Tower Hamlets voters will have their say on how the borough is governed in the future following a decision made by councillors at the full Council meeting on Wednesday 18 November.
Councillors voted in favour of a referendum to take place on Thursday 6 May 2021, the same day as the Greater London Authority (GLA) and Mayor of London elections, as well as a neighbourhood planning referendum on the Isle of Dogs.
Tower Hamlets has operated a Mayor and Cabinet ‘model of governance’ since May 2010. As the current model was established through a referendum, it can only be changed through another referendum. A further change of this kind can only take place at least 10 years after the date of the first referendum.
The law states that councils can only change from a current available governance model to another, so referendums can only be a choice between two available governance models.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets said: “I’m pleased that councillors have agreed that the people should have their say to decide on how the borough is governed in the future.
“The priority in the debate ahead needs to be on what secures good governance, accountability and delivers for residents in Tower Hamlets, and I hope that all eligible voters make sure that their vote is counted.”
Councillors agreed that the governance model to be considered as an alternative to the current Mayor and Cabinet system will be the Leader and Cabinet model.
In the report that was discussed at the meeting, Councillors were asked to consider a number of factors relating to the timing of a referendum including how ongoing uncertainty around how Covid-19 could impact the May 2021 elections.
Another consideration was that combining the referendum with the planned May 2021 elections would help to maximise voter turnout on the day and reduce some of the Council’s costs for running the referendum.
Will Tuckley, the Council’s Chief Executive is the senior official overseeing local referendums. As the ‘Counting Officer’ he must be consulted and agree to the date of a local referendum. He has given his approval for the referendum to take place next May taking into account the issues raised around public engagement, participation and cost.
In his role as the Returning Officer for Tower Hamlets, Will Tuckley also has responsibility for managing elections within the borough.
Subject to the outcome of the referendum on the governance model, the chosen system would be in place for the local government elections involving Tower Hamlets Council in 2022.