NORTH Yorkshire could get an elected mayor as part of changes to the way local authorities arrange their decision-making processes.

Officials have launched a public consultation on the leadership model employed by the county council, in response to changes in the law that will leave its present arrangements obsolete.

Currently, the 72 elected councillors appoint a leader, and between two and nine other members, to form a cabinet executive.

This model will not be available in its present form after May next year, when new legislation comes into force.

The council says it would prefer to adopt a revised set of leader and cabinet arrangements, but is also considering the elected mayor model.

Two local authorities in the North-East Middlesbrough and Hartlepool have elected mayors, while residents in Darlington rejected the idea in a referendum held last October.

A statement on the council's website read: "We intend that a new set of leader and cabinet arrangements come into effect. The other possible executive model available is the mayor and cabinet executive.

"The mayor is directly elected by the public and would also appoint his or her cabinet.

"Once elected, the mayor cannot be removed from office by the council and would serve for a full four-year term.

"The county council considers that the leader and cabinet executive model is best suited to the circumstances of North Yorkshire.

"It would place strong visible leadership in the hands of a leader chosen by elected county councillors, and supported by an executive he or she considers best able to fulfill their roles."

Coun Ian Watkins, a Harrogate firefighter and member of Bedale Town Council, said he would be open to the idea of an elected mayor.

He said: "I would like to think that an elected mayor could put themselves above party politics, and do what is right for the people of North Yorkshire.

Coun John Weighell, leader of the county council, poured cold water on the possibility.

Speaking at a meeting of the town council, on Monday, he said: "No-one, of any political party, is suggesting that directly elected mayors are a suitable alternative for very large, widespread rural areas.

"They have proved useful in fairly tight, urban areas.

"It would be very difficult, in an area as large as North Yorkshire, to elect a mayor."

The county council has to decide about its future arrangements by the end of this year.

To have your say, write to Carole Dunn, Assistant Chief Executive (Legal and Democratic Services), County Hall, Northallerton, North Yorkshire DL7 8AD, or email Comments must be received by October 17.