Letter:Local democracy on the cheap

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The Independent Online
Sir: I was fascinated to learn from your feature of 23 July that the Labour-controlled Oxford City Council favours an elected mayor, as the matter has never been discussed.

In order to be effective, an elected political executive would have to work within a council that was both unitory and had a general power of competence. Rightly, no one will take on this level of responsibility if their decisions can be overturned by anonymous interference from outside the authority.

It also needs noting that the Lord Mayor of a city like Oxford holds a ceremonial rather than a political post. Not only do I believe that there would be strong objections to changing this, but the amount of time involved in both political leadership and ceremonial duties is such that the two posts could not be combined.

Finally it has to be said that the public generally get their local democracy on the cheap. In Oxford I would hazard the guess that it costs councillors real money, sometimes thousands in lost earnings, to be councillors. The days when councillors willingly do this, I suspect, are numbered. No one will become a full-time elected executive without a decent salary, and you cannot pay them whilst leaving the rest of the councillors to subsidise their public duties.



Oxford City Council