Title of the head of urban (city or town) administration. In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the mayor is the principal officer of a district council that has been given district-borough status under royal charter. In the USA a mayor is the elected head of a city or town. In 1996 the Labour Party suggested proposals for directly-elected mayors in Britain, which it confirmed when it came into power in 1997. A referendum in May 1998 approved establishing an elected mayor of London: Ken Livingstone was elected in 2000. A July 1998 government White Paper proposed allowing local authorities to introduce directly-elected mayors, working together with assemblies or executive committees, as a way of reviving local democracy. However, by October 2001, only 13 councils had held referendums, with 7 approving the election of a mayor.
Parish councils that adopt the style of town councils have a chair known as the town mayor. In Scotland the equivalent officer is known as a provost. In certain cases the chair of a city council may have the right to be called Lord Mayor (a usage also followed by Australian cities). The office of mayor was revived (for the first time since 1871) in Paris for Jacques Chirac in 1977.
Directly-elected mayors of UK local authorities
With the introduction of directly-elected mayors, the New Labour government sought to revitalize local councils, and make them more efficient by overriding the old-established committee system, under which all decisions had to be put to a vote. A directly-elected mayor is the single executive head of their local authority, with ultimate responsibility for its portfolio of services and duties, and freedom to act within a policy framework and budget approved by the full council. Independent mayors may be elected, outside the party system. The mayor may be supported in decision-making by a small cabinet of local councillors, while the majority of councillors oversee the implementation of policy through scrutiny panels. A referendum must be held before a mayoral system can be approved, and this can either be instigated by the local authority, or forced by a petition signed by 5% of the local electorate.
By the end of October 2001, only 14 towns and cities had held mayoral referendums: Watford, Doncaster, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, North Tyneside, Sedgefield, and the London borough of Lewisham approved a mayor, while Berwick-upon-Tweed, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Kirklees, Sunderland, and Brighton & Hove had rejected the proposal. The city councils of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Birmingham, and Bradford had announced their refusal to hold referendums. Those opposing the idea of a council mayor say that it places too much power in the hands of one person, leading to possible corruption, and that it affects the democracy of local government, as many democratically-elected councillors are removed from the decision-making process.
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