Prime Minister David Cameron has urged voters in cities across England to back plans for directly elected mayors to head up local authorities in referendums next month.
In a speech to Conservative party activists in Bristol later today, Cameron will say there is a ‘once in a generation chance’ for reform, and also warn that cities risk ‘stagnating’ if they don’t change.
Bristol is one of ten cities that will hold a plebiscite on moving to a mayoral system on May 3.
The votes are taking place at the same time as local elections. Where cities vote in favour of a directly elected mayor, elections for the post will then take place on November 15.
Cameron is expected to say today: ‘Britain stands on the brink of exciting democratic change. Let's be clear what this moment means. It's not some trivial re-structure or fiddling about.
‘It's about more investment across our country. More jobs for our workers. More life in our political system. It's a once in a generation chance to change the way our country is run. I passionately want those cities - from Bristol to Birmingham, Nottingham to Newcastle, Sheffield to Wakefield - to give a resounding, emphatic yes next week.’
The government has already announced that a new ‘cabinet of mayors’ will meet with the Cameron twice a year, giving mayors a ‘direct route’ to Whitehall and allowing cities to exchange ideas.
Announcing this plan last month, he said: ‘Inspirational city leaders can do great things for their communities which is why I truly believe having a directly elected mayor in every major city in the country will bring about real change for the benefit of local people.’
The English cities holding referendums on May 3 are: Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wakefield. Leicester already has an elected city mayor, while Liverpool and Salford have moved ahead of the national plans, and will elect one next week.
Alexandra Jones, the chief executive of the Centre for Cities, has said there is uncertainty regarding how many cities will back the move to councils being run by mayors. However, there could be as many as seven ‘yes’ votes, she said.‘It’s certain that the governance map of England will look very different by November. But it will only be on 4 May that we’ll know how many of England’s major cities will be sitting round that cabinet table.’