By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter
This week Croydon residents will head to the polls to vote on whether to change the way big decisions are made in the borough.
The vote on whether Croydon should have a directly elected mayor will take place on Thursday (October 7).
Currently the Croydon uses the leader and cabinet model – this means the council leader is chosen by members of the ruling party.
But under a directly elected mayor, the current council leader role would be replaced.
The directly elected mayor system is used in Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Watford.
If this option is chosen, there would be a separate vote for a new mayor next May, when local elections are set to take place.
There is currently a mayor in Croydon but this is a ceremonial role.
Under the new system this position would be renamed the chairperson and undertake the same responsibilities, including chairing full council meetings and attending local events.
This referendum comes after a campaign for a change of system was launched in February 2020 with more than 20,000 people signing a petition for the council leader to be replaced with a democratically elected mayor.
Labour MP for Croydon Central Sarah Jones has come out against the proposal to change the governance at Croydon Council.
She wrote: “In my view, a mayor will create an extra layer of politician and push power upwards and away from local people.
“It won’t solve any of the problems that Croydon has faced and it will cost a lot of money. It is also very hard to get rid of an elected Mayor. Under the existing system, councillors are able to remove a leader.
“I think we need to open up power and give local people more of a say on local issues – but I don’t think a new layer of mayor is the answer.”
But the Conservative MP for Croydon South, Chris Philp thinks a change is needed.
He wrote: “A directly elected executive mayor would be elected directly by the public. This means that every vote in every part of the Borough would count equally.
“No longer could the council ignore voters in whole swathes of the borough.
“No longer would the person running the borough be chosen by a handful of people behind closed doors, but directly by the public.”
The poll for the referendum will be held on Thursday, October 7, 2021 between 7am and 10pm.
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