A MAJOR campaign to shake-up Cumbrian politics and leadership has been launched by a South Lakeland councillor.

Ben Berry, district member for Windermere, Applethwaite and Troutbeck, is spearheading "Cumbria Yes" - which began in earnest on New Year's Day - to get the county its own directly-elected mayor.

"A directly-elected mayor is exactly what Cumbria needs," he said.

"We desperately lack political leadership and direction. 

"A mayor would be accountable to all Cumbrians, meaning if they made unpopular decisions, like parking meters, they would feel the repercussions come the election."


The current system means the council has a leader who heads up a 'cabinet', chosen by other councillors.

With a directly-elected mayor, the decision on who runs the council would be made by voters, while the mayor could also decide to scrap the chief executive's position.

Campaigners argue that having a directly-elected mayor will be "cheaper, more accountable and give every Cumbrian a say in how they are governed". 

Mr Berry explained that only five per cent of Cumbrian residents - or 19,278 people - need to sign a petition agreeing with the changes, before a referendum will be called over the issue.

But he said he has no designs on the mayoral role himself.

Deputy chairman of "Cumbria Yes", Jess Alston, later labelled the campaign 'good Cumbrian common sense'.

"I'm very excited about this proposed change to Cumbria," she said.

"It puts the power back into people's hands. It is a great way to get better leadership whilst saving on huge salaries. 

"We all get a say, rather than a leader being chosen in backroom political deals."

The petition will be open until the end of 2015, ahead of a referendum being held in May, 2016, if enough people vote for one.

The election for a mayor could then be held in May, 2017.

However, the cost of the referendum would be billed to taxpayers, although Mr Berry was unable to say how much this could stretch to.

Cllr Berry added: "This is a real game-changer for Cumbria.

"We should take the power back from the politicians."