‘People’s petition’ launched in bid to force referendum on directly elected mayor next year
- Credit: Archant
A “people’s petition” has been launched to force a referendum next year after councillors voted to push the date back of a public vote on how the borough is governed.
Members of the campaign group, Democracy Newham, are knocking on doors in a bid to get five per cent of the voting population - 10,286 residents - to support their call to change the current directly elected mayor system.
If they can get the numbers, campaigners say it would force a referendum next year.
The move comes after councillors voted unanimously in favour of changing the date of a promised ballot from the same day as the London mayoral election on May 7, 2020, to a date between June 2020 and May 2021.
Democracy Newham campaigner, Tahir Mirza - who is also chairman of East Ham Labour Party - said: "East Ham Labour Party general committee recently committed to supporting a petition for a referendum to be held in 2020.
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"We will be urging voting residents to add their name to this people's petition so we may once more have a transparent, accountable and democratic structure of governance."
The group fears that delaying the referendum beyond May 7 next year could see another four-year term begin under the current directly elected mayor system, which critics say is undemocratic because it concentrates too much power in one person's hands. However, the council denies this.
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Newham Democracy argues that holding the referendum on the same day as the London mayoral election will save money and lead to a higher turnout.
The motion passed by councillors last month states "the timetable must be tightly maintained to guarantee that the implementation of any referendum result takes effect from May 2022".
A Newham Council spokesman said: "The law is clear that any change has to be implemented at the next local elections in May 2022.
"Changing the existing governance arrangements is a decision for Newham voters to make in the referendum that will be held. The council is committed to giving electors this choice."
He added that a clear time frame has been set for the referendum - with an indicative date of April 1, 2021 - ensuring "maximum participation and engagement" from voters.
It would also come after a democracy and civic participation commission has concluded on alternatives to Newham's current governance model.