MANSFIELD BUSINESSMAN TO MAKE CHANGES

A MANSFIELD businessman claims he has won the first round of his battle to ring sweeping changes through the district council.

A MANSFIELD businessman claims he has won the first round of his battle to ring sweeping changes through the district council.

On Friday, Stewart Rickersey will formally present a 3,850-signature petition, calling for a referendum on whether the district should be run by a USA-style mayor, to Mansfield District Council.

And the move could signal a return to the polls for local voters, with a referendum on the cards for October.

The petition will have to be formally verified by the council and the Government, but the high profile campaign looks certain to spark the groundbreaking process.

Organiser Mr Rickersey says he has received massive local support and says it signals a time for change for Mansfield

The council has repeatedly criticised calls for the vote, saying it could cost ratepayers between 50,000-200,000 and insists the public has already made its decision.

But Mr Rickersey believes a USA-style mayor, working with a cabinet, will save cash by tackling inefficiency and wastage .

People have let me know in no uncertain terms they are dissatisfied with Mansfield District Council and want a change, he told Chad this week.

We have had the same form of local government, largely led by the same people, for a long-time. There s no question it is time for a change, not simply a modification of what we have already got.

Mr Rickersey began his fight for a referendum after claiming that council questionnaires sent to every household in the district last summer were flawed and should not have indicated the council s preference for a leader and cabinet system, introduced last month.

Survey

Some 54 per cent of respondents approved the council s preferred option.

But Mr Rickersey has questioned the council s figures and claims only his petition will spark a fair and reasoned debate on the issue.

Council leader Coun Jim Hawkins told Chad Mr Rickersey was entitled to compile and submit his petition.

We will deal with that and process it and what the result will be, the people will decide, he said. I thought they already had decided because, in fact, that was the result of the survey that we did.

If voters in the referendum opt for a mayoral system, that should mean an election for mayor some time next year.

Mr Rickersey has consistently said he does not want to be mayor - but council chief executive Richard Goad this week suggested that if the high-profile Mr Rickersey did pursue a mayoral campaign he should then consider withdrawing from a lead role in all activities where the business sector are in collaborative partnership with the council .