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Brum needs a 'power mayor' POLITICS: No point having a referendum, says think tank.

Byline: By Jonathan Walker POLITICAL EDITOR

BIRMINGHAM should elect a powerful mayor to run it, a leading think tank said today.

A report warned that the current system for introducing a mayor, which requires 36,000 people to sign a petition, should be scrapped.

Instead, the Government should simply introduce mayors across the country to improve local government.

The findings were published by the Institute for Public Policy Research, a think tank with links to Labour.

Under the present rules, local councils can hold a referendum on moving to a mayoral system if they choose.

But if existing council leaders refuse, the only way to ensure a referendum takes place is for campaigners to convince five per cent of eligible voters to sign a petition.

A Birmingham Mail campaign to trigger a referendum failed to attract enough signatures earlier this year.

But the IPPR report said: "Given the steep decline in local election participation across the country, the figure of five per cent which would, for instance, require the assent of 36,000 voters in Birmingham has come to look too ambitious, representing only a slightly smaller figure than turns out to vote in many wards.

"Not surprisingly, given these pre-conditions, the trickle of referendums has flowed almost to a halt."

The think tank called on the Gordon Brown to introduce mayors in all major towns and cities in England "so places such as Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Nottingham, Sheffield, Newcastle and Brighton can enjoy the benefits mayors bring."

Guy Lodge, senior research fellow at IPPR, pointed to the high-profile battle between Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson to be the capital's next mayor as evidence of their impact.

He said: "Even though mayors have proved a success in places like London, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough, the current system allows councils to block the creation of more mayors.

"Mayoral campaigns like the current London one help to invigorate local politics by provoking interest and debate on local issues.

"An elected mayor in every major English town and city would give central government assurance that it could devolve powers to a safe pair of locally accountable hands."

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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 23, 2008
Words:358
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