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Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 18:17 GMT 19:17 UK
Mayor referendum U-turn
Middlesbrough mayor Ray Mallon
Ray Mallon: Elected in the teeth of Labour opposition
Local councils will no longer be forced to hold referendums on whether to have an elected mayor following a government U-turn.

Hartlepool mayor Stuart Drummond
Hartlepool annoyed some with its choice of mayor
Ministers had been threatening to force three local authorities - Birmingham, Bradford and Thurrock - to hold such a vote as part of a shake-up of local democracy.

But now Local Government Minister Nick Raynsford says in future the decision will be down to individual councils.

Mr Raynsford claims the move will give more freedom and flexibility to local authorities.

'Embarrassing defeats'

But it is likely be seen as a major setback for Labour's plans to modernise local government with US-style elected mayors.

It follows a string of embarrassing defeats for Labour at the mayoral elections held so far.

The party finished third in London where the independent Ken Livingstone was elected.

While at the recent English local elections, Monkey mascot Stuart Drummond was elected mayor in Hartlepool.

A few miles away in Middlesbrough, former police chief Ray Mallon, known as 'Robocop', won in the teeth of strong Labour opposition.

No public support

There have also been suggestions that Labour is concerned about strong showings by the far-right in a number of Northern towns.

But this has been vigorously denied by Labour's Robin Cook, Leader of the House of Commons.

Earlier this year, Mr Cook told the BBC: "We are not scared of the BNP (British National Party) - and neither should we be."

The party had stood in less than 1% of the seats being contested and they had won less than 10% of those that they had contested, he said.

The three councils who had been lined up for a referendum opposed the plan, claiming it had little public support.


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05 May 02 | UK Politics
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