Liverpool MPs call for city's elected mayor role to be scrapped

By Claire Hamilton
Political reporter, BBC Radio Merseyside

image copyrightUK Parliament
image captionRiverside MP Kim Johnson and Wavertree MP Paula Barker believe Liverpool should revert to the leader and cabinet model of governance

Two Labour MPs have called for the role of elected mayor in Liverpool to be scrapped after a row erupted over the party's candidate selection process.

Wavertree MP Paula Barker and Riverside MP Kim Johnson said the city should return to the leader and cabinet model.

The city's Labour councillors will meet at the weekend to discuss scrapping the role ahead of May's election.

It comes after the party scrapped its list of candidates to stand in the May poll with no explanation.

Candidates were being selected after Joe Anderson was suspended from the Labour Party following his arrest in December on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.

He became Liverpool's first directly-elected mayor in May 2012 after serving as council leader and was re-elected in 2016.

Mr Anderson said he would not fight for re-election in May due to the police investigation.

image copyrightvarious
image captionFrom left: Acting mayor Wendy Simon, former deputy mayor Ann O'Byrne and sitting Lord Mayor Anna Rothery had been shortlisted for the role

Some members of the city's ruling group are furious after the national Labour party rejected the agreed shortlist, reopened applications and told three shortlisted councillors not to enter again.

One of the three original candidates, councillor Anna Rothery, has said she is considering legal action against the party.

Wavertree MP Ms Barker said she firmly believes Liverpool needs a new democratic model, adding "concentration of executive power in one office is fundamentally unhealthy".

"There exists a real anger towards the failings of the administration that overshadows the many good things the council has achieved this last decade," she said.

Riverside MP Ms Johnson said the "situation in Liverpool since December has shown that there are serious flaws with the mayoral model, where power is concentrated in one person and one office".

"Perhaps now is the time to bring forward a more democratic and collegiate model of governance for the people of Liverpool."

The city's Liberal Democrat have been calling for the mayoral model to be abandoned for several years, and brought a motion to full council to that effect more than once.

Directly-elected mayors were part of a government plan to give up to 11 of England's biggest cities "visible leadership" and increase prosperity.

Liverpool's Liberal Democrat leader Richard Kemp said his group of 10 councillors would vote to scrap the role but added "the Labour Party is treating the people of Liverpool with contempt over this issue as they have always done".

"The electoral process and governance of Liverpool should not be used to paper over cracks in an increasingly factional and fractious Labour Party," he added.

image captionLib Dem leader Richard Kemp said the Labour party is treating the people of Liverpool with contempt

Labour councillors defeated a motion by the Liberal Democrats to ask the people of Liverpool whether they wanted to keep the mayor in January.

The Liberal Democrats wanted a referendum before May's election but Labour argued it couldn't be done given the time frame and agreed to put the issue to a public vote in 2023.

But now Labour councillors are meeting to discuss calling for an emergency full council meeting on the issue as early as next week.

There is uncertainty whether the council's constitution would allow a motion so similar to one that was debated a few weeks ago to return for consideration - and whether any decision could be made without any public consultation.

Nominations for the new selection process closed earlier ahead of the election on 6 May.

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