At the campaign for an elected Mayor for Cardiff we take very seriously the need to balance off the need for democracy with the use of public money. Our campaign is about making sure the people of Cardiff have a democratic voice while at the same time ensuring public resources are not wasted.
The recent report by Cardiff Council that holding a referendum and then electing a mayor would cost the City over a million pounds. We dispute this figure as being intentionally exaggerated to undermine the case for a directly elected mayor – the referendum in Bristol cost under £200,000 in a much bigger population.
There will, however, always be a cost to democracy but it is important that we try and minimise that cost as much as possible.
The Mayor for Cardiff campaign therefore today is calling on Cardiff Council to consider three options to make the cost of democracy in our city more manageable.
Firstly, to use the powers of the Council to schedule a referendum on whether we have a directly elected Mayor on June 23rd, the same day as the European Union referendum. This would ensure reduced costs in processing the results and would also boost turnout and involvement in our local referendum. It would also mean we would stop the process of signature collection and turn instead, after the Assembly election in May, to supporting a real and open debate on the future governance of the city.
Secondly, if the June referendum is successful, we are asking the Council to work with us and Welsh Government to hold the election for a directly elected Mayor in May 2017 at the same time as the council elections. This will again reduce bureaucracy and cost, avoiding multiple election dates and would be much clearer for the people of Cardiff to understand.
Thirdly, even if both these elements are rejected, we would like the Council to receive the petition for a directly elected Mayor in blocks of 5,000 votes a time rather than the full petition of 25,000 in August. This will enable better planning for council staff resources in processing and verifying the petition names.
These three suggestions are being made by the Mayor for Cardiff campaign in a spirit of encouraging the broadest possible democratic debate at the most efficient cost to the taxpayers of Cardiff and we hope that Cardiff Council considers these proposals seriously and in the spirit they are being made.