Cllr Denise Saliagopoulos, Executive Member for Policy and Performance on Surrey Council, prefers the "strong leader" model to that of elected mayor – but would rather the Government left them alone.

I am supporting the Strong Leader model with a degree of reluctance, given that whilst it is better than the alternative it is worse than what we have now. I should prefer to stay as we are and to seek to improve the current system, but the government, in their, cough, ‘wisdom’, won’t allow us that option.

The problem with going for an elected Mayor is that a lot of people assume it will be a panacea: ‘vote for a Mayor and all will be well’. The problem with that is it simply isn’t true. If people think there are problems that need dealing with I don’t see that changing to a Mayoral system will solve them. The chances are that if we went down that route a Mayor would be elected in a blaze of publicity and this time next year we’ll be sitting around wondering why the elected Mayor hasn’t turned out to be the best thing since sliced bread. What Surrey needs is fairer funding, not a Mayor.

An elected Mayor is less accountable, there are fewer checks and balances and, put simply, the system is less democratic. Strong Leaders could be removed, and since it is unlikely that anyone would wish to go through the process of losing a ‘no confidence vote’ it is likely that an incumbent could be removed without having to pursue this ‘nuclear option’. With a Mayor you are pretty much stuck with them no matter how bad a job they are doing, and that, for me, is too much of a risk.

For me it isn’t democratic to vote in one person who will then wield all Executive power for themselves with most of the ‘safeguards’ removed. Democracy isn’t all about elections: it is about debate; it is about having to command the support of the Council and not being able to railroad a budget through with just over 1/3 of the vote.

I cannot vote for such a system and I will be supporting the Strong Leader option as the least bad of the two options from which we are forced to choose.

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