HARTLEPOOL residents are being urged to have their say on whether or not they want to keep the role of directly-elected mayor.
Mayor Stuart Drummond has held the position since winning the race to be the first at the election in May, 2002.
But residents now have the chance to voice their opinion on the future of the role.
The Hartlepool Conservative Future group has launched the petition which calls on Hartlepool Borough Council to hold a referendum.
But it needs to be supported by 3,500 people before it can be put to the local authority.
Referendums about the governance of the council can only be held once every 10 years, therefore the council cannot consider a referendum until after October 18.
If it is backed by councillors then a referendum could be called for next May, to coincide with the all-out elections.
Shane Moore, chairman of Hartlepool Conservative Future, said: “In 2001, Hartlepool chose to be one of the first towns in the country to adopt the directly-elected mayor system.
“Since then the town has seen many ups and downs and the public has had the chance to see if this system of council management has worked best for them.
“The majority of people I speak to, whether it be in the street, at work or in the pub, have a pretty firm view on the elected mayor position, one way or the other.
“So with the 10th year fast approaching, Hartlepool Conservative Future feels that the time is now right to give the residents of Hartlepool the opportunity to once again voice their opinion and choose whether the current system is what they want or if they would prefer to look at alternatives.”
The campaign has been backed by Councillor George Morris, chairman of the Hartlepool Conservative Association, and Conservative group leader Councillor Ray Wells.
Coun Wells said: “After 10 years I believe the time is now right to once again engage with the electorate in order that they can give us a clear indication of their wishes on this important subject.”
Mayor Drummond held onto his position for the third successive time in 2009 after beating off competition from a 13-strong field.
The independent mayor said: “After 10 years of having the post of elected mayor, the Government always said that there was the option to hold a referendum to see if it would continue.
“I have no problem with that.
“It is right to ask the public first of all if they want a referendum and if that is what the public wants then I have no problem with that.
“I would support a referendum.”
He added that the Conservative-led Government is pushing for more elected mayors.
A council spokesman confirmed that five per cent of the population, 3,467 people, would need to sign the petition.
The petition is expected to be in shops, pubs, community centres and libraries across town over the next few weeks.
For more information, contact Hartlepool Conservative Future via email at email@example.com.
l It’s your vote: Page 8