Former Strictly judge Darcey Bussell's husband launches elected-mayor campaign for Plymouth

Angus Forbes
Angus Forbes -Credit:TRfilmphoto

A campaign to bring Plymouth under a directly elected mayor has begun - fronted by the husband of ballerina and Strictly Come Dancing judge Darcey Bussell. Former-stockbroker Angus Forbes is the public face of an as-yet-unnamed “non-political leadership group” from sectors such as business, community, arts, sports, religion, manufacturing and health, who have come forward in a bid to trigger a referendum.

The campaign - under the title - begins with about 1,000 leaflets being handed out during the busy Pirates Weekend on May 18 and 19. The leaflets read: “It’s time for a Plymouth government upgrade. Sign the petition and trigger the referendum.”

The signatures of 5% of the electorate are needed to trigger a referendum on whether Plymouth should have a directly elected mayor. Mr Forbes said this would equate to 9,800 signees, who must sign a physical petition, not an online one.

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He said a four- to five-week “awareness campaign” begins now, during which people can register on a new website. Then there will be another four to five weeks during which the campaigners hope to attract signatures, before an official launch to push the number of signees beyond 9,800 names.

“If we are successful with the petition we will submit it to Plymouth City Council and they have six months to hold a referendum,” Mr Forbes said. “A directly elected mayor puts people and places above politics.”

There are 25 directly elected mayors or metro mayors in England, who hold executive power, but can delegate it, elected every four years. The system was brought in in 2000 in London.

Plymouth rejected a directly elected mayor in a referendum in 2001 and last year withdrew from a proposed devolution deal for Devon which could have led to an elected mayor for a combined Plymouth, Exeter and Torbay. Cornwall also scrapped a devolution deal with an elected mayor last year.

Mr Forbes, who has lived in Plymouth for two years and is on the electoral roll, said he is an advocate of directly elected mayors, and said many “remote coastal cities”, such as Plymouth, have such a structure, around the world. The leaflets said such a structure is more democratic, stable, visible, accountable and attracts high-calibre candidates, replacing an “out of date” system of local government which will boost the economy, reduce poverty and improve health services.

He said: “It’s time for the people of Plymouth to have the best structure. My job is to help convince and promote the idea of a directly elected mayor.

“This is the future,” he said. “To create a space and opportunity for Plymouth to really show its potential, a place with good people surrounded by amazing natural assets.”

Mr Forbes, who was born in Australia, describes himself as a businessman and philanthropist and is the founder of environmental charity Bankers Without Boundaries. He is married to former-ballerina and TV star Dame Darcey Bussell and works on her various business and philanthropic projects. Last year Ms Bussell became chair of Theatre Royal Plymouth and even switched on the Barbican’s Christmas lights. The couple now own a home in central Plymouth.

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