Peter Soulsby is the Executive Leader of Leicester City Council, otherwise known as City Mayor – a post which is not to be confused with the Lord Mayor (the one who wears the chains and performs various ceremonial duties).
Local Labour Cllr Ross Willmott correctly refers to Soulsby’s “authoritarian regime” as a way of describing Leicester’s undemocratic Mayoral system. Indeed the entire idea of having a City Mayor is bad as far as democracy is concerned, which is precisely why principled socialists like Jeremy Corbyn were always opposed to the imposition of City Mayor’s upon any and all cities.
In today’s Leicester Mercury (December 4) Sir Peter Soulsby can be seen belittling the attempts of three Labour councillors who spoke up in last week’s full Council meeting to suggest some alternative funding priorities to be considered on our Mayor’s most recent Capital Spending Programme.
It seems that the councillors in question — Ross Willmott, Lucy Chaplin, and Patrick Kitterick — had felt forced to raise their suggestions in public at last week’s meeting because, as the Mercury reported, they had “insisted they had raised” many of their ideas “before both in public and private but that they had been ignored.” This is a direct consequence of Leicester undemocratic Mayoral system.
One of the suggested additions to the City Mayor’s proposed spending programme was to set aside money for a new library and community centre for Rushey Mead. This suggestion coming in response to the Council’s current plans to close the existing library in Rushey Mead and then cram it into an already tiny community centre. This was a totally reasonable suggestion.
Cllr Willmott and company are however far from alone in making such demands upon Sir Peter Soulsby. Indeed on the following day, after the Council meeting, another public meeting was held upon which Cllr Willmott reported:
“50 people at save Rushey Mead library meeting tonight. Cllr Rita Patel proposed that the council should build a new library and combined community centre from its £250million capital programme. I spoke in favour of this explaining that we had put this idea to Peter Soulsby back in May 2016. This was supported by the meeting including Keith Vaz MP, cllrs Patel & Me, and Deputy Mayor Piara Singh Clair. Thanks to the local campaigners a good way to end the week.” (Facebook post, December 1, 2017)
It seems that councillors are now being forced to reconsider their longstanding failure to resist Soulsby’s cuts agenda.
However, if our councillors are really going to challenge the City Mayor and fight for democracy and an end to austerity in Leicester then they need to adopt a well-thought out strategy that can help all Leicester’s residents… now not later. What they need is a plan for how they can call upon our City Mayor to set a legal no-cuts budget for Leicester; and funnily enough just such a detailed plan/report was published earlier this year by the biggest trade union in Leicester (which found online here http://www.cabinet.leicester.gov.uk:8071/documents/s82534/No%20Cuts%20Budget%20for%20City%20prepared%20for%20Unison.pdf).