The role of Elected Mayor of Watford has been defended to full council after a referendum was called for to ask residents if they wanted to keep the mayoral system in place.

Watford activist Sara Jane Trebar asked councillors if the town needed an elected mayor given the more balanced political makeup of Watford Borough following the elections in May.

However, the Liberal Democrats said the elected mayor system was designed to cope with all possible compositions of the council chamber.

Mrs Trebar asked: “Now Watford Council is more politically balanced after the recent local elections should councillors consider debating the retention of an elected mayor past 2018 and to give Watford residents a yes/no vote alongside the full local council elections in 2016?”

But Liberal Democrat councillor Mark Watkin said the council should be focused on looking at services for the town and not looking inwards to its own constitutional arrangements.

He said: “We think it is better for the council to focus on how best to provide services to the public and keep Watford as a successful town rather than looking inwards to our own constitutional arrangements.

“In our experience the issues that the public wish the council to debate are the services it provides that affect their daily lives, such as refuse collection or parks and playgrounds, and how it can work to ensure our town retains a thriving local economy and is a good place to live in.

“The mayoral system is designed to cope with all potential compositions of the council chamber.”

He continued: “There are examples in other authorities of the mayor’s party having an overwhelming majority of councillors, of an independent mayor who is not backed by any political group, and almost all situations in between.

“Therefore I don’t believe the make-up of the council has any direct bearing on the mayoral system.

“There are provisions in the 2007 Local Government Act for instigating a referendum. Whether or not one is held and whatever its outcome, constitutionally the mayoral system would remain at least until the end of the current mayor’s term of office.

“If the mayoral system continues, the people of Watford will in 2018 be able to choose who they consider the best person for the job, which may be a representative of any political party or none – that is the great thing about democracy.”