I read in Prospect magazine an interview with former Labour MP Sion Simon, who wants to be the Labour directly elected Mayor of Birmingham if such a post is created. Among his policies is to abolish the post of chief executive of Birmingham City Council. "It is important for someone to take total responsibility," he says. "And that is why the mayor has to be the chief executive."
One can see how Conservative candidates for mayor might come up with a similar message. Indeed Boris Johnson has walked the walk not just talked the talk. But that was in the context of the incumbent Leo Boland being in support of the idea and of City Hall staffing levels being cut back.
Supposing though that Sion Simon takes charge of Birmingham this November and the chief executive Stephen Hughes wishes to continue in his £180,000 post as CEO. "The elected mayor does not have the power to appoint or dismiss staff," someone tells the journalist writing the Prospect piece. "That remains the responsibility of the council as a whole. It is, of course, possible for the mayor to persuade the council to either make the chief executive post redundant or restructure to downgrade the position. Chief executives have statutory protection from arbitrary dismissal."
What if come November we have Mayor Simon wanting to abolish the post of chief executive but most of the councillors want to keep it? The Labour MP Roger Godsiff is campaigning against the post of Mayor. There could well be a group of Labour councillors who would not just do what Mayor Simon told them.
This is the sort of problem that crops up. Doncaster has been very messy with the Mayor and councillors pulling in different directions.
Perhaps the answer is for the mayors to have more power. For instance that their decisions can only be overruled if three quarters of the councillors vote against?