Ascorbic's excellent and timely writeup has inspired me to add my own, chiefly because the process he describes of forcing a referendum for a directly elected mayor is actually happening, in the London Borough of Ealing, where I live. Although E2 is not Slashdot, I do feel the need to do some reportage, and also present the general case for the 'No' campaign, to counterbalance the arguments presented in ascorbic's writeup in favour of a directly elected mayor.

The referendum took place on the 12th of December, 2002 - see update below.

How I found out about it
Firstly, I would like to point out that the whole process has a certain mysterious air about it. An orange polling card arrived on my doormat on Tuesday 12th November - one month before the referendum. There was no attached literature or explanation, and the poll card merely said that there was a referendum, and where to vote, not what it was all about. My first reaction was "Eh?" as was the same reaction among many local friends.

I drink in the same pub as a number of local councillors, so a group of us took the opportunity to ask them for an explanation. The reaction was "Oh! that thing. A pain in the arse it is too."

Then, we learned of the Local Government Act 2000, and the ability of anyone with enough signatures to force a referendum. And the council must pay all the expenses of running the election out of council taxpayers' money. We asked why there was no explanation accompanying the poll card. Apparently, the rules on this are very strict, and an accompanying leaflet would have been deemed propaganda, especially as the council are unanimously opposed to the campaign. Apparently, the local rag, the Gazette, carried a letter for, and a letter against the campaign.

Yesterday, I received a leaflet from the "No" campaign, 6 days before the poll. Below is the gist of the "No" campaign, summarised for your benefit. I believe that ascorbic has covered the salient points of the "Yes" campaign, but as yet I have not received any literature from them.

Outcomes and implications
If the vote goes against a directly elected mayor, this holds for 5 years. After this time, another campaign may raise another petition and force another referendum.

If the vote goes for, in the words of an ex-councillor, "we are stuck with a directly elected mayor". It seems that the Local Government Act makes no provision for reversing the decision if it proves a disaster.

Political mayor versus Civic mayor
The present mayor of Ealing is an elected councillor, who is appointed by the council as a whole, to assume the duties of a civic mayor. A directly elected, political mayor does not have the same accountability, and is not exposed to or reresentative of the diverse views and issues in the borough.
The "no" campaigners estimate that a directly elected mayor will cost more than a million pounds (>1.4 $M), from the local government budget.
All major political parties are opposed to the directly elected mayor. Everybody I have spoken to so far who is connected with the council is against.

Apparently, a bunch of extremists who call themselves LA21 are behind the referendum. This group have little to do with the Rio Earth Summit, and its noble aims, but are pursuing a "local agenda" of their own.

On 12th December, with a 9.6% turnout, Ealing voted "No" for a directly elected mayor. For more information, see