Newham’s Labour Group of councillors have voted to allow a free vote of councillors in next year’s referendum on local governance. This means that Labour councillors will be free to campaign for either side in the referendum and can take full part in the campaign for the committee structure (or indeed the campaign to preserve the mayoralty, if one is set up).
In the last referendum in 2002 a lot of pressure was put on councillors to support the campaign for a directly elected mayor, so this is good news.
On behalf of Newham Voting for Change, Martin Warne spoke at the Newham Fabians debate on the referendum on Saturday 21st November, making the socialist case for the committee structure:
Socialists know that supporting open, democratic and accountable government is crucial. Our party was established to open up government to working people who had gone unrepresented — so that democracy might be used to improve the lives of the many, not just the few.
I hope the referendum debate can be a starting point for a wider discussion on how to renew our democracy in Newham. As Fabians and socialists, we have questions to answer.
How do we create a political culture based on cooperation and solidarity? How do we rebuild trust in our politics and in our public institutions? How do we build support for and fund high quality, universal public services? How do we become carbon neutral within the next decade, to avert climate catastrophe?
The scale of the task confronting us means that the public needs to be at the heart of deciding how to proceed.
I will finish by quoting Olivia Blake, MP for Sheffield Hallam and a supporter for the campaign for a committee system in her city: “Labour councils should be innovative, pioneering new democratic processes with greater citizen participation and deliberation. And we need to start now. The people are ready for change, and we should listen.”
At last night’s council meeting, Newham Councillors voted overwhelmingly to hold the referendum on local governance on the 6th May 2021.
The question on the ballot paper will be whether Newham should keep the current system of democratically elected Mayor, or change to a system run by committee.
42 councillors voted for the recommendation, with one councillor voting against and one abstention.
Newham Voting for Change is delighted that Newham residents will now have a clear choice between a council run by an Mayor and executive, and a more participatory, inclusive and open system in which every councillor plays a role. We’re looking forward to campaigning for the committee system in the referendum, and having the chance to make the arguments about how Newham council should make decisions and agree policy.
If you’re interested in joining the campaign, sign up for email updates on our contact page or follow our Twitter of Facebook feeds. In the next few weeks we’ll be launching the campaign with a public online meeting talking to other campaigners across the country who have campaigned for changes to their local governance arrangements, so watch this space for details!
In 2018 the Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, promised a referendum on how the borough should be run. After sixteen years during which Robin Wales had held the position of Mayor practically unchallenged, many voters had questions about whether the Mayoral model was best for Newham, or whether a different way of working would be better for the borough.
Now the Mayor has confirmed to London politics blog On London that the referendum on local governance will go ahead – and has put forward a possible date for it to be held.
The decision about the choice put to electors and the referendum date will be made by the full council, not the Mayor. But Fiaz, who was elected Mayor on 4 May 2018, said she will argue for holding it on 6 May, partly because it would enable her to honour her manifesto pledge that a referendum would be held “before the end of my third year as Mayor”.
The 6th May 2021 is the same date as the London Mayor and the Greater London Assembly elections. Watch this space as we wait for the date to be formally confirmed, and to find out what the question will be on the ballot paper…