Voters opt for elected mayor system
A referendum in Salford has revealed a majority in favour of having a directly elected mayor for the city.
Results from the poll showed 17,344 voted "yes" against 13,653 "no" votes, thus endorsing the new proposal. But turnout was just 18.1% of the city's 171,000 eligible voters.
The result means residents will now vote to directly chose a mayor instead of the old system where the effective leader of the authority was chosen internally by councillors from the ruling party.
The poll was held after a petition with 9,062 signatures was collected requesting the city council hold a vote on the question. Any local authority is legally obliged to hold a referendum if more than 5% of the electorate sign a petition under the Local Government Act of 2000.
But England's 11 largest cities will also hold referenda on the same subject in May under new plans in the coalition Government's Localism Bill.
The Government is keen to see US-style directly elected mayors in big cities to engage voters more closely in local politics and have a say in how local taxpayers' cash is being spent.
The cost of holding Salford's referendum is estimated to be around £200,000.
Voters in Salford were asked to give a "yes" or "no" on the ballot paper to the following question: "Should the electors for the area of Salford elect a Mayor who, with a Cabinet, will be in charge of our local services and lead Salford City Council?"
In Salford, John Merry is current leader of the council, chosen by the elected councillors on the ruling Labour group, which campaigned for a "no" vote. However, the "yes" campaign said the public should elect the mayor, instead of politicians from the ruling party deciding behind closed doors.
Local businessman Geoffrey Berg triggered Salford's referendum by collecting enough signatures in the petition. His "yes" campaign was supported by the English Democrat Party.