Petitions are being circulated in the hope of installing directly elected mayors in two English cities.
Signatures are being collected in Carlisle and Plymouth, with petitioners aiming to win the support of 5% of the electorate in each city in order to trigger a referendum on the creation of a mayoral role, under the terms of the Local Government Act 2000.
Those behind the petitions, which are not linked, believe an elected figurehead will increase the chance of their cities gaining more devolved powers on skills, housing and transport.
In Carlisle - a district council - about 1,000 people have supported the petition launched by the city’s MP John Stevenson (Con) in July. About 4,500 signatures are needed to trigger a referendum on a directly elected mayor there.
Mr Stevenson last week asked the constitution minister Sam Gyimah whether he would consider reducing it “to 2% or 1%”.
Mr Gyimah said: “Councils can resolve to have a mayor…so the 5% threshold should not be a barrier.”
Colin Glover (Lab), Carlisle City Council’s leader, said Mr Stevenson’s question was evidence he was “struggling to get those signatures”. He added: “There is no appetite in the city [for an elected mayor] from anybody.”
Cllr Glover said having a directly elected mayor “in a two-tier system would be a nonsense,” and said that he thought a unitary council covering the whole of Cumbria was a more likely option.
“We are in the very early stages of talking about it [creating a unitary],” he said. “We need to be considering options that would give us devolution.”
In Plymouth, there would need to be more than 9,000 verified signatures on the petition, launched in October, to force a referendum on an elected mayor. There are currently more than 3,000 on it.
Fifty nine per cent of residents rejected the proposal in a referendum in 2002, but Kevin Kelway, a local businessman who launched the petition, told LGC the public mood had changed as a result of the Scottish referendum. He said he was “confident” of forcing another referendum in Plymouth to take place at the same time as next year’s general and local elections in May.
Plymouth City Council was unable to comment at the time of publication.
Meanwhile, a petition circulating in Bath and North East Somerset has about 2,000 signatures on it - more than 6,600 are needed to trigger a referendum on an elected mayor. Organisers are hoping that will happen in May and, should the result be in favour of a mayor, an election would be held in October 2015.