Cornwall Council to examine directly elected mayor option
Voters could be offered the chance to elect potentially the most powerful politician in the Westcountry under plans to shake up local government.
Cornwall councillors are considering replacing the current cabinet and leader system with a directly-elected mayor.
But the creation of a high-profile figurehead to oversee the authority has left most councillors sceptical with some pushing for a return to an old-fashioned committee approach.
Jeremy Rowe, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, favours the status quo and said there were more important things to do than concentrate more power in the hands of a single individual.
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"A mayor would be directly accountable but it is not a very collegiate way of running a council and it has not been explained to me why we need to go down this route," he added.
"I detect many backbenchers want a return to the committee system, which is more bureaucratic, but from my experience it can also be too officer-led.
"I don't knock on doors and hear people asking for a directly-elected mayor – they tend to ask about potholes and rubbish collection."
Since Cornwall Council became a unitary authority in 2009 it has operated under a leader and cabinet system – 123 councillors, including a cabinet of ten.
Many Lib Dem councillors and rebel Conservatives have complained that leader Alec Robertson is too authoritarian in style and marginalises the 113 members who operate outside his inner circle.
Supporters of the mayoral system claim it would give people more confidence in their local authority and a chance for their "voices to be heard".
The Localism Act 2011 allows local authorities to consider various options – a committee system, a leader and cabinet, an elected mayor or an alternative "hybrid model".
A governance review is currently under way which could create a new structure ahead of elections next year.
Alex Folkes, Lib Dem deputy leader and a member of the panel considering the options, is unequivocal in ruling out the possibility of moving to the mayoral system.
Mr Folkes has accused the council's own media and communications unit of "spinning" the issue and being "out-of-touch" with councillors.
"Anyone who has sat in the discussions knows that no-one is pushing for a mayor – it is not going to happen," he added.
"There is certainly no appetite that I know of among the public and the only councillor I have heard say anything nice about the mayoral system is Labour councillor Jude Robinson – and she isn't pushing for the change."
A Conservative councillor, who did not wish to be named, also said there was little appetite for a mayor among the Tory group.
A report will be debated by Cornwall's full council in October.