Petition aims to oust Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby
A petition has been drafted aimed at triggering a referendum to oust city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby.
The Leicester Mercury understands a city businessman, opposed to Sir Peter's £4 million Jubilee Square plan, is behind the petition and intends to circulate it in the near future.
It calls for people to seek a vote to dismantle Leicester City Council's elected mayoral set-up and return the political system it replaced in May last year.
If 12,000 signatures – five per cent of the city's electorate – are collected, a poll will be held to ask voters if they want to return to the old council leader system.
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A draft of the petition, passed to the Mercury, carries a covering letter saying it was wrong to deny people a referendum in 2010 when Labour councillors passed plans for the city to be run by an elected mayor.
It criticises Sir Peter – who was elected in May last year with 55 per cent of the vote – over his U-turn on allowing the Lancers regiment a parade through the city; proposals to pay him £100,000; Jubilee Square and the redevelopment of Market Corner.
It also says he is "imposing unwanted travellers sites" on people and describes his handling of the Thurnby Lodge Scout hut issue as a "fiasco".
Yesterday, Sir Peter Soulsby said he was unaware of the petition. He said: "It's the first I have heard of it and to be honest, it is not the sort of thing I hear when I go out and meet people on the street and do my Meet the Mayor events.
"I do not think there is a ground-swell of opinion to go back to the old system of having a council leader in charge, who is appointed rather than elected."
Sir Peter said a number of things in the covering letter with the petition were misrepresented.
He said: "For one, I never asked to be paid £100,000 and the Market Corner was a decision made before my time.
"I am not removing the funding from Navratri either."
The council is proposing to cut the funding for the annual De Montfort Hall event from £20,000 to £10,000.
Sir Peter said: "The Lancers decision is actually an example of how the mayoral system is effective.
"Under the old committee system it would have taken weeks to change that decision, but I was able to do it very quickly."
Conservative city councillor Ross Grant, who has long maintained a referendum should be held, said: "I am not surprised that, after people were deliberately denied a say on having an elected mayor, they should look to get a referendum themselves.
"I think it is realistic to get 12,000 signatures. In many ways it will probably be easier now than it would have been before because people are very upset at the way Sir Peter Soulsby has acted since he became mayor.
"We have not seen the benefits people were told they would get from the mayoral system."
A city council spokesman said the authority had not been contacted about the petition.
Leicester Chamber of Commerce chief executive Martin Traynor said he did not think the petition would succeed in changing the mayoral system.
He said: "We campaigned for an elected mayor and our position hasn't changed.
"12,000 is a lot of signatures. It is true the mayor has gone through some difficult times, but he has shown leadership and vision."