Politics: Mayors for English cities

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Birmingham and Manchester could acquire powerful elected mayors months before London if they take advantage of new proposals for democracy in the cities of England.

A Green Paper is due in the spring on arrangements for reforming the way decisions are taken in London, but if a private member's Bill introduced yesterday passes quickly, England's other cities could take the first steps down a road which could see powerful individuals elected to represent their interests.

The prospects for change are good. The Government promised to back the Bill introduced by Lord Hunt of Tanworth, which empowers councils to revamp the way they are run. Although some Labour councillors are none too keen on ceding powers to a mayor, the Labour-dominated Local Government Association is supporting the measure on the grounds that individual authorities will be left free to decide which arrangements best favour local conditions.