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Friday, 19 October, 2001, 14:18 GMT 15:18 UK
Sedgefield votes no to elected mayor
Brighton seafront
Voters in Brighton decided against a directly elected mayor
Voters in Tony Blair's Sedgefield constituency have voted against having a directly elected mayor.

Just 33.3% of the electorate turned out to vote in the local referendum which saw 11,869 against having a mayor and 10,628 in favour.

The result follows a series of similar votes elsewhere in the country.

Just before the Sedgefield referendum was declared Middlesbrough became the latest town to vote in favour of having a mayor.

But Brighton and Hove rejected the idea in the latest string of referendums.

The overwhelming 80% "yes" vote announced in Middlesbrough on Friday followed endorsements for the idea of elected mayors in Hartlepool, North Tyneside and Lewisham, which also held referendums on Thursday.

Referendum locations
Brighton and Hove
North Tyneside
But in Brighton and Hove 62% voted against the idea on a 32% turnout and the city will be run instead by an improved version of the council's committee system.

One of the candidates running for the new job in Middlesbrough, where 29,067 voted on a 34% turnout, could be controversial zero tolerance" policeman Ray Mallon.

Mr Mallon resigned from Cleveland Police in August in order to run in the mayoral race but Chief Constable Barry Shaw refused to accept his resignation.

Although Mr Mallon, dubbed "Robocop" by the tabloids, has been cleared and exonerated of all criminal charges, he still faces 14 disciplinary charges, including neglect of duty, misconduct, falsehood and prevarication.

The five latest results take the number of councils that have said yes to the idea to five, including Watford and Doncaster.

Ray Mallon
Mallon says he wants to stand for mayor
The elections are expected to take place on 2 May.

Many councils have already discarded the traditional committee system in favour of having a leader and cabinet structure in town halls, but the introduction of directly elected mayors takes modernisation a step further.

Critics of the idea claim many people are not interested and that the new mayors will not have enough decision making powers to be effective.

The idea of a new style mayor has already been rejected in Birmingham, Kirklees, Sunderland and Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Postal voting

In North Tyneside there was a majority of nearly 8,000 in the postal vote in favour of an elected mayor - in a welcome boost for Local Government Secretary Stephen Byers whose constituency is covered by the borough.

At the Labour party conference last month Mr Byers said that local people should have the choice to vote for a mayor if they wanted.

Referendum results so far
Brighton and Hove: No
Middlesbrough: Yes
Lewisham: Yes
Hartlepool: Yes
North Tyneside: Yes
Berwick: No
Sedgefield: No
Kirklees: No
Sunderland: No
Doncaster: Yes
Watford: Yes

But in Hartlepool and Lewisham the result of the postal vote was much closer with majorities of 433 and 908 respectively.

Shadow local government secretary Theresa May claimed the votes provided evidence of "overwhelming apathy" over the idea of elected mayors.

"The government would do far better to concentrate on devolving power back to local communities away from central and regional government," Ms May argued.

Don Foster, Liberal Democrat local government spokesman, was unimpressed with the latest results saying the poor turnout and close results showed little popular interest for "Labour's latest distraction".

"Until he [Stephen Byers] calls the Whitehall tanks off town hall lawns for good, local people will not have confidence in local government," he said.

Mayoral powers

The mayor, who would be elected for a four-year term, would be able to draw up a draft of the council's policies and budget with a small number of other councillors.

While the full council would actually decide those budgets and policies, it is the mayor and their close circle who would set the priorities and decide how to use the authority's resources to deliver on the council's programme.

The Local Government Act 2000 allowed referendums to be triggered if 5% of the population signed a petition calling for the vote.

See also:

03 Oct 01 | England
Elected mayor plan doomed
26 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Support for elected mayors 'growing'
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