Birmingham, Manchester and six other cities reject mayoral system in blow to government policy

Bristol has voted to switch to a directly-elected mayor making it the only city so far to vote in favour of the mayoral system in referenda held in ten regional cities yesterday.

In Bristol 53% voted in favour of switching to the mayoral system, making it the only one of eight cities to have opted in favour of a directly-elected mayor in the referenda, which were imposed on the cities by the government’s Localism Act.

The prime minister had championed mayors as offering greater people power across England’s regional cities. Earlier this week he called for a “Boris in every city”.

However, results today showed Birmingham, Sheffield, Wakefield and Newcastle had all said no to the mayoral system, following earlier no votes from Nottingham, Manchester, Coventry and Bradford.

The most resounding rejections were seen in Sheffield (65%), Coventry (64%), Wakefield and Newcastle (both 62%).

The count in Leeds is continuing.

In Liverpool, where the council opted to switch to the mayoral system without a referendum, incumbent Labour council leader Joe Anderson was elected mayor with nearly 60% of the vote.

Speaking to the BBC, communities secretary Eric Pickles played down the importance of the ‘no’ votes.

He said: “If I’m a fan of mayors, I’m an even bigger fan of localism and local people deciding.

“I’m not so hung up on the structure of local government but I do feel that British cities - if they want to compete with Milan, Chicago and Frankfurt - then I think they’ll have better chance with a mayor.

“That isn’t to rule out other forms of governance. We have done a deal with the Greater Manchester authorities and are currently negotiating with Yorkshire to give a greater degree of authority to those areas.”

However, the rejection of the plan does raise questions over the future of the government’s ‘city deals’ policy, which pledges the devolution of more powers to cities to give them greater control of driving economic growth.

Under the ‘city deals’ plan, championed by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, the government had made clear it preferred to devolve powers to directly-elected mayors.