A referendum asking whether Birmingham should be run by an elected mayor is less than a year away and campaigners for the radical new system are beginning to emerge, explains Local Government Correspondent Neil Elkes.
Before any prospective mayor can throw their hat in the ring there is the small matter of convincing Brummies that change is needed.
Even those who back the idea of a mayor admit there is no certainty that voters will say yes in next year’s referendum
Following the rejection of the AV voting system in this year’s referendum, the pro-mayor camp knows it has to put its case loudly and clearly.
A fledging ‘yes’ campaign is brewing under the stewardship of Julia Higginbottom, who is claiming a wealth of support from the city’s business and third sector organisations.
Julia, who runs media production company Aquila TV in the Jewellery Quarter, says she is waiting on the final detail of the Government’s Localism Bill, which will confirm the referendum, before firing the campaign starting pistol.
Although a Labour Party supporter, she insists the campaign is non-partisan and simply about improving the quality of Birmingham’s political leadership.
Until the campaign is formalised and legally constituted she is unwilling to reveal the extent of the backing.
She said: “The one thing we all agree is that an elected mayor is a good thing. It would produce better leadership and greater democratic accountability.
“It cannot be right that our city leader is chosen by a couple of dozen councillors in a private meeting.”
She wants to avoid the pitfalls of the recent AV campaigns in which mud-slinging, personalities and misinformation dominated.
Meanwhile, the Labour Party has begun a campaign to force the Government to abolish plans to appoint Tory city council leader Mike Whitby as shadow mayor of Birmingham when the Localism Bill passes into law later this year.
Labour group leader Sir Albert Bore said it would be undemocratic to impose Coun Whitby as mayor before the people of Birmingham have a chance to vote in the referendum on whether they want to be governed by a mayor.