Councillors to get free vote in Newham governance referendum
- Credit: Archant
Councillors have granted themselves permission to vote freely in a referendum on how the borough is governed.
The decision by members of Newham’s Labour Group of town hall members means they can vote for their preferred option and not face pressure to make a certain choice in the ballot on May 6.
Voters in Newham are to be faced with the choice of keeping the current, directly elected mayor model or switching to a system of governance where the borough is run by committees.
Cllr Neil Wilson, who moved the motion calling for a free vote, said: “This is a great opportunity for all Newham residents to have a conversation about how they want the borough to be run, and it’s important that councillors have the ability to take part freely in that conversation.
“In particular, those of us who remember the first referendum and served under the previous committee structure have much to contribute on the merits of the committee system.”
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Newham Voting for Change – which is campaigning for the committee structure – has welcomed the decision.
It has stated that the decision stands in contrast to the Labour Group’s position in the first referendum on local governance in 2002.
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In that vote councillors were subjected to “undue pressure” to support the campaign to bring in a directly elected mayor, the group said.
Cllr Sarah Ruiz, who also spoke in favour of the motion, said: “We need to have a real debate about the best way for Newham Council to work and councillors need to be part of that discussion – we’re looking forward to positive campaigns based on the issues.”
READ MORE: Councillors agree referendum date on how Newham is governedThe referendum had been due to take place this year, but was postponed to avoid clashing with the London mayoral election, which was then shelved because of the pandemic.
Next year’s vote falls on the same day as voters across the capital go to the polls to select the mayor of London.
The Newham referendum fulfils mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz’s manifesto pledge to hold a vote.
A straw poll by the Recorder saw 103 votes for the committee model and 94 for the directly elected mayor structure.