MORE FAQs

1. Who is promoting this idea?

A group of 30 citizens from across Thanet of all ages and occupations.
They have no party political affiliation.
The chairman is Grahame Birchall, a long-term resident of Kent (Faversham, Whitstable and Ramsgate).

2. Doesn’t Thanet have a Mayor already?

No.

But there is an honorary mayor of Ramsgate, Broadstairs and Westgate.
These are chosen by fellow town councillors and serve for one year.
These are ceremonial roles and they will continue.


Currently, the financial and policy powers for Thanet, which spends about £130m, lie with an ‘unelected council leader’, who is one of the 56 ward councillors, and a single party cabinet selected by the ‘party placed’ leader.

3. What’s the difference between an elected mayor and a council leader?

The current ‘unelected leader’ is one of the ward councillors, chosen by other councillors to lead the council, after an election.
An elected Mayor is directly elected by the voters of the WHOLE council area.
A 2012 survey found that only 8% of English voters could name their council leader.
Whereas, in those areas that have an elected Mayor, 58% of the voters were found to be able to name correctly, their elected Mayor (leader of council).

4. Won’t an elected mayor be a dictator ?

No. The mayor has a mandate to do ONLY those things for which s/he was elected.

The role of an Elected Mayor of Thanet will be that of team leader, who is ultimately responsible for the performance of the whole Authority.

The powers accorded to the elected Mayor personally, will depend entirely on the new constitution that Thanet chooses for itself.

GRIT is calling for a hybrid system of government that combines an elected Mayor with elements of the Committee style of government. Hybrids have been sanctioned by the Localism Act 2011. There will be no cabinet.

In the case of Thanet, GRIT is seeking the following delegation of powers:

          Politically balanced committees for some portfolios.
          Powers of Scrutiny for Town Councils/Area Committees.
          Rights of Consultation for Community and Voluntary Groups.
          A politically balanced ‘rainbow’ executive with a coordination role.

In addition, an elected Mayor will need to present a budget to the Council every year, which will need the votes of one third of the councillors to proceed.

In the unlikely event of an elected Mayor trying to going rogue or exceed his/her powers, there is always the safety valve of a ‘recall system’ within the Council.

Full council remains the sovereign body of the Authority.

Most elected Mayors in the UK have been re-elected, at least once, which suggests that voters think they have done a good job.

5. So what are the main differences and benefits ?

The main benefits of a publicly elected council leader (elected Mayor) are:
     a. S/He has to present his/her credentials for the job and his/her strategic vision for Thanet, to the electorate, before elections, so that

We can then assess and choose who we want to lead our council.
     b. S/He will be more vulnerable and sensitive to public scrutiny, which will bring:
          (1) More open and transparent government
          (2) Less secrecy and corrupt behaviour
          (3) No conflicts of interest

     c. S/He will have a much stronger mandate from the people, than ‘party placed’ leaders. This will bring:
          (1) The ability to get things done
          (2) Much less ‘party politics’.

      d. S/He will have 4 uninterrupted years in office. This will bring:
          (1) Greater stability and less short term-ism in government.
          (2) More consistent and loyal behaviour from council officers.
          (3) Higher quality inward investment.

     e. S/He Is accountable to the ALL people who voted for him/her. This brings:
          (1) More equal treatment for each community.
          (2) More response to ‘community led’ scrutiny
          (3) Fairer treatment towards all community and voluntary groups

     f. An elected Mayor is more visible than an unelected council leader both inside and outside the council area.

This means s/he can influence people and organisations and raise the profile of the area in a way that a less stable weaker ‘unelected council leader’ cannot.


Unlike a council leader, the publicly elected Mayor is not reliant on councillors to stay in office, so s/he is not limited by the balance of power in the council chamber or political party patronage.

Nb. Many people attribute Bristol’s and Torbay’s current resurgence, and their ability to secure money from central government, at least in part to having an elected Mayor.

6. Do the proponents of a mayor for Thanet have a candidate in mind ?

No. The proposition is simply that people should be given the opportunity to say whether they want an elected mayor or not. Whatever happens, the referendum will stimulate interest in local government, which touches everyone’s lives, and in local democracy.

7. Will the mayor be a member of a political party ?

Not necessarily.
It depends on who stands and who is elected by the people of Thanet.
The mayor does not even need to have been a councillor. The current 18 English mayors (the number is growing as a result of local referendums) are a mix of independents and party members.

8. Will there still be ward councillors ?

Yes, just as now. The number will not change. They are elected independently of the mayor.

9. Aren’t mayors just for big cities ?

No. This is a myth put about, mostly local political parties.

For example, the district of Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, a town with a surrounding rural area and just over half the population of Thanet, has an elected mayor.

Torbay, which a close knit group of sea side towns, much like Thanet, has the same population as Thanet, has an elected Mayor.

