Tony Blair has signalled his support for elected mayors as he called for "new models of accountability and leadership" in local authorities, writes Jonathan Walker.
His comments bring the prospect of radical changes in the way Birmingham is governed a step closer.
The Government is considering the creation of a Birmingham city region with its own mayor and tax-raising powers. It could include Soli-hull, Wolverhampton, Coventry and the Black Country.
But the plans are controversial, as other West Midlands authorities are expected to oppose the creation of a body with formal decisionmaking powers which could be dominated Birmingham.
Mike Whitby, leader of Birmingham City Council, has also rejected the suggestion of creating an elected mayor.
David Miliband, the former Local Government Minister, told The Birmingham Post in March that Birmingham would benefit from the firm leadership a mayor would bring.
He was replaced in a Government reshuffle earlier this month. But the Prime Minister has written to Ruth Kelly, the new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, telling her to continue Mr Miliband's reforms.
Mr Blair's letter says: "I would like you to continue the excellent work that John Prescott and David Miliband had begun on local government reform. I believe the new and expanded role for the department will help you bring this work to a successful conclusion.
"I would like to see a radical, devolutionary White Paper and subsequent Bill, with more powers for local neighbourhoods and new models of accountability and leadership, including mayors."
He also highlighted the need to reform the council tax. Sir Michael Lyons, former chief executive of Birmingham City Council, is heading a Government review of local government finance.
Birmingham came close to having an elected mayor four years ago, when the council held a referendum in which 220,000 people voted.
Two systems involving a mayor were on offer, and they received 40 per cent and 13 per cent of the vote respectively. The third option - no change - received 46 per cent of the vote, and was ruled the most popular choice.
Local authority leaders in the region argue they can work together more effectively by co-operating voluntarily rather than losing powers to a new layer of local government.