England’s largest cities face the prospect of ministers imposing directly elected mayors on their councils who will then become subject to “confirmatory referendum” sometime after they have been put in post.
Communities secretary Eric Pickles told LGC that the coalition government’s promise to hold “confirmatory referendum” in England’s 12 largest cities outside London on directly elected mayors would not be undertaken in conjunction with the local elections next year on 5 May as the legislation required to put the mayors in place would not be enacted by then.
He said: “I don’t think we will have the time to get the necessary powers in place for next May.
“The Localism Bill is due the beginning of December, and that will include things on planning, housing, localism and economic powers and will be a big bill – around 100 clauses probably a smidgin more so I don’t expect that will be enacted until this time next year.”
Asked explicitly if the “confirmatory referendum” would be negative referendum, held “sometime” after the mayors are put in place, Mr Pickles did not rule this out saying only: “They will be confirmatory referendum, we have said that in the coalition document”.
This raises the prospect that the leaders of Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and other large urban local authorities could be turned into mayors overnight, by an act of legislation, with the public then voting at a later date on whether to keep the mayors in place.