Dear Editor, As the man who has been tasked by David Cameron to tour the country finding out what people think about having their cities run by elected mayors (Post, February 3) Lord Adonis should do a little less lecturing and a bit more listening.
If he really wants to know what Birmingham people think he could start by looking at what happened a couple of years ago when the Post’s sister paper, the Birmingham Mail, ran a high-profile campaign to gather enough signatures to force a referendum on the issue. They failed. In twelve months of trying, the Mail only got a fraction of the signatures needed. It was crystal clear that Brummies were not interested in their city being run by an elected mayor.
Lord Adonis also shows his woeful ignorance of what the council’s core business actually is, when he peddles the myth that all Birmingham needs is a charismatic figure who can bring jobs to the city and everything in the garden will be rosy. Yes, jobs and employment are important, but the council’s main functions is providing housing, education and social services. In the field of social services in particular, it is the poorest and most vulnerable in society which the council spends a lot of time and much of its budget working to support. Importantly, Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, does NOT have those responsibilities, but because Birmingham is constituted differently from London, Birmingham’s mayor would.
Therefore instead of telling us that all we need is a former businessman who can tour the world and bring jobs here, why do people like Lord Adonis, not point out that actually what Birmingham needs is someone who can get to grips with the needs of adults with learning difficulties, vulnerable children, safeguarding, etc.
Finally, slipped in amongst Lord Adonis’s pontificating, is the most worrying fact of all – namely that the Government envisages an elected mayor in Birmingham being able to appoint to their Cabinet not democratically elected councillors but unelected people – in other words the mayor’s cronies. Is that really what Birmingham wants? To be run by a kind of Third World dictator who slots in his friends, family, etc to the key jobs, regardless of which local politicians the people of Birmingham have elected? The mayor’s unelected cronies could be shaping services and spending public money safe in the knowledge that they will never have to be accountable at the ballot box for their actions – and even the mayor wouldn’t be accountable for a full four years. Just think of the damage which could be done in that time.
By preaching to us, instead of listening, Lord Adonis has let the cat out of the bag. The worst thing would be if the city sleepwalked into a mayor and cronies situation without people realising what they were agreeing to.
Councillor Deirdre Alden