Referendum won't force mayor out
Sir Peter Soulsby will see out his four-year term as elected mayor of Leicester even if a petition succeeds in forcing a referendum to see if the post should be scrapped.
Businessman Callum McKeefery has launched a campaign to try to collect 12,000 names – five per cent of the city electorate – to trigger a vote on whether to dismantle the elected mayor system adopted by Leicester City Council in May last year. Mr McKeefery, who owns a bar and club in the city centre, is opposed to Sir Peter's plans to create a £4 million public plaza, called Jubilee Square, in St Nicholas Circle.
Yesterday, a spokeswoman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said that if the petition gathered enough valid signatures the earliest a referendum could be held would be May.
However, she said: "If there were a referendum and it returned a result to get rid of the elected mayoral system the current mayor would still see out his term until the next election in May, 2015."
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De Montfort University's local government professor Colin Copus said: "There is no way to get rid of Sir Peter Soulsby before the next election because he will remain even if the result goes against him.
"My impression is that this petition is motivated more against the individual rather than the system."
"In my opinion, it is far better to have a mayor directly elected by the people than an attenuated democracy where people vote for a bunch of councillors who they then hope will act as they wanted."
Mr McKeefery was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Meanwhile, a referendum in Hartlepool yesterday returned a vote to get rid of Stuart Drummond – the former football mascot H'angus the Monkey – who was elected in 2002.
Mr Drummond will serve the remaining six months of his term of office before the position is abolished.
Sir Peter said: "Getting rid of a monkey in the town of Hartlepool is very different to getting rid of a serious mayor in a big city like Leicester.
"The thing I am concerned about is the likely cost. If we have to have a referendum you are talking about £250,000. That is money the council wouldn't want to have to afford.
"On the other hand, if the people of the city want a referendum, I am happy to put the case for having a democratically-elected mayor rather than a council leader nobody has ever heard of."