Residents, business leaders and community groups have been asked to tell Ministers what powers an elected mayor in Birmingham or Coventry should have.
Cities Minister Greg Clark launched the consultation in advance of referenda in the two cities on creating directly elected mayors, due to be held in May next year.
The Government consultation document also appears to confirm that Ministers are seriously considering calls to hold mayoral elections later next year, rather than waiting until May 2013 as originally planned.
It states: “Where the referendum vote is in favour of having a mayor, the city will then rapidly hold an election for its first mayor.”
The consultation follows the addition of amendments to the Localism Bill giving the Local Government Secretary the power to transfer responsibility for almost any public service to local authorities, as long as doing so would “promote economic development or wealth creation” or “increase local accountability in relation to the function”.
This amendment, added by the House of Lords, replaced a section which gave mayors the right to demand new powers during their first 12 months in office. As things stand, a mayor would simply take over the powers of a council leader and cabinet. But the Localism Bill potentially allows them to take over for any function which is “currently the responsibility of government or other public authority, which are carried out in relation to the people who live, work, or carry on activities in the authority’s area”.
The wording of the bill makes it clear powers can be transferred to any local authority whether it has a mayor or not to ensure cities which reject a mayor are not disadvantaged.