;-) DavidMclean
  • Score: 0

5:11pm Tue 2 Sep 14

DavidMclean says...

DavidMclean wrote:
This story wins Picture Caption of the Day. The panel are looking somewhat stoney faced ;-)
BAH! Ignore my previous comment!

When I wrote it the picture was of the statues in town. But they've changed it to the actual panel.
[quote][p][bold]DavidMclean[/bold] wrote: This story wins Picture Caption of the Day. The panel are looking somewhat stoney faced ;-)[/p][/quote]BAH! Ignore my previous comment! When I wrote it the picture was of the statues in town. But they've changed it to the actual panel. DavidMclean
  • Score: 1

5:40pm Tue 2 Sep 14

Magor says...

I think it would be a good idea but must be non-political.Look how the one in America turned New York around.Newport needs someone similar to clean the place up and attract new investment.
I think it would be a good idea but must be non-political.Look how the one in America turned New York around.Newport needs someone similar to clean the place up and attract new investment. Magor
  • Score: -1

11:23pm Tue 2 Sep 14

DavidMclean says...

Magor wrote:
I think it would be a good idea but must be non-political.Look how the one in America turned New York around.Newport needs someone similar to clean the place up and attract new investment.
Or look at the other side of the coin - Toronto's Rob Ford.
[quote][p][bold]Magor[/bold] wrote: I think it would be a good idea but must be non-political.Look how the one in America turned New York around.Newport needs someone similar to clean the place up and attract new investment.[/p][/quote]Or look at the other side of the coin - Toronto's Rob Ford. DavidMclean
  • Score: 2

10:14am Thu 4 Sep 14

bodlondon says...

Or look at Tower Hamlets

worst thing we ever did was have a referendum on an elected mayor, from the initial stage of the process (call for referendum) through to the actual election itself there was a very bad feeling about the legitmacy and conduct of the process
Even now it hasn't stopped, the last election saw the incumbent directly elected mayor returned - we now have an election court hearing into the legality of the election

A Panorama program on the elected mayor and the divisions in the community has seen the mayors office spending over 125k of councl taxpayers money on rebutting and denying the claims made in the program

At the same time services for young people, the elderly and disabled are being cut

NCC may be bad but go for a directly elected mayor and you would really be in the mire
Or look at Tower Hamlets worst thing we ever did was have a referendum on an elected mayor, from the initial stage of the process (call for referendum) through to the actual election itself there was a very bad feeling about the legitmacy and conduct of the process Even now it hasn't stopped, the last election saw the incumbent directly elected mayor returned - we now have an election court hearing into the legality of the election A Panorama program on the elected mayor and the divisions in the community has seen the mayors office spending over 125k of councl taxpayers money on rebutting and denying the claims made in the program At the same time services for young people, the elderly and disabled are being cut NCC may be bad but go for a directly elected mayor and you would really be in the mire bodlondon
  • Score: 0
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