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‘Shadow mayors’ plans abandoned

The controversial concept of ‘shadow mayors’ has been dropped from the Localism Bill, following much criticism that the notion was an affront to democracy.

Under the original plans, England’s 11 largest city councils would have to appoint shadow mayors ahead of local referendums on converting their council leaders into executive mayors permanently.

Shadow mayors would have been in post until May 2012, when a referendum would decide whether the mayoral model of local government should continue. For areas that voted in favour, mayoral elections would then have been held in May 2013.

Junior Local Government Minister Baroness Hanham announced the change of plan, which would also have involved combining the leader’s role with that of council chief executive.

She told peers: “When we reach the debate on mayoral provisions, the Government will be pleased to support amendments that have the effect of deleting from the Bill mayoral management arrangements; that is, mayors as chief executives and the concept of shadow mayors.”

But she added: “Deleting these provisions from the Bill will not prevent councils deciding to do away with the non-statutory post of chief executive should they choose to do so. Indeed, the newly elected mayor of Leicester has announced that he is proposing to do just that.”

Shadow Local Government Secretary Caroline Flint welcomed the climb-down and said the original plans were “undemocratic and costly”.

She added: “Following his climb-down on bin collections a few days ago, this is the second major personal humiliation for Eric Pickles in the space of a week.”

The Government's plans would have applied to, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wakefield.

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