1. ITV Report

The Last Word - elected mayors

Many of us will be able to go to the polls on May 3 for the local elections. But elsewhere in England, lots of voters will have the chance to change the way they are governed.

In big cities like Birmingham and Manchester, there will be a referendum on having a directly-elected mayor.

The idea isn't new of course. Towns and cities, from Hartlepool to Bedford to - most famously - London have had elected mayors for years. Certainly in the capital, the high-profile personality-led clash between Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone has revitalised local politics.

The Government, in the shape of Communities Minister Greg Clark, the MP for Tunbridge Wells, want more elected mayors. They reckon mayors give towns and cities a more powerful voice. And with one person in charge, voters will know who's making the decisions. After all, how many people know the name of their council leader?

Most local councillors are more sceptical of course. They lose power when mayors come onto the scene and turkeys don't vote for Christmas.

Mayoral enthusiasts in the south are disappointed that nowhere in our region is having a referendum next month. If it's good enough for Wakefield, they say, why not Reading or Southampton or Medway?

The problem for them is - most referendums for a mayor have actually been lost. In fact a decade ago there were four in the south...in Oxford, the Isle of Wight, Shepway (Folkestone) and Brighton and Hove. All decisively rejected the idea of a mayor.

But that was a long time ago, and if cities across England opt for a mayor next month, the pressure to have new referendums in our region will probably be irresistible.

However, if most of the votes say No to a mayor, Mr Clark's cherished policy could be dead in the water. And we won't get mayors in the south.

Elected mayors are all about People Power, say the Government. The people will have their say in two weeks' time.

We'll be talking about elected mayors - and elected police commissioners - on The Last Word, on ITV Meridian tonight 2330