Newham Lib Dems have voted to campaign against a directly elected mayor and for a committee system in Newham in the local referendum due in May 2021.
The Liberal Democrats are against concentration of power in a single person. The Mayor of Newham is the council’s political leader and has full executive decision-making powers. This concentration of power means that different perspectives and the whole range of views the citizens of Newham have go unheard.
Although the mayor is directly elected by the public every 4 years, there have only been 2 different people elected as mayor since the role was established in 2002. The previous mayor Robin Wales was holder for 15 years, before being ousted by the current mayor Rokhsana Fiaz, who has been incumbent since 2018. Both these mayors have been Labour, and although they won a majority of votes in each election, a significant portion of the residents of Newham voted for other candidates, and yet we believe their voices go unheard. Instead it is our belief that instead of benefitting the people of Newham, the local Labour Party use the position for their own politics and once they have been selected for the role they have unfettered patronage amongst their councillor colleagues and party members. We believe this has led to complacency and arrogance from the holders.
The mayor's salary is currently £84,272 per annum paid from local council tax. This is above the salary of Members of Parliament, and far higher than the average salary of a resident of Newham. In contrast a local councillor cabinet member would receive £35,373.
Instead we will be supporting what is officially called Committee Model, but is actually decision making by groups of elected Newham councillors. This system will ensure elected councillors will also have a say on decisions made by the council, ensuring differing opinions and voices are heard from across the borough. Although currently every councillor in Newham is Labour, we are working hard to ensure that changes at the next council election and Lib Dem voices will be heard in council decisions.