The leader of Bradford Council insists his automatic selection to become shadow district mayor is counter-productive to democracy.
Councillor Ian Greenwood told the Telegraph & Argus he feels uncomfortable about being thrust into the role from next summer before a referendum on whether the public wants a permanent mayor is held in May 2012.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles revealed the move ahead of the long-delayed publication of the Localism Bill yesterday. Shadow mayors will be created at 11 other cities ahead of referendums.
Coun Greenwood said: “My view is this is not the right thing for Bradford. The ability to call for a referendum for an elected mayor already exists. I can’t see why this is just about 12 places.
“If this is such a good idea why can’t Mr Pickles impose this on Brentwood and Ongar, his own constituency, and other leafy glades that would resent this enormously?
“I am uncomfortable about being given an office I wasn’t elected to. I don’t feel it’s the right thing to do. Leadership is not about dictating, it’s about taking people with you – it’s true of all good leaders.
“I also think it’s wrong to say we are elected mayors when we have not been elected. It’s silly and counter-productive in terms of democracy.”
He said Mr Pickles was merely looking to score political points in particular parts of the country. As well as Bradford, shadow mayors are being introduced in Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool, Wakefield, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham and Newcastle.
Coun Greenwood said he did not want to see the position made permanent beyond his shadow role.
He said: “Bradford is a place with a lot of diversity in terms of economic issues and ethnicity, and in my view it needs all of these very different interests to feel they have a stake in the leadership of the Council.”
Ministers have yet to decide what the exact powers an elected mayor will have at their disposal. Those details will only emerge as the Bill progresses through Parliament. When the Bill achieves Royal Assent, a Government order will trigger the switch from council leader to shadow mayor. Leaders will have no powers to oppose it.
Councillor Anne Hawkesworth, leader of the Council’s Conservative group, said: “My colleagues and I are not supportive of elected mayors.
“We do not think that the proposals are suited to the needs of the Bradford district.
“We are hopeful that local people will recognise that an elected mayor would be unlikely to improve the quality of life of local residents or the quality of services provided to them and vote to reject the proposals.”