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Over 4,000 residents in Burnley have signed a petition calling for a referendum to decide whether Burnley Borough Council should be led by an elected mayor.
Prepared by disgruntled buy-to-let landlord Geoffrey Berg, from Prestwich in Bury, the petition came about after he become angered with Burnley Council's extension of its Selective Landlord Licensing scheme over several more areas of the Lancashire town.
The scheme, currently running in the Trinity, Gannow, Queensgate and Duke Bar areas of Burnley will be extended to Burnley Wood with Healey Wood, the Leyland Road area, and the Ingham and Lawrence Street area from next Tuesday (November 15).
Therefore his aim is to trigger a referendum in Burnley, to give the community a vote on whether Burnley Council leader councillor Mark Townsend should be replaced by a directly elected mayor.
Claiming that the licensing scheme is having an adverse impact on the PRS market in Burnley by discouraging investment in the sector and leading to more vacant homes in the area, Berg told the press: “My original motivation for attempting to change the system of governance in Burnley was the extension of Selective Landlord Licensing to several more areas of Burnley, but not the Daneshouse area, where some local labour councillors own rental property, that was initially to be included in this scheme but was eventually excluded.
“This is bound to further reduce the value of homes around these areas. The cost of a licence for landlords is £700 for five years. I fear this scheme is increasing the number of properties and not reducing them.”
Council leader Mark Townsend said that was “angry” that Berg, who doesn't even live in Burnley, “can interfere in our representative process for personal reasons”.
He continued: “The borough now faces a possible hefty bill to hold a mayoral referendum at a time when we are already having to cut the council budget by 25% over the next four years.
“My feeling is that most residents will be outraged by this and would rather have their council tax spent on services rather than more politicians, but that will be for the people to decide if Mr Berg gets his way.”
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