Last updated at 15:58 BST, Tuesday, 01 May 2012

Britain's new mayors

Summary

1 May 2012

London first voted for a mayoral figurehead in the year 2000. Since then the idea has spread and now ten more major English cities are to vote in a series of referendums on whether to do the same.

Reporter:

Rob Broomby

Ballot

Are more major English cities going to follow London?

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Report

A decade ago when London chose its first directly elected mayor some feared it would become a shallow political beauty contest. But the idea has taken off. 16 authorities now elect or are about to elect their mayor; ten more British cities are about to decide.

This is Birmingham's so called Council House built with some grandeur in the nineteenth century to run Britain's second largest city. If voters say yes, they could scrap the traditional council here and choose an executive mayor. But one recent poll suggested the idea is unpopular and voters here remain divided.

Some experts want to go further and give mayors control of local health and policing, though that remains highly controversial. Many democracies around the world already have directly or indirectly elected mayors and in mainland Europe it's common.

So a 'yes' vote in a large number of British cities could be followed by more; in a decade local government will have been transformed.

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Vocabulary

directly elected

voted for by the people

feared

worried

shallow

superficial, not serious

beauty contest

competition based on the way people look and speak, not what they say

taken off

become popular

grandeur

magnificence

scrap

get rid of, abolish

executive mayor

leader of a city with great personal power

poll

survey

highly controversial

greatly disputed