Borough to hold referendum on keeping mayor

Mayor John Biggs. Pic: Tower Hamlets Council

A referendum is to be held next year to decide on the future of the mayoral system in Tower Hamlets.

Residents will be able to vote to keep the directly elected mayor or move to an alternative council model next year.

The referendum was approved in a meeting of Labour councillors on Monday. The group unanimously voted in favour of the proposal by Tower Hamlets Mayor, John Biggs.

Tower Hamlets Labour Group said in a statement: “Tower Hamlets Labour Group has voted to trigger a referendum on whether the borough should keep the mayoral system or move to the ‘leader and cabinet’ system.”

Biggs said in a statement: “It’s been over ten years since Tower Hamlets voted to adopt the mayoral system in a referendum. A lot has happened during this last decade and a significant part of my time as Mayor has been spent undoing the damage done by my predecessor.

“It’s time for the people of Tower Hamlets to have their say about what they think works best for our borough. Above all else, the debate that follows must be focused on securing good governance, accountability and ensuring that whatever system we use delivers for Tower Hamlets during these difficult times.”

One alternative

A formal council meeting on November 18 will decide whether a ‘cabinet and leader’ or committee system will be presented to the electorate in next year’s referendum. Under the council’s rules, only one alternative can be offered on the ballot.

A referendum must be held if validated signatures favouring an alternative amounting to at least 5% of a local authority’s registered electors is presented to the council after their formal meeting.

Tower Hamlets is one of four London boroughs that have an elected mayor the others are Hackney, Lewisham and Newham. The system has been criticised because mayors hold more power than a traditional council leader and can approve major plans without the support of councillors.

Biggs’ term as Mayor has seen continuous petitions raised by residents and councillors to remove the post. Last month, Biggs announced he would give up some of his executive roles and share part of his power with senior councillors.

His predecessor, Lutfur Rahman, was forced to step down in 2015, shortly after being re-elected, because he was found to have participated in electoral fraud.

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