Bid to force referendum on elected mayor Leicester misses deadline
A key deadline has been missed in a campaign to try to force a referendum on whether Leicester's elected mayor post should be scrapped.
A petition launched by city businessman Callum McKeefery in November aimed to trigger a vote on whether to abolish Sir Peter Soulsby's position.
If 12,000 names – five per cent of the city electorate – had been submitted it would have secured the vote at the earliest opportunity, in May.
Leicester City Council has said no petition has been handed in to date.
Mr McKeefery has not responded to attempts by the Mercury in the past few weeks to find out how his campaign has progressed. It has led to speculation among councillors that he may have abandoned it.
Mr McKeefery, the owner of a bar and nightclub in the city centre, launched the campaign because of his opposition to Sir Peter's plans to turn St Nicholas Place into a £4 million public plaza, Jubilee Square.
Colin Copus, professor of local politics at De Montfort University, said: "The campaign has missed the boat in terms of getting a referendum at the first possible date.
"That is not to say the petition may not be doing well, but if it was proving popular I think we would have heard about it.
"Perhaps there has not been the support anticipated.
"Any petition that is to be successful in getting signatures needs activity and publicity.
"There has not been much sign of that and people will start to draw their own conclusions about what that means."
Elections are normally held on the first Thursday of May.
A city council spokesman said: "For a referendum to be held on May 2, the deadline for the receipt of a valid petition was January 3.
"No such petition has been received by the council.
"Should the council receive a valid petition in the future, the likely date for a referendum would be six months after the receipt of that petition."
Most cities that have held a referendum on whether to have their council run by an elected mayor have rejected the idea.
In Leicester, the system was introduced by the majority of Labour councillors and implemented in May 2010 without voters being offered a referendum.
Sir Peter, however, said he was confident he would win such a vote.
He said: "I would welcome it. I can't imagine people will want to return to the old, undemocratic system where an anonymous council leader and his colleagues run things.
"People may disagree with me on some things but at least they know who to blame if they don't like what happens. They will be able to decide whether to keep me or not at the next election."
Even if the petition secured a referendum and people voted against the mayoral system, under current legislation Sir Peter would see out his term as mayor, which lasts until May 2015.