MANSFIELD mayor Tony Egginton shared the platform with political heavyweight Michael Heseltine at a debate on the Government’s localism agenda and Localism Bill last week.
Mr Egginton, who is one of only a dozen directly elected mayors in the country, was invited by the Local Government Association to speak about Mansfield District Council’s move to introduce 36 single-member wards.
He joined Lord Heseltine, former Government Minister Hazel Blears and Liberal Demorcrat MP David Ward for the ‘Much Ado About Nothing: How Revolutionary is the Localism Bill?’ debate at the LGA’s Smith Square offices at Westminster on Wednesday.
The mayor spent five minutes explaining how the new system - to be used for the first time in local elections on 5th May - would make councillors more accountable to voters in their wards and create ‘true community champions’.
He said the outgoing system of wards with two or three councillors allowed for some members to ‘hide’ behind their colleagues.
Speaking after the event, the mayor said: “I really hope that now we see a big uptake and it gives them a reason to vote.
“In the past (the system) gave them an excuse not to vote because they felt they were not represented.
“I can understand that they have felt that they have been in a ward not responsive of their needs. This is (now) breaking it down to communities where they can have a voice.
“All I want is for people to get out there and excerise their democratic right and to vote and make their voices heard.
“We’ve actually damaged communities over the years. They have been desecrated. This really now gives them re-recognition. They have communities re-recognised.”
Under the previous system, there were 46 councillors in 19 wards spread across the district.