Page last updated at 14:35 GMT, Wednesday, 13 May 2009 15:35 UK

Alliance targets town mayor post

By Len Tingle
Regional political editor, BBC Yorkshire

Doncaster Council
Doncaster council's performance has been under fire in recent years

Two political parties have stepped aside in an unprecedented move to stop Doncaster voting in another Labour Mayor.

When nominations closed seven candidates had put themselves forward to replace controversial mayor Martin Winter, who won both previous elections as a Labour candidate.

But two names were missing. The Liberal Democrats and the Greens said they would not be standing.

Instead both parties confirmed they would be backing a candidate who is currently a member of the group of independent councillors on the South Yorkshire town's district council.

Mick Maye, a well-known face on his stall selling greetings cards at Doncaster market, has been an Independent Group councillor since 2004.

He strongly denies criticism that the anti-Labour alliance is a political "stitch-up".

He told BBC News: "All parties depend on the support of others if they want to get things done.

"I strongly believe that the post of mayor is too important to be controlled by one political party. We all need to work together."

Mayor Martin Winter
Mr Winter was first elected as mayor in 2002 and re-elected in 2005

His words are aimed squarely at the current mayor, Martin Winter.

He was the leader of the controlling Labour group on the council when he won the first election for the then new position of full-time executive mayor in 2002.

That first period of office created a backlash of popular support for a referendum in the town to abolish the job entirely.

Martin Winter succeeded in fending off allegations that too much power was in one man's hands.

After narrowly winning a second term Martin Winter was acrimoniously expelled from the Labour Party but soldiered on as mayor.

Other parties refused to allow their members to become part of his cabinet and he was reduced to setting up his own "communities group" with support from just two other councillors.

Two months before the election Martin Winter said he would not put himself up for re-election after a damning report on children's services in the town.

'No answers'

It is no surprise that Labour's candidate this time around, Sandra Holland, is handing out election leaflets with the words "a fresh start" boldly highlighted.

"The alliance of Greens and Liberal Democrats backing the Independent doesn't surprise me," she says.

"It just shows that they haven't got any policies or ideas of their own. They are good at saying what is wrong with Doncaster but have no answers. We do."

The current deputy mayor, Councillor Stuart Exelby, is also standing. He's a veteran Labour Party member who has now switched to the outgoing mayor's Communities Group.

The Conservative candidate Jonathan Wood admits that his party has no strong track record in the mayoral elections in Doncaster.

However, he says the party did poll well across every ward in last year's district council elections.

There are another three running for office. The English Democrats candidate is former teacher Peter Davies who wants to cut the salary by half and hold a referendum on the powers of the mayor.

The British National Party's candidate is local man Dave Owen. And Independent Michael Felse is another former Labour Party member.

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