Public debate ahead of paid mayor referendum

Burnley Town Hall
Burnley Town Hall

The leader of Burnley Borough Council has challenged the man responsible for triggering a mayoral referendum in the town to debate the issue in public.

Coun. Mark Townsend and private landlord Mr Geoffrey Berg, from Prestwich, will debate the issue at the Plumbe Street Miners’ Club at 7-30pm on April 5th, ahead of the May 4th vote.

The referendum was triggered when Mr Berg successfully collected enough signatures to force the council to put the vote to the public.

Should the public vote in favour of a directly elected mayor, the position would likely replace that of the current council leader and would lead to a change in the council’s constitution.

The move has been slammed as “a waste of money” by opponents including Coun. Townsend.

He said: “In these times of austerity, the last thing this borough needs is a costly referendum and potentially even costlier new mayor.

“Therefore, I think it’s important that the public get as much information as they can about what this will entail and the reasons why Mr Berg thinks this is a good idea.

“A directly elected paid mayor would cost more than £1m. over the 10 year period we would have to have one.”

But Mr Berg said he was looking forward to the debate.

He said: “It is important for the people of Burnley to hear both sides of the argument. I hope to explain some of the reasons why 4,000 residents signed my petition for a referendum, principally the high Council Tax rates compared to neighbouring boroughs and the selective landlord licensing scheme which could knock up to £20,000 off the value of properties in those areas.”

The council said it is still looking into the details, but the referendum is likely to cost around £80,000. If the referendum results in a “yes” vote, the cost of the subsequent actual election for Mayor would be approximately £110,000 followed by an annual salary over 10 years, the time an elected Mayor system would last.