Campaigners hail petition milestone aimed at scrapping Newham mayor
PUBLISHED: 07:09 23 September 2020 | UPDATED: 07:12 23 September 2020
A petition aimed at forcing a referendum on how Newham is governed has been signed by more than 12,000 people, campaigners report.
A total of 12,422 signatures were collected by campaign group Democracy Newham which wants a public vote on whether to keep the directly elected mayor model.
Campaigners handed the so-called People’s Petition in to the council on Friday, September 18. If the numbers are confirmed, it may trigger a vote.
A People’s Petition campaigner, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “The mayor should welcome our petition. At least now she can fulfil her promise to the people.”
Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, pledged to hold a public vote on how Newham is governed in her manifesto ahead of her win at the local elections in 2018.
The campaigners want a referendum held at the soonest election, which would likely be the London mayoral vote in May, 2021.
The campaign expects the ballot to include the current directly elected mayor model and the leader and cabinet alternative.
Campaigners say the directly elected mayor model puts too much power in one person’s hands whereas the cabinet and leader model allows for a vote of no confidence.
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A similar move against former Newham mayor Sir Robin Wales faltered in 2016.
“The more people are involved in decision-making, the better,” the campaigner said.
Democracy Newham launched the petiton after councillors voted unanimously in favour of changing the date of the promised ballot from the same day as the London mayoral election.
That mayoral vote had been due on May 7, 2020, but was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A referendum date between June 2020 and May 2021 was given as a possible alternative.
The handing in of the petition follows on the heels of an overview and scrutiny meeting last week where members heard that putting an option of directly elected mayor with term limits on the ballot would need parliamentary approval.
“That would take two or three years. The two terms model is not tried and tested,” the campaigner said.
He warned that the council could try and put it on the ballot to push the referendum further down the road, leading to four more years of the directly elected mayor model.
READ MORE: Law change needed to include two-term limit to Newham mayor in referendum
A Newham spokesperson confirmed the council has received the petition and in line with the statutory process, the returning officer is now working to validate the signatures.
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