Unions combine to slam Coventry elected mayor plan

By Matthew Bates 27/04 Updated: 27/04 17:45

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Buy photos » Bob Ainsworth wants Coventry to have its own elected mayor. (S)

THREE of the city's biggest unions have urged voters to reject the idea of an elected mayor.

Unison, Unite and GMB claimed a mayor would wield too much power and urged their members to vote 'no' in Thursday's referendum.

Coventry City Council's Labour leaders have also come out against the scheme but former union man and city MP Bob Ainsworth is eyeing up the role.

His bosses in the Labour party have indicated MPs wanting to stand would have to resign - something Mr Ainsworth said he was willing to do during a BBC-organised debate.

The Coventry North East MP said a mayor would 'transform' politics in the city.

Critics claim the current system is the way forward, with well-known city businessman Joe Elliott comparing the role to a dictatorship.

And Chris Ashmore, joint trade union spokesman, said elected mayors would not be accountable.

"Too much power will be concentrated in one person, with a mayor only needing a third support of the 54 elected councillors.

"We believe the effect will be to weaken democracy and remove the influence that local people can have on Coventry City Council.

"Currently, elected members are accountable to their ward and to the electorate."

He added mayors would prove too expensive and be able to bring in unelected deputies on large wages. The city council, whose chief executive Martin Reeves is paid £175,000 a year, has set aside £150,000 for the scheme.

During the BBC debate, Mr Ainsworth said not voting for a mayor would see English cities miss out.

"Lots of councillors do their best but they do it in a system which doesn’t work.

"The Labour government set up the Welsh and Scottish Assemblies - they now have a lot more power. It has been English cities which have missed out."

Visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00qmp0w to listen to the one-hour long debate.

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