BRIGHTON and Hove could be left behind in the devolution arms race unless it chooses an elected mayor, it has been warned.
There are fears that Greater Brighton needs an elected mayor or risks falling behind other cities already being granted greater powers and finances.
A mayor-led devolution deal could help tackle major problems with infrastructure and health services in the area, supporters have claimed.
Such a move could also help deliver on the ten-point Seafront 2020 Plan that this newspaper developed in 2015 to see the city grow.
Greater Brighton members concede choosing not to have a mayor could slow or even stop devolution plans but believe county residents would not back the move.
The warning comes as further borrowing powers were granted to new mayor-led regions during Wednesday's Autumn Statement.
Chancellor Philip Hammond said discussions would also continue with London and the West Midlands over further devolved powers with the capital to receive complete control over their adult education budget.
While London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Cornwall press on with new devolved powers, Greater Brighton only begin formal talks with the government next year.
Opponents to the elected mayor scheme warn that a referendum and election would stall devolution by another 18 months.
Lord Bassam of Brighton said: “There is a danger we will get left behind.
“There’s a lot of investment needed in infrastructure in Brighton and Hove.
“Brighton and Hove has a big brand, there is a lot of capacity and scope for reimagining the city.”
Former Brighton and Hove Economic Partnership chairman Simon Fanshawe said: “I think there’s a danger of that [a two tier system of local government] because the government clearly favours elected mayors.
“The government quite nakedly protects funding for its areas like Surrey rather than the poorer areas of the north so we would need a powerful figure to try and rectify that political imbalance and give Brighton and Hove a fighting chance to direct services where they are really needed.”
Brighton and Hove City Council leader Warren Morgan said: “The imposition of an elected mayor would shatter the political co-operation that has secured progress so far, hold us up for a year whilst elections were organised, and prove that the government’s promises of localism were false.”
Worthing Borough Council leader Daniel Humphreys said: “I think the government has been very clear that having an elected mayor as part of the deal will help move things on far more quickly.
“Quite a few government ministers have said we won’t get one at all without one.
“I think it makes sense for areas like Greater Manchester or Birmingham than for Greater Brighton, I think there would have to be a very compelling case with extra investment to convince me we should have an elected mayor.”
Cllr Geoffrey Theobald, Brighton and Hove Conservatives leader, said: “So many devolution bids have fallen down due to the elected mayor issue – it is incredibly difficult to get agreement when, as with Greater Brighton, there are so many different councils involved.
"I still hope that the Government will relent and allow us to go ahead with our bid.
"Cornwall’s bid has recently been given the go-ahead without an elected mayor, so why not ours?”
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "Ministers are clear that where significant powers are transferred they must be accompanied by strong governance, clear accountability and local support.
“The most ambitious deals agreed have included commitments to establish directly elected mayors.”