The confirmation this week from Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles that elected mayors will have no more in the way of direct executive powers than council leaders has been greeted with a collective sneer and shaking of heads by the many opponents of change.
What, they ask, is the point of electing a mayor if he or she does not possess wide-ranging powers to get things done and make important decisions about transport, housing, planning and schools?
These, it should be noted, are the very same people who until recently argued against mayors on the grounds that the system was undemocratic because it would catapult into office corrupt, power-crazed individuals who would be able to do just about anything during their four years in charge.
The No to a Mayor lobby cannot have it both ways. Or, perhaps it can. The default position of local government is always to be against change, and most councillors in Birmingham are probably more than happy to rub along with the status quo.
Quite frankly, carrying on as we are is not an acceptable option.
Birmingham has not benefited from the current system of local government. Unemployment is among the highest in the country, workforce skills levels are among the lowest, more private sector jobs have been shed here than in other comparator cities, too many children are leaving school without qualifications.
When these facts are pointed out by the likes of former Labour cabinet minister Lord Adonis, the reaction of politicians supposedly running Birmingham is to put their fingers in their ears, shout la-la-la, and even in one memorable case to try to stop Lord Adonis from speaking out.
A mayoral system offers hope and the possibility of change for the better. The mayor of Birmingham will be elected directly by the people of Birmingham who, you never know, may reject the tired old party politicians and opt for a fresh-faced independent.
Whoever is chosen will have a direct mandate to govern because he or she will have had to publish a manifesto setting out policy proposals in detail and will certainly have faced months of public debate and scrutiny.
The existing system of selecting a council leader is a recipe for back-room deals and political expediency. Birmingham’s current leader, Mike Whitby, relies on the support of the council Conservative group, which is not even the majority political grouping in the council chamber, as well as backing from Liberal Democrat councillors. Anyone who thinks this is more democratic and accountable than directly electing a mayor once every four years must have a strange understanding of democracy.
David Cameron’s support for mayors rests largely on the premise that big cities need big characters at the helm, individuals who are instantly recognisable as being in charge and in control. The new breed of mayors planned across England will not have wide-ranging powers, but they will be able to choose their own cabinet and drive through their own policies unless two-thirds of councillors vote against.
It is not perfect, but it is a start. Local government has moved slowly, so slowly, from a time-consuming, inefficient committee system, but the previous Labour government failed to grasp the nettle and left us with an unsatisfactory halfway house option in the leader-cabinet system. A mayor for Birmingham offers a new dawn and fresh hope for this great city.