Letter: Town hall reform

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The Independent Culture
Sir: In Paul Waugh's article on directly elected mayors (27 November) it is claimed that "voters in Camden overwhelmingly supported the status quo".

This is not correct. We consulted widely and received 1,400 replies. This is a very good number for an arcane subject, but less than 1 per cent of our population. There was a strong campaign by the Tory and Liberal Democrat parties against the proposals, and both local papers were hostile.

On a range of four criteria, respondents were almost exactly evenly split between one or other of the government proposals and "none of the above". However, when asked about the status quo, a clear majority of the answers expressed dissatisfaction with the present arrangements.

Clearly these responses are capable of a number of interpretations. In my view, they are inconclusive, and it is wrong to suggest they are overwhelmingly supportive of the status quo.

Some of the concerns expressed need to be taken on board. There was concern that any cabinet system in local government would be secretive. Given the secrecy of British and other national cabinets, this is understandable. There is no need for this in local government. Cabinets should meet in public on public agendas. I believe any new system for local government must be even more open and consultative than at present.

People also asked that any changes should be subject to a local referendum. I welcome the government proposals to encourage referenda. Indeed, I would go further, and hope that we could have a referendum on a range of proposals, not just the mayoralty.

RICHARD ARTHUR

Leader of the Council

London Borough of Camden

London N6

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