Liberal Democrats have welcomed the change of heart by Liverpool Labour councillors who will now recommend to the meeting of the City Council that we begin a consultation process on the future of the Elected Mayoralty between March and May this year.
As a result of this we have withdrawn our own requisition for an extraordinary meeting of the Council to be held on 26th January which would have had almost exactly the same effect. Instead, we will support the Labour motion and will hope that the Council will unitedly endorse the idea of this major governance decision being made with and by the people.
This consultation will put right the injustice done to the people of Liverpool 10 years ago when Labour moved to introduce a mayoralty just 2 days before the law would have changed to make them hold a referendum. We have asked for either a referendum or a consultation process to be held on no less than 8 occasions since then and our motions have been continually rejected.
I warned as a I moved an amendment to Labour’s motion back in 2012 that we should go to a referendum on the issue even though we could dodge it, that a Mayoralty would be bad for Liverpool. I hadn’t realised in my worst dreams just how bad. I warned then on behalf of the Lib Dem Group that we would not be electing a Mayor but an Emperor. That decision making would be in the hands of just one person. Indeed for 11 months between the leaving of our former Chief Executive, Ged Fitzgerald, and his replacement by Tony Reeves, Joe Anderson claimed that he was the EXECUTIVE MAYOR rather than Elected Mayor and actually chaired Senior Management Committee meetings.
Only last Autumn the Labour Group decided to hold a referendum and the Council actually started to hold an illegal programme of events designed to show just two of the options. This is all that they could do by law, and which would have meant that the third option, a committee system, would not be up for discussion.
The illegality arose because the Council hadn’t agreed to anything. Staff of the council were proceeding on a decision by the Labour Group. It’s just as well that my intervention got that stopped as the Labour Group have now changed their mind have moved from the idea of a referendum to that of a consultation.
The fourth option, a hybrid model, would not be involved in either a referendum or a consultation as it is a means of delivering either the Leader & Cabinet or Committee system models.
The consultation is likely to cost us £120,000 against a referendum cost of £450,000. Chalk that up to the continuing costs of Joe Anderson appalling g time in office as the Leader and then the Elected Mayor of the City. This comes on top of the £135 million already known about. It isn’t the end of the matter. Almost every day more costs are coming to light and some of those costs have incurred borrowing for the next 25 years.
We warned in 2012 about the dangers of a mayoralty in that it puts too much power into the hands of one person. We have been proven to be catastrophically correct. Our reputation as a city has been shredded, parts of our city centre resemble a World War II bomb site and our finances have been damaged not only in the past but for years to co
The timetable then is not yet quite clear. After the 3-month consultation the council has two options. It can hold a referendum on the top two ideas. This seems unlikely given the cost and time scale of the referendum. Alternatively, it could then to choose which model to go for given the consultation results. This seems the likely way forward.
Even then the timescale is unclear. If the Council votes to proceed with either a Cabinet and Leader or Committee system and therefore abandons the mayoral model, there would be no election for a mayor in 2023 and we will just choose 85 councillors based on whatever wards the Boundary Commission finally allow.
But, and it is a big but, the Elected Mayoralty could go earlier. Given this timetable if Joanne Anderson were to resign