No 10 battles Brown allies over 'US-style' mayors

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Indy Politics

A row between Downing Street and Gordon Brown's allies over powerful American-style mayors has been "fudged" in a White Paper to be published this week on the reform of local government.

Tony Blair is insisting on pressing ahead with directly-elected, city-wide mayors to give local voters more confidence that their views are being listened to in town halls. He has demanded that directly-elected mayors should be included in proposals giving more "power to the people" by promising to devolve power from Whitehall.

The Prime Minister last week underlined his support for the American-style mayors when he summoned some existing mayors to Downing Street and praised them on the official No 10 website. He has been convinced by Ken Livingstone, the London Mayor, Rudi Giuliani, the former Mayor of New York, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governor of California, that charismatic local leaders can make a difference.

However, the proposed city mayors - who could override local Labour party councils - were recently rubbished by Ed Balls, Gordon Brown's chief lieutenant, who made it clear they would be ditched when Mr Brown took over from Mr Blair. Mr Balls argued they should not be allowed to undermine regional development agencies.

A compromise has been reached to avoid overshadowing the launch of the local government White Paper by Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Communities, on Thursday. "There's been a lot of tension between Downing Street and Gordon's office over this," said one ministerial source. "The wording has been fudged."

A Whitehall source said: "We've always said there should be a balance between strong cities and RDAs and that will be reflected in the White Paper."

The proposed reforms include: new powers for local people to ask councillors to review decisions or consider improvements to local services through a new "community call for action".

This may cover anything from fixing street lighting, dog mess, complaints over planning and collecting rubbish.

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