U-turn over mayor plan welcomed

Stuart Drummond
Stuart Drummond

HARTLEPOOL Mayor Stuart Drummond has welcomed the Government’s decision to scrap plans to merge two top council roles.

The Government had been considering introducing an executive mayor role which would have seen chief executives replaced to create a single leader.

But the amendments have been axed in a move welcomed by Mayor Drummond (pictured).

He said he had not been “pushing” for the changes and that the majority of other elected mayors were not in favour.

Mayor Drummond said: “Having spoken to other elected mayors in the country I can only think of one who thought it was a good idea in the first place.

“We all expressed concern to various government ministers about the feasibility of it and whether it would work and the potential pitfalls.

“It seems that they have taken that on board.”

The role of executive mayor was initially one of the options being considered to replace outgoing Hartlepool Borough Council chief executive Paul Walker, who is set to retire at the end of this month.

But Mayor Drummond said it was never a “realistic” option.

He believes the two roles are very different.

Mayor Drummond added: “When we have been looking at the potential options for our council going forward then that was one option on the table, although it was never considered realistic.

“The two have very different roles and very different jobs.

“The role of the mayor or the council leader is to set the political strategic direction and it is up to the chief executive to carry that out.”

Hartlepool councillors recently agreed plans to appoint an acting chief executive at a meeting of the full council, until a long-term solution is decided.

Mr Walker, 59, handed in his notice at the end of May and he is set to step down from the position he has held for the past eight years on August 31.

His temporary replacement – which will be a senior officer at the council – will be in position by the end of the month.

The set-up will save a minimum of £70,400 this financial year.

The executive mayor issue came to a head earlier this week after the Prime Minister David Cameron suddenly ditched a reference to introducing “executive mayors in our 12 biggest cities” from a speech at a youth centre in Oxfordshire.

But referendums for more city mayors are still planned to be held next May, including in Newcastle.

The executive mayor role was quietly scrapped in a series of amendments in June.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “Ministers want to build political consensus around the case for more city mayors.

“Their direct democratic mandate can provide the strong and effective leadership cities need in a global economy.

“Ministers are happy to take on practical revisions suggested by Lords across the House to help build that consensus.”