Bid to ditch Liverpool’s mayoral governance thrown out

A bid to force a public consultation on Liverpool’s mayoral system was overturned in an extraordinary council meeting tonight (January 20).

Lib Dem leader Richard Kemp had called for the meeting where he introduced a motion for council officers to draw up, and implement, a consultation programme with the people of Liverpool on the system of governance that they would prefer.

The current mayoral system was introduced in 2012.

Former Liverpool Labour council leader, Joe Anderson, was elected to the post twice, but stood down last month following his arrest in connection with offences of bribery and witness intimidation linked to investigations into building and development contracts in Liverpool.

Mr Anderson, who has protested his innocence, announced last month that he would step aside for his deputy, Cllr Wendy Simon, to act as mayor in his place.

The choices suggested by Cllr Kemp for the public consultation were for the current system of an elected mayor and cabinet, or the previous system of a council leader and cabinet, or a committee system, similar to that adopted by Cheshire East Council last month which will take effect from this May for a period of five years.

Cllr Kemp’s call also asked for a report to be presented to a special meeting of the council in time to avoid a further three-year mayoral term from this May’s scheduled mayoral election, if the consultation decided to end the current arrangements.

He said: “We should never forget that the elected mayoralty was introduced into this city on the basis of a fundamental lie.

“We were told that we would get a much better City Deal and that by building a relationship with the Tory Government we would get untold riches and great support for the work we wanted to do.

“Did we? Well, I’ve had to sit in the council chamber year after year … when the Government has taken the money away from us, although we have an elected mayor.”

He said the system concentrates all power into one pair of hands.

Labour councillor Tony Concepcion said the Lib Dem motion smacked of “political opportunism”.

His Labour colleague, Dan Barrington, agreed that there should be consultation, but added: “We don’t believe that’s something that could be rushed through.

He said: “We are currently in the middle of a pandemic and feel that now isn’t the best time to be launching into a consultation.”

“Our amendment proposes that the council will commit to hold a referendum on the future of the city’s governance in 2023 alongside the local elections.”

He said running the two simultaneously would help reduce the cost of a referendum.

The Lib Dem motion was eventually overturned by the ruling Labour party’s amendment.

Labour holds 72 of the council’s 90 posts and the vote showed a large majority to accept the Labour amendment to hold a referendum alongside the 2023 local elections.