Councillors agree referendum date on how Newham is governed

A majority of councillors voted for a motion to hold the governance referendum on May 6, 2021 and to

A majority of councillors voted for a motion to hold the governance referendum on May 6, 2021 and to include an alternative committee model on the ballot. Picture: LBN - Credit: Archant

A public vote on how Newham is governed is to take place on May 6 next year.

The referendum will fall on the same day as the London mayoral election and give voters in the borough a choice between governance by the current directly elected mayor system or by committees.

Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, said at a full council meeting on Wednesday, October 21: “This delivers on my promise to the people of Newham.”

Ms Fiaz pledged to hold a referendum in her 2018 election manifesto.

In total, 42 councillors voted in favour of putting the committees option on the ballot paper, one voted against and another abstained.

Under the alternative model, councillors elect a leader but power is exercised by a number of committees which should reflect different political parties’ representation on a council.

A motion to include the leader and cabinet model on the ballot was withdrawn. It emerged in the meeting that members were whipped to support the committees motion following debate by local Labour groups.

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In the meeting, Newham Council’s chief executive, Althea Loderick, revealed that the company, Democracy Newham Limited (DNL), was taking the authority to the High Court.

The company, which is registered at Cllr Suga Thekkeppurayil’s address, has asked a judge to review Newham’s decision to rule as invalid a petition aimed at forcing a referendum, which included the leader and cabinet model.

READ MORE: Petition aimed at forcing referendum on how Newham is governed deemed invalid

Before the meeting DNL sought an emergency injunction requiring the council to validate the petition and stop the vote. However, it was withdrawn after Newham contacted DNL’s solicitors.

Ms Loderick said the first hearing would take place as soon as possible after November 10, the night’s vote was lawful and not affected by the High Court challenge.

Cllr John Whitworth hailed the vote, saying: “We are moving forward to a new stage in the process of Newham’s democratic renewal.”

The referendum was 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.

Cllr Whitworth acknowledged that holding the referendum on the London mayoral election day still meant “inconveniences” would apply, but the Covid-19 risks to public health would be confined to one occasion.

Cllr Thekkeppurayil decided not to contribute to the debate after he was asked if he needed to declare an interest.

A total of £350,000 has been set aside to cover the referendum’s cost.