In fact, 7 councils with fewer people than Thanet have an elected Mayor.

10. Might an elected mayor favour parts of the district at the expense of others ?

No. It is much more likely that each major community in Thanet (Broadstairs, Ramsgate, Margate , Westgate, Birchington and the villages) will be treated much MORE fairly than with the existing system.

A leader who needs the votes from each and every community is much less likely to show favouritism.

11. What part would an elected mayor for Thanet play in East Kent ?

An absolutely vital part.

As Kent County Council devolves money and powers to Unitary Authorities throughout Kent, we do not wish to be included in an East Kent Unitary Authority that has complete jurisdiction over Thanet from a council chamber based in Canterbury or Ashford.

An elected mayor for Thanet will provide our island with a clear and distinct voice to fight for Thanet’s interests and hopefully, win a Unitary Authority, based in Thanet with policies that suit coastal and seaside towns in the area.

12. Elected Police & Crime Commissioners (PCCs) have not been popular: why would this be any different? Do we want another Anne Barnes ?

This is completely different to the election of PCCs.

The post of PCC was imposed by central government. It is a job that was created from nothing, and some would say is not needed.

Conversely, the role of council leader (or elected Mayor) already exists and all local Authorities need such a leader to be able to function. The role is already well-established and understood.

The position of Elected Mayor is very much an upfront leadership role, as opposed to the role of PCC which is a more low profile role, exercised mostly behind the scenes.

Lastly, unlike a PCC, which we are obliged to accept, we are allowed to choose if we want an elected Mayor.

13. Does the mayor decide planning applications ?

No.

As with an unelected council leader, the mayor is not involved in quasi-judicial decisions such as planning and licensing and may not change decisions made by the relevant committees.

However, as with an unelected council leader, an elected Mayor may change the council’s policies in such matters.

14. Will an elected mayor mean extra cost ?

No. If anything, it can be cheaper

The referendum for deciding if we have an elected Mayor, can be included in PCC elections which will be happening anyway on 7 May 2016.

The first mayoral election might be an additional cost, but subsequent elections will coincide with other local elections.

The mayor replaces the leader, so is not another layer of government. The mayor’s salary replaces the allowances received by the leader and is set by councillors on the advice of an independent panel.

By way of a guide, the elected mayors of Bristol and Liverpool are paid about £65,000, less than an MP.

Because there is a well defined strategy, decision making can be greatly simplified, with paperwork and the need for repetitive meetings correspondingly reduced.

15. What’s the record of elected mayors elsewhere in England ?

On balance, where systems based on elected Mayors have been implemented, they have been very popular with the electorate, and successful.

For example, following their successful Mayoral referendum in 2001, the first elected Mayor of Watford, Dorothy Thornhill, a former Lib Dem councillor, has been re-elected 3 times.

All 4 elected Mayors of London boroughs have been re-elected at least once.

Attempts to remove the election of Mayors, which can be done only by local referendum, have failed in all but one occasion. People like being able to choose their leader.

In London, 69% of voters say the city is better for having a Mayor.

Councils that have elected Mayors, have witnessed much greater engagement and interest shown by the electorate, with rises in voter turnout of up to 30% in some areas.

16. Are the local political parties in favour of mayors ?

No. They all resent the loss of party political power. They like to do backroom deals and retain the power to choose the council leader that suits their party interests from behind closed doors.

Consequently, when local referendums are held, they tend to campaign against the establishment of elected Mayors.

The result of their more powerful lobby is seen in the results, where the ratio of referendum results is approximately 2 to 1 against.

17. Does Central Government like Directly Elected Mayors ?

Yes. Central government is more willing to devolve further powers to, and intervene to support local Authorities with elected Mayors because they:

          a. Have a much stronger public mandate to act in the public interest.
          b. Are more stable and reliable than councils with ‘party placed’ leaders.
          c. Are more strategic and long term in nature.
          d. Are more transparent and thereby less vulnerable to corrupt practices.

18. Do other parts of the world have elected mayors ?

Directly elected mayors are increasingly common around the world and in places constitutionally similar to the UK such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

19. Is an elected mayor the perfect answer to the many challenges of Thanet ?

No system is perfect. But a system based on the people choosing their own council leader (elected Mayor) has got to be better than the two systems from which we have suffered over the last 40 years (ie. committee style and cabinet/unelected leader) over the last 40 years. Now, thanks to the Localism Act 2011, we have the ability to ‘tailor make’ a new system of government that will make best use of Thanet’s unique assets, communities and environment, and take into account of Thanet’s chequered history of secret, corrupt and disastrous government, as led by a string of ‘party placed’ council leader over the generations.

In essence, it will be a LOT more democratic and representative than what exists now.

This information is, to the best of our knowledge, correct and reliable at the date of publication. No liability is accepted for accuracy and completeness.