Plans to impose an elected mayor on Birmingham have been condemned as “an affront to democracy” by a Labour MP.
Liam Byrne (Lab Hodge Hill) condemned proposals to create a mayor in the city - without asking residents whether they want one or not.
He spoke out after it emerged the Government had performed a u-turn over plans to hold a referendum on creating a mayor.
Local Government Minister Bob Neill revealed at the Conservative conference in the city last week that the plan is now to create a mayor to lead the city council - and to ask residents whether they support the change later on.
The reform will be a major change in the way Birmingham is governed.
But it will be imposed without consultation. Instead, a “confirmatory referendum” will be held at an unknown date in the future asking residents whether they want to go back to the old system.
Mr Neill also revealed ministers were considering doing without an election and simply appointing Mike Whitby, the current leader of the council, as city mayor.
Mr Byrne said: “The Government’s plan to impose an ‘elected’ mayor on Birmingham, and even more shockingly, to hand that post to the Tory leader of Birmingham City Council without an election, is an affront to democracy.
“Executive mayors can be good for cities and local democracy. But the decision should be left to local people – not imposed on them then followed up with a sham “confirmatory” vote.
“And while I have nothing against Mike Whitby, you cannot give someone who has been elected as a ward councillor direct and sole executive power over Britain’s second city and a £3 billion budget, and an unfair advantage over other candidates when an election finally does take place.”
Asked how confirmatory referendums would work in practice during the conference, Mr Neill said: “[The question will be] we have set up these things, do you want to stick with them?”
And asked if that would mean existing council leaders being made mayors, he replied: “That would seem the easiest way of doing things, yes.”
The new policy is a change from the proposals set out by the Conservatives in opposition, when they promised to create mayors in England’s 12 biggest cities including Birmingham and Coventry, but only after referenda had been held asking residents whether they backed the change.