Ministers have confirmed that the “new generation” of city mayors will be created and put in place before the public get to vote on whether or not they want them.
At a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference, local government minister Bob Neill told LGC that confirmatory referendums for city mayors will be retrospective.
This means existing council leaders will become mayors with votes held at a later date to ask the public whether they want to keep the model.
Asked how confirmatory referendums would work in practice, Mr Neill, left, said: “[The question will be] we have set up these things, do you want to stick with them?”
Asked if that would mean existing council leaders being made mayors, he replied: “That would seem the easiest way of doing things, yes.”
He said measures to enable such votes to be held would be folded into the decentralisation and localism bill, due to be tabled this autumn. The coalition agreement said the government would: “create directly elected mayors in the 12 largest English cities, subject to confirmatory referendums and full scrutiny by elected councillors”.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles reiterated his determination to see mayors created in England’s 12 largest metropolitan councils in his speech to conference on Sunday.
He said the mayors would be given the ability to pool funding for welfare-to-work and offender rehabilitation schemes with their own budgets.
Having retrospective referendums would get around the lack of support for the mayoral model that has so far been shown by both councils and the public. However, it does appear to prevent ‘big name’ candidates from becoming the first mayors.
Prior to the general election, Labour minister Sion Simon announced he would not stand for re-election and would instead attempt to become mayor of Birmingham. Former Birmingham City Council chief executive and BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons is another whose name has been linked with the post. In Sheffield, former home secretary David Blunkett has been tipped to run for the job.