Cash offered for mayoral bid help

ENGLISH Democrat councillor Elliot Fountain has offered to pay people who collect signatures for a petition to support his bid to become Boston’s elected mayor.

The councillor needs to collect signatures from five per cent of the electorate – 2,400 people – in order to force a referendum and a possible election on the issue.

But the council says this could cost the taxpayer more than than £70,000.

The petition became available at the beginning of this week, and in order to boost numbers Coun Fountain has offered money to anyone who can collect 500 signatures or more.

In a post on social networking website Facebook, which was put up at the end of last week, he said: “Petition available to sign after weekend for elected mayor. Need as many names as possible. Also need people to help deliver leaflets and newspapers. Some paid work available for delivering newspapers. Also, anyone who can get more than 500 signatures will get paid. Can you do it?”

The councillor has argued that letting the people of the town appoint a directly-elected mayor or leader is the only way to bring true democracy to the town.

He said the idea came from a government initiative to allow 12 major cities to hold a referendum on the matter.

Coun Fountain said: “If you ask Joe Public who the leader of the council is 80 per cent would have no idea who it is. The majority party picks who they want to be leader and it’s all done behind closed doors. An elected mayor creates more transparency, more efficiency and makes councils more transparent.”

But current council leader Peter Bedford said he didn’t agree with the reasoning, saying the ‘overwhelming majority’ of councillors thought the system would be inferior to the one already in place, which people in the town supported in a consultation last year.

He added: “It also has to be considered that an elected mayor would command a salary of anywhere between £50,000 to £100,000, plus expenses, and we would still have to retain a chief executive as head of service and the normal costs associated with our civic mayor.”

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l Turn to page 42 for more news on the Boston mayor debate.