Birmingham’s flirtation with an elected mayor is over for the time being, after the idea was firmly rejected in a referendum.
Voters decided they would rather stick with the existing council leader and cabinet system of governance and shied away from embracing a London-style mayor.
The leader-cabinet system was supported by 120,611 voters, while the elected mayor system was backed by 88,085.
The decision by Britain’s largest local authority will come as a bitter blow to Prime Minister David Cameron, who promoted the mayoral system but could only watch from the sidelines as Birmingham joined Manchester, Bradford, Nottingham and Coventry in rejecting the idea.
Only Liverpool and Bristol out of the cities where change was proposed have said they want a mayor.
Although there was limited backing for a mayor in some of Birmingham’s inner city wards, and Edgbaston, the referendum result was apparently decided by widespread opposition in the outer areas including Sutton Coldfield and Yardley.
It’s 11 years since Birmingham first debated the possibility of having an elected mayor and the issue has been a topic of hot debate, but the referendum result would appear to rule out the prospect for years to come.
Labour’s Sir Albert Bore will now be appointed council leader later this month for a four year period after his party trounced Birmingham’s Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition at the elections on May 3.
The referendum decision poses a question mark over the political future of Birmingham’s three Labour mayoral candidates – Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne, Edgbaston MP Gisela Stuart and former Erdington MP Sion Simon.
Mr Simon resigned his seat at the 2010 General Election to campaign for the mayoral slot.
Mr Byrne, a member of Labour’s Shadow Cabinet, decided late in the day to campaign for mayor after learning that his Hodge Hill seat is to be abolished following boundary changes. He formed a partnership with Sir Albert Bore, who would have been deputy mayor if Mr Byrne had become mayor.
Mr Byrne is expected to seek the Labour selection for the Yardley constituency, where he will challenge Lib Dem MP John Hemming at the next election. Mrs Stuart, meanwhile, faces a tough fight to hang on to her Edgbaston constituency.
Mr Hemming, an outspoken campaigner against elected mayors, said Birmingham had sent out a “decisive” message against mayors.
He added: “it is wrong to place so much power in the hands of one person. You don’t need an elected dictator to make the trains run on time.
“We have also seen a rebellion against the party machine. The people of Birmingham have told politicians quite clearly that they don’t want a mayor foisted upon them.”
- Birmingham’s appointment with history (thechamberlainfiles.com)