Glasgow, Manchester and Cardiff are likely to be among the first cities to adopt the reforms. In Glasgow in particular the mayorality is seen as a strong counterweight to the Edinburgh-based parliament.
As well as helping to resurrect civic pride, senior party figures see the move as a long-overdue means of bypassing the 'Old Labour' members that continue to run some authorities.
A Labour party source said: 'Even if in some cases, an Old Labour candidate stands for mayor, we would be prepared to see a strong independent candidate, such as a businessman, win the day.'
Meanwhile, a Mori poll of voters in five English cities indicates widespread support for directly elected mayors, according to The Guardian (p9).
The poll, conducted on behalf of the New Local Government Network - a pro-modernisation campaign group and think-tank - finds that two-thirds or those surveyed wish to see an elected mayor in their own city, while a fifth are opposed.
The research, conducted last weekend among 1,000 people in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield, found little variation in support for the change between the five areas.
There was also stong support (68%) for local referendums on whether to have a mayor, while more than nine out of ten felt councils needed to improve their performance and to consult voters more often.
Gerry Stoker, chair of the New Local Government Network, said last night: 'These results will shake up the whole of local government. We have the prospect of most of our major cities being run by a mayor by the next election - whether the incumbents like it or not. I do not think this movement of opinion can be stopped.'
John Williams, co-ordinator of the network, is quoted saying: 'The public are very enthusiastic about directly elected mayors and want to be consulted. Local authorities are in danger of being further dislocated from the public if they don't listen.'
- see LGCnet (27/10/98) `FULL DETAILS OF MORI POLL ON ELECTED MAYORS - PUBLIC SUPPORT PREDICTED TO SWEEP AWAY TRADITIONAL COUNCIL METHODS'