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Monday, 20 October 2014

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Cumbrian MP's bid to delay vote for elected mayor

Copeland's first elected mayor may not be voted into office until next year’s General Election.

Jamie Reed photo
MP Jamie Reed

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is being urged to put back the date for when a new political leader could take office.

Following last week’s decisive referendum victory calling for an elected mayor, rules state the election to appoint a mayor should take place in October.

But there are concerns about the cost of the vote and the impact it could have on finances at already cash-strapped Copeland Council.

Copeland MP Jamie Reed has written to Mr Pickles, asking him to intervene and rule that the mayoral ballot should instead take place on the same day as next year’s parliamentary elections.

And if the minister doesn’t intervene to change the date he wants the Government to pick up the tab for the election costs.

Mr Reed said: “Holding the ballot for the new mayor on the same day as the General Election is in the best interests of our communities.

“Getting the logistics in place for an election is incredibly expensive and it is only logical to hold it on the same day as other elections.”

The Labour MP believes that holding an election in the autumn would be “to the benefit of nobody”.

He added: “In 2012, we saw the elections for police and crime commissioners demonstrate how little appetite there is for people to turnout to vote on cold, wet and dark evenings.

“This new form of local government in Copeland deserves to be given a chance to succeed.

“If the Government insists on Copeland holding the election at a time when the people don’t want it, and when the council cannot afford it, they must take full responsibility for its costs and for the potential of a low turnout.”

In his letter to Mr Pickles, Mr Reed says he understands the idea for postponing the poll has the support of Copeland Council and those who petitioned for the referendum, led by Time For Change campaigner Carla Arrighi. Voters gave the idea of an elected mayor in Copeland a ringing endorsement – with a 7,000 majority – when they went to the polls on Thursday.

Speculation is now growing as to who could take the post, replacing Copeland Council leader Elaine Woodburn and her executive.

Conservatives are planning to hold an open primary for would-be candidates while potential runners from the Labour camp are rumoured to include councillors Alan Holliday and Gillian Troughton, Tim Knowles and former executive member John Bowman.

The Liberal Democrats have yet to decide whether they will field a candidate.

The mayor will appoint his or her own executive and their salary will be agreed by Copeland following recommendations from an independent panel.

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