Dear Editor, What a load of old cobblers this is. “City can have it’s Boris” screams the front page of last week’s Post (November 17). Put like that it all seems exciting and straightforward. And yet a few moment’s rational thought will reveal that the proposition is riddled with inconsistencies, contradictions and pitfalls.
Let’s just consider who, or what Boris is. Well, he’s mayor of the London conurbation. He is supported by a handful of highly paid, but unelected officials.
Then comes the London Assembly. The powers of the Assembly members are strictly limited; Boris is not accountable to them; they can have only a “ watching brief”. And then we have the London Boroughs, all 32 of them. They are themselves proper local authorities, each with an elected council, council officials and statutory powers over their own affairs, and the services that they provide, such as education. The office of the mayor therefore focuses on “London wide” services, such as public transport, strategic issues (like airport policy) and the police.
Coming home we have the County of West Midlands. The City of Birmingham is merely one – albeit very much the largest – of seven metropolitan borough councils which have similar powers to those of the London boroughs. There is, therefore, a case to be argued for the election of a mayor for the County of West Midlands. He, or she, would then assume responsibility for the conurbation-wide services, particularly public transport. Finding one individual who will satisfy the disparate political perspectives of Birmingham, the Black Country, Coventry and Solihull will be virtually impossible. In fact it makes much more sense to recreate the West Midlands County Council to address the desperate need to improve our public transport, and other county wide issues.
Turning now to the City of Birmingham it is obvious that an elected mayor is just going to create chaos and confusion.
Already we have a situation where too much power appears to be concentrated in the hands of one man.
“Whitby’s Folly” as the new library building will inevitably be known, will prove to be an expensive mistake, pushed through against the advice of more reasoned voices. (See the letter from John Dolan – also in last week’s Post.)
An elected mayor will inevitably see more focus on high profile prestigious projects, to the detriment of the real local services advocated by democratically elected local councillors.
An elected mayor? Thank you, but no thank you.
Anthony N Cook,