Great Yarmouth council U-turn on mayor poll

Despite wholesale abstentions by the ruling Tory group, a draft constitution allowing the referendum to proceed was approved at tonight's council meeting.

At last month's meeting, 28 councillors defied a warning from the council's legal officer Chris Skinner that it was their legal duty to approve the constitution for two weeks of public consultation because a 3,500-signature petition calling for a referendum had been successfully raised according to regulations.

The cross-party rebellion left the dissenting councillors facing a standards committee inquiry and raised doubts whether the referendum could go ahead on May 5, the same day as the local elections.

However, council leader Barry Coleman told tonight's meeting that the government's department for communities and local government had said the referendum could still proceed on May 5, relying on public consultation concerning the council's constitution carried out last year.

And residents wishing to make representations about the constitution could still do so to the secretary of state over the next two months.

It is understood that councillors will still face a preliminary standards committee inquiry later this month unless members of the public who made complaints withdraw them.