Autonomous republic of Birmingham moves a step closer as Cameron announces mayor plan
David Cameron has always been a big fan of mayors, and at long last the Conservatives have unveiled their plans to encourage big cities like Birmingham and Coventry to develop their own elected leaders.
It's possible to hold a referendum on introducing a directly elected mayor already, but only if you manage to get thousands of people to sign a petition asking for one.
The Tories are planning to scrap the need for a petition. They'll simply order 12 large cities to hold referenda.
They're promoting this as an opportunity to let cities have their own Boris (or, presumably, their own Ken Livingstone). But Birmingham already has one, in the shape of council leader Mike Whitby, and he's always fiercely opposed a mayor.
I don't know how the Conservatives are planning to spin this, but there's no getting away from the fact that their flagship measure to reform local government is opposed by the Tory leader of Britain's largest local council.
However, it's also worth noting that in almost every other respect, Mr Cameron's plans coincide with Coun Whitby's long-running campaign for greater freedom for local authorities.
Whether run by a mayor or a council leader, Birmingham would be free to set its own priorities instead of following orders from London, to borrow cash for investment (such as new transport services), and to keep the extra business rates it collects if it manages to entice employers to the area.
It would also get its hands on a good chunk of the ÃÂ£300 million currently spent by Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency.
This would still be spent on economic development, and probably by a development agency of some kind. But while AWM is accountable to Whitehall, any new body would be created and overseen by local councils.