Self-serving leadership doesn't serve Newcastle well

December 8, 2014 4:23 AM
By Cllr David Faulkner

The front page of The Journal on Friday 5th December led on the welcome pledge from Ed Balls that any future Labour Government would not insist on a directly-elected mayor for the north east as a condition for devolving more powers and funding.

It's a pity therefore that Newcastle Labour leader Nick Forbes was singing off a totally different songsheet just two days before when he whipped the Labour members of Newcastle City Council to vote against the following motion of mine:

"City Council welcomes any prospect of further devolution of powers and funding to the council, whether on its own or collectively through the Combined Authority, but not if such devolution is conditional upon the acceptance, without a prior referendum, of a Combined Authority/"Metro" Mayor or equivalent."

Cllr Forbes said that it was not sensible to play your cards ahead of negotiations. Too late, Nick, the cat is out of the bag. The Leaders in the Greater Manchester area have already conceded the point so Government will expect you and your colleagues to do the same, unfortunately.

It's not about negotiations but about a point of principle - which we used to call democratic accountability. Let the people decide by referendum if they want an elected mayor for the wider region, should that be part of the package that is on offer.

I feel sure that local people in the region would resist this bullying just as the citizens of Newcastle decisively rejected a directly-elected mayor just two years ago. Not that Nick Forbes was seen in that campaign - he left it to Lord Beecham and myself to front. Nick kept kept his powder dry in case it was approved, as he obviously wanted the role for himself. Another example of the self-focused leadership that we've come to expect, sadly.

Councillor David Faulkner
Liberal Democrat Group, Newcastle City Council