Mayor argument continues despite poll defeat as interest grows in "metro mayor" idea
The debate over an elected mayor for Birmingham is not over, as far as the idea's supporters are concerned.
Proposals for elected mayors were defeated in nine out of the ten cities which held referendums on May 3. In Birmingham, 57.8 per cent of voters opposed a mayor with 42.2 per cent in favour, while 63.6 per cent voted against the idea in Coventry with just 36.4 per cent in favour.
But supporters of change insist local government in cities like Birmingham cannot continue as it is.
As we report in today's Birmingham Post, the city's "yes" campaign is to hold a meeting next month on the way forward. They hope to attract politicians, business leaders and other members of the public. A date has yet to be confirmed.
Greg Clark, the Government Minister responsible for cities, has expressed his hope that residents in the cities which voted against a mayor will look at the success enjoyed by cities which do have one, such as Liverpool, and decide to follow suit.
As we report, he said: "People in the cities that have them will wonder why on earth there was any doubt about the desirability of having them, and I think people in other cities will see the advantages and over time be convinced by what they have to offer."
Mr Clark also offered to support calls to create "metro mayors" which govern regions (Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country might be one possibility), as long as there was demand for the idea locally.
And Lord Adonis, the Labour peer who campaigned for mayors, including during a visit to Birmingham, has a novel idea. He thinks the Government could turn the police commissioners, to be elected on November 15, into "metro mayors".
In an article on his personal website, he writes: "Participating in the mayoral referendum campaigns, I found a near consensus - including among councillors opposed to elected mayors for existing city councils - on the case for new "metro mayors" able to take charge of transport, planning and policing across city-regional travel-to-work areas.
"This is the role of the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority, and the issue can no longer be ducked in other conurbations. Partly this is because of the successful example of London, and partly because police commissioner elections are taking place in November for police authority areas which in the conurbations, headed by the West Midlands and Greater Manchester, largely cover 'city regions.'
"Labour and the Tories now need to decide what to do with the police commissioners, and Labour in particular is not wedded to the status quo as a long term settlement.
"It would be a simple reform in the conurbations to convert elected police commissioners into 'metro mayors' with responsibility for transport, economic regeneration and strategic planning, as well as policing.
"Since the police commissioners will already exist, and the extra powers would largely come from devolution downwards from Whitehall, not by taking powers from existing local authorities, I see no particular reason for referendums to create these metro mayors."
Opponents of mayors are likely to feel that the losing side should simply accept the result.
But there does seem to be some agreement that some sort of "metro" or "city region" authority is needed, whether that needs a mayor or something else. For example, Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming (Birmingham Yardley), who helped lead the campaign opposing a Birmingham mayor, feels some sort of arrangement is needed to place services such as transport - which inevitably cross local authority boundaries - under local control.
As he says, he's one of the small (but perhaps growing?) number of people willing to talk openly about the creation of a "Greater Birmingham", similar to Greater Manchester.