City Council leader Mike Whitby has challenged campaigners in favour of an elected mayor for Birmingham to organise a petition demanding a referendum on the issue.
Coun Whitby, who insists there is little public support for the idea and doesn't believe there will be many signatories, said he had received no letters calling for an elected mayor or a ballot.
However, he added: "The Government have made it clear: if there is obvious support for a referendum then there is a mechanism to allow this to happen. A petition of over 35,000 people, gathered within a year, would trigger a referendum.
"As I go round and meet people from all over the city, I do not see any interest in doing this."
His remarks came in a letter to The Post's sister paper, The Birmingham Mail, which has been campaigning for a referendum.
A ballot, which would cost about #350,000 to organise, would be a poor use of council money and take funding away from vital services, Coun Whitby argued.
He said: "I am committed to giving Birmingham the leadership it needs. After 20 years of neglect, with Birmingham viewed as a weak and under-performing authority up until 2004, we are starting to see real improvements for all our citizens.
"Greater devolution of central government powers to the existing council structure, not one person with a new title, is what our city needs to realise its full potential."
Coun Whitby stopped short in a debate at the annual council budget meeting of saying he would not hold a mayoral referendum, although sources close to the leader say such a step is highly unlikely.
"I have given a complex response to an issue that is very complex," he said. Labour confirmed last night that it would hold a referendum if it was returned to power, although the party's chances of winning a council majority before 2010 seem unlikely.
Coun Ian Ward (Lab Shard End), deputy Labour group leader, said: "Our position is that the people of Birmingham should decide the matter. The result of a referendum would be binding on the council."
A council decision in 2001 to gauge public opinion through a consultative ballot split the Labour group, with most councillors opposed to an elected mayor. The poll saw 40.2 per cent in favour of an elected mayor, 13.4 per cent in favour of an elected mayor working with a council manager, and 46 per cent in favour of the leader and cabinet system.
Although a majority of those taking part, 53.4 per cent backed a form of elected mayor, the then Labour-run council, with backing from Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, decided to retain the leader and cabinet system. The Government agreed not to impose an elected mayor on Birmingham.
Coun Whitby said: "We have a first past the post system in the UK and we do not add together results from second or third preferences to make a majority."
Sir Albert Bore, leader of the Labour group, said Coun Whitby's failure to agree to a poll was because he feared it would be turned into a referendum on his leadership.