Shaping next cabinet will be a crucial task

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AS the dust begins to settle in the aftermath of the local elections, normal council business will soon be resumed.

One of my first tasks will be to select a cabinet from the newly elected or re-elected councillors.

The size of the cabinet can be between two and nine members.

It will be one of the most crucial decisions I will have to make over the coming year.

I’ll be looking to put together a team of people that will provide the leadership and make the tough decisions that will be needed in the next 12 months as the council faces its toughest year in living memory.

I’m in no rush to make a decision and I’ll be talking to many of the councillors over the next couple of weeks.

I hope everyone can draw a line under all of the shenanigans that have gone on in the past, and whether councillors are on the cabinet or not, it will be crucial that everyone works together for the benefit of Hartlepool.

I was especially interested in the results of the mayoral referenda that took place in various places across the country.

The only result that actually surprised me was the one in Bristol where the public voted in favour of a mayoral system.

I’m not particularly up to speed with the local issues in Bristol but I can only surmise that the public was extremely disgruntled with the current council and wanted a change.

Everywhere else, including Doncaster, where they were asked if they wanted rid of the mayoral system, voted against change.

It came as no shock to me whatsoever that the Government’s push for elected mayors in 12 of the major cities fell flat.

People vote for change for only two reasons. Either they are very unhappy with the current situation or the promise of something new is attractive enough to persuade people to dispense with the old.

I believe the Government has failed dismally in persuading the public in these cities that the mayoral system will bring about improvement or be better than the system they currently operate.

They have promised more powers for elected mayors but have never said what those powers will be.

They have promised more money for areas that go for the mayoral system but have never said how much nor whether the money won’t actually still be available following a “no” vote.

They promised a seat at the table of Cameron’s mayoral cabinet but failed to articulate what that actually means.

For me, their biggest mistake has been not convincing the national media on the benefits of the mayoral system.

I’ve done dozens of interviews recently with media organisations all over the country who simply do not fully understand the mayoral system and as long as they don’t understand it properly, they will never be able to promote the system’s benefits to the wider population.

Instead what tends to happen is the “no” campaign ends up dominating the local and national press and the public get only half of the argument.

It has been more than slightly annoying that the Government has never come to any of the existing mayors across the country and asked us about the system.

You would think that if they want to roll it out in other areas they would want to get it right.

The system isn’t perfect by any means but any of the current mayors could easily have told them about some of the pitfalls, how to improve the system and general guidance on how the system actually works.

I’m interested to see how things pan out from now.

Only Bristol, Liverpool and Salford will have new elected mayors.

Will the Prime Minister continue with his plans on the mayoral cabinet and will the existing mayors be invited?

Will the existing mayoral authorities be offered some of the financial incentives and extra responsibilities that were being used to entice voters in the big cities?

I’ll certainly be writing to Mr Cameron and asking those questions.

After all, Hartlepool has a proven track record of making things work and we would be more than willing to show the way in this respect.

Finally, a word about Doncaster. It is often held up as a place where the mayoral system has failed and the public were fully expected to vote to abolish the system last week.

Lo and behold, they also voted against change.

Perhaps they feel the system is actually working. The public have the chance to elect the person they want to make the decisions.

The political parties and the establishment may not like or agree with that person but the whole point of the mayoral system is that it is the public who get to decide on who governs them, not the establishment.

Doncaster’s “issues” stretch back much further than the introduction of the mayoral system when the public had no say at all on who ran the council.