A HANDFUL of people turned up to a special meeting campaigning for Wrexham to have a directly elected mayor.
The event, held at the Memorial Hall yesterday afternoon, was organised by former AM and MP John Marek. Dr Marek is now seeking about 50 volunteers prepared to go out with a petition calling for a referendum.
“We had about half a dozen people here today. They have gone away to think about the issues involved,” said Dr Marek.
The petition which has been drawn up says: “We the undersigned, being local government electors for the area of Wrexham Council, to whom this petition is addressed, seek a referendum on whether the electors for that area should elect a mayor who, with a cabinet, will be in charge of our local services and lead Wrexham Council.”
Dr Marek said he might leave copies of the petition in a number of shops around the town for customers to sign and show their support. There has to be an overall total of at least 10,000 signatures collected.
Dr Marek estimates that if about 50 people volunteer to take part in the petitioning they would be able to get 200 signatures each and meet the required total.
“People are very welcome to get in contact with me on this matter, They can telephone 01978 264152,” said Dr Marek.
“Having an elected mayor would bring Wrexham democracy rather than bureaucracy and lead to more efficient local government.
“I have been speaking to a number of people about the proposals and been getting very good feedback on the matter.”
Dr Marek claimed a mayoral system would bring two big advantages: it would be cheaper to run and there would be greater accountability.
“We would not need to have a new chief executive, which would save a great deal of money. And a mayor would know that he or she would have to deliver because they are directly elected by the people.”
Talking about an elected mayor system, Cllr Aled Roberts, leader of Wrexham Council, said: “Wrexham Council currently uses an executive board model which allows for cross party involvement in decision making.
“The system allows for a great deal of transparency in the process and has been operated by successive administrations of differing political persuasions.
“Dr Marek refers to a model which, in the opinion of many, concentrates too much power in the hands of one individual and would also involve the appointment of an officer as council manager who would act as head of paid service. This position has been evaluated in other areas as a senior position so it is unlikely any significant savings would be made. Perhaps more importantly the elected mayor would usurp the historic, non-political civic role undertaken by the borough mayor which many people value.
“I am also sure Dr Marek is aware of Welsh Assembly Government proposals to scrap the model in Wales. Even if a majority of councillors supported the idea, which I think is unlikely, then the idea would have to be supported by a public referendum and I don’t think we could justify the cost of a referendum for a system which might be scrapped before it was introduced.”