Burnley public could be asked to vote on an elected Mayor?

Observatory comp
Burnley Town Hall, by Peter Seavers

Observatory comp Burnley Town Hall, by Peter Seavers

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A frustrated property landlord has prepared a petition, signed by more than 4,000 residents, calling for a referendum to decide whether Burnley Borough Council should be led by an elected Mayor.

Landlord Mr Geoffrey Berg, from Prestwich, made the petition after becoming angry at Burnley Council’s extension of its Selective Landlord Licensing scheme to several more areas of town.

It makes me angry that, Mr Berg, who does not even live in Burnley, can interfere in our representative process for personal reasons.

Burnley Council leader Coun. Mark Townsend

Mr Berg, who owns a house in Dall Street, said the scheme was having the opposite effect for which it was intended – by leading to more empty properties – and was creating too much bureaucracy for landlords.

He now wants to trigger a referendum in Burnley to ask the public to vote on whether Burnley Council leader Coun. Mark Townsend should be replaced by a directly elected Mayor.

Mr Berg, who rents out property across the North West, said the Burnley scheme was the least helpful for landlords.

“My original motivation for attempting to change the system of governance in Burnley was the extension of Selective Landlord Licensing to several more areas of Burnley, but not the Daneshouse area, where some local labour councillors own rental property, that was initially to be included in this scheme but was eventually excluded.

“This is bound to further reduce the value of homes around these areas. The cost of a licence for landlords is £700 for five years. I fear this scheme is increasing the number of properties and not reducing them.”

Mr Berg said he had extended his petition to include a more general challenge to the council’s management of Burnley.

He added: “I am appalled that Burnley Council has one of the highest council tax charges in Britain – higher than all five neighbouring councils.”

The scheme, which currently runs in the Trinity, Gannow, Queensgate and Duke Bar areas of Burnley, will be extended to Burnley Wood with Healey Wood, the Leyland Road area, and the Ingham and Lawrence Street area from November 15th.

Burnley Council states that selective licensing focuses on the management of private rented properties in areas of low demand and/or with high levels of antisocial behaviour. The key aim is to improve landlords’ management of properties and in doing so, help regenerate the area.

Council leader Mark Townsend said: “It makes me angry that, Mr Berg, who does not even live in Burnley, can interfere in our representative process for personal reasons.

“The borough now faces a possible hefty bill to hold a Mayoral referendum at a time when we are already having to cut the council budget by 25% over the next four years.

“My feeling is that most residents will be outraged by this and would rather have their council tax spent on services rather than more politicians, but that will be for the people to decide if Mr Berg gets his way.”

Regarding Mr Berg’s allegation over why Daneshouse was not included, Coun. Townsend hit back and said there was no evidence to support the claims.

Coun. Townsend said: “The extension of the scheme was discussed by our Executive Committee in February which took into account a public consultation that showed a strong reluctance in that area to take up the scheme.”