Frequently Asked Questions

Governance referendum FAQs

Why are we having a referendum?

Rokhsana Fiaz, the mayor of Newham, made a commitment in her election manifesto in 2018 to hold a referendum on the borough’s governance arrangements by the end of her third year in office. She is keeping her promise by holding this vote. The council has passed several motions approving the decision.

When is the vote happening?

The referendum will be on Thursday 6 May, 2021 – the same day as the elections for Mayor of London and the London Assembly

Why do we have a directly elected mayor now, when other councils don’t?

The Local Government Act 2000 obliged councils in England and Wales to review their governance arrangements and introduced the option of a directly elected mayor. Councils that wanted to move to this model were required to hold a referendum to endorse the decision.

In 2001 Newham Council decided to recommend a change to the directly elected mayor model. A referendum was held in January 2002 and the first directly-elected mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, took office in May 2002.

What are the choices on the ballot paper?

Voters have the option to keep the current arrangements, with a directly elected mayor, or change to a committee model of governance.

Who decided that?

The law says that the current arrangement, which in Newham’s case is the mayoral model, has to be on the ballot paper, along with one (and only one) alternative. The council decided that the other option should be the committee system.

If you win, does the mayor get the sack?

No. The change to a committee system will take place at the local elections in May 2022. Whatever happens in the referendum, Rokhsana Fiaz will reman in office until then.

If we want to change the governance model, but not to the committee system, can we have another referendum on that?

Not straight away. Where a local authority has held a referendum on its governance arrangements, a further referendum may not be held for ten years.

Have any other places voted to get rid of the directly elected mayor?

Yes. Elected mayoralties have been abolished in Stoke-on-Trent (2009), Hartlepool (2013), and Torbay (2019). Three other local authority areas –  Doncaster, Middlesbrough and North Tyneside – have held referendums that retained the mayoral system.