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UK Prime Minister David Cameron's hope of installing powerful elected mayors in major cities across Britain has been dashed by voters.

In a series of referendums across England, residents in eight cities rejected the new posts.

Mr Cameron had thrown his weight firmly behind the policy but only voters in Bristol embraced the idea.

The Prime Minister had attempted to use the example of London Mayor Boris Johnson to inspire enthusiasm for high-profile municipal figureheads, saying he wanted a "Boris in every city".

But Birmingham rejected the idea by 57.79 per cent to 42.21, on a turnout of just 27.65 per cent.

In Newcastle 61.94 per cent of voters opposed the change, against 38.06 per cent in favour of a mayor, on a 31.92 per cent turnout.

Wakefield rejected the change by 62.16 per cent to 37.84 per cent on a 28.62 per cent turnout, while in Sheffield 65.03 per cent were against a mayor, with just 34.97 per cent in favour on a 32.09 per cent turnout.

Manchester voted against by a margin of 53.24 per cent to 46.76 per cent, and Nottingham by 57.5 per cent to 42.5 per cent. Both cities had a low turnout of 24 per cent.

The outcome in Coventry was more resounding, with just 36.42 per cent backing the change and 63.58 per cent opposing it. In Bradford the vote was 44.87 per cent for and 55.13 per cent against.

Bristol bucked the national trend and voted for an elected mayor, but on a turnout of just 24 per cent.

Meanwhile, Liverpool and Salford elected their mayors for the first time, with Labour victorious in both cities. Ian Stewart became Salford mayor by a margin of 23,459 votes to 10,071 over Conservative Karen Garrido in a second round of voting, while Joe Anderson won in the first round in Liverpool with an overwhelming 57.7 per cent of votes.

In Doncaster, voters opted to retain their elected mayor, despite a series of controversies since the post was created in 2002, with 61.98 per cent in favour of keeping the post on a 30.51 per cent turnout.

Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming campaigned against the creation of an elected mayor in Birmingham.

He told BBC Radio 4's World at One: "I think people have been swinging against the idea. I think they don't like the idea of concentrating all the power in one individual's hands, particularly when they don't even know what the powers are going to be."

Asked whether there had been a failure to promote the measure, he said: "I don't think it's a very good idea and when you have something that's not a particularly good idea, how do you polish a turd?"

Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne, who would have competed to be Labour's choice of mayor in Birmingham, told the program the role was not properly defined: "People just think 'you are asking people to take a leap of faith at a time when my faith in politics and especially my faith in David Cameron is at a low ebb'."

Stuart Drummond, the directly elected Mayor of Hartlepool, blamed Westminster coalition divisions for the failure to secure support for more such positions.

Mr Drummond was originally voted in in 2002 as part of a publicity stunt campaign for the local football club and its monkey mascot but has since been re-elected twice.

"I think the government have approached this in a completely haphazard, half-hearted way," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today program - complaining he and other existing mayors had not been consulted.

"If they really did think this was the best way forward then surely they would have imposed it on places rather than leave it to chance," he suggested.

"Because the Lib Dems have always been against the mayoral system, there has never been a true coalition policy for it and it just seems to be one of David Cameron's little hobby horses."