The question to be asked in the referendum on whether Birmingham should be run by a directly elected mayor has been published.
But the text sparked an immediate row, with Yardley Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming claiming that the wording was designed to encourage people vote for a mayor.
Voters taking part in next May’s poll will be asked:
“How would you like Birmingham to be run?
“By a leader who is an elected councillor chosen by a vote of the other elected councillors. This is how the council is run now.
“Or by a mayor who is elected by voters. This would be a change from how the council is run now.”
Mr Hemming, a Liberal Democrat, who is one of the leaders of the anti-mayor “Vote No to a Power Freak” campaign, said he was concerned because the question appeared to suggest voters had to choose a mayor if they wanted the city council to change.
He added: “This doesn’t surprise me. There is a drive in Downing Street to try to get cities like Birmingham to have elected mayors and this is a question that is more likely to achieve the answer ‘yes’.
“I would be very interested to know whether this question has been approved by the Electoral Commission.”
The text of was welcomed by former Birmingham MP Sion Simon, who is campaigning for the Labour nomination as mayoral candidate.
Mr Simon said the referendum on May 3 would give the people of Birmingham a “historic choice”.
He added: “On the one hand we can keep the status quo which gives us weak political leadership, a total lack of accountability at the top of the council and a city that punches below its weight.
“Or we can take the decision to switch to having a mayor which will transform how Birmingham is run, providing stronger leadership and greater transparency and accountability.
“The campaign will now start to hot up and an historic choice is coming into view for the people of Birmingham.
“I will continue to press the case for an elected mayor every single day and I urge every fellow Brummie to get involved in fighting for this vital change which is so important to the future of our city.”
Publication of the question follows confirmation by the Department for Communities and Local Government that Ministers would be prepared to hand substantial new powers to a directly elected mayor of Birmingham.
The mayor could take control of rail and bus services, job centres and further education, if the referendum delivers a yes vote.