A CAMPAIGN for a referendum on whether the voting public should elect future leaders of Hillingdon Council is gathering pace.
In May, the council introduced a 'strong leader' arrangement, whereby councillors elect one of their colleagues to run the council for a four-year term.
But, under laws passed 10 years ago, residents can force their local authority to hold a referendum to decide how the council's leadership is structured if five per cent of the population signs a petition in favour of doing so.
That would mean just under 10,000 people supporting the idea - and Hayes man Cliff Dixon has said the campaign has already secured 1,000 of the names it needs.
The movement could eventually see Hillingdon having an elected mayor, as in authorities such as Greater London, Watford, Bedford and Hartlepool.
Mr Dixon, a mobile phone company employee, stood for the Hayes and Harlington parliamentary seat in May as an English Democrat.
He said: "The cabinet at Hillingdon Council feel that they can pretty much do as they like because of the way local democracy is structured.
"Currently, we vote for our local councillors and our MP, but have no say in who leads our council. Arguably, the most influential and important position locally is not open to debate by the electorate.
"If we take the situation with local schools as an example, under an elected mayor system we could remove the council leader if we disagreed with the way he had handled this issue at the ballot box.
"Currently, he can only be removed by councillors who are members of his own political party."
If residents support the elected-mayor structure in a referendum, it would mean the current council leader, Councillor Ray Puddifoot (pictured)(Ickenham, Conservative), having to stand for election if he wished to remain in charge of Hillingdon.
While the campaign has been launched in Hillingdon by The English Democrats, Mr Dixon says it is a cross-party issue, and one he hopes will be supported by others.
"This is not a campaign that is run along party lines, more one of bringing together members across the political spectrum to promote democracy at a local level," he added.
**To get involved and to sign the petition, visit www.hillingdonengdem.org.uk/news/the-elected-mayor-campaign .