Great Yarmouth elected mayor campaign derailed

Yarmouth Borough Council sent a message of defiance to the government last night when it derailed plans to hold a referendum for the region's first directly elected mayor on May 5.

Councillors were advised that after the successful raising of a 3,600-signature petition last September calling for a referendum there had to be one.

And the council's legal officer Chris Skinner warned members that if they refused to sanction the next step – the approval of a draft constitution for a directly elected mayor – they would be contravening the law and he would have to write a monitoring officer's report and notify the secretary of state Eric Pickles.

However, with strong opposition on both sides of the chamber, the council voted against approving the document by 15 votes to five with 13 abstentions.

Tory councillor Charles Reynolds said it would be 'sheer lunacy' to have a directly elected mayor on a salary of �70,000 in a small, non-unitary authority which was only responsible for 20pc of public services.

And fellow party member Mike Butcher said it was difficult to justify the tens of thousands of pounds that had already been committed in the budget to the process so far.

Labour's Colleen Walker pointed out that members of the local party had voted decisively against the proposals even though the leader of the mayor campaign was Labour group leader Mick Castle.

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Insisting that a directly elected mayor would be good for Yarmouth, Cllr Castle said that after the petition the public should be allowed to decide.

Meanwhile, despite Labour protests about the savage government-imposed cuts, the council's budget was approved, freezing council tax in line with Norfolk County Council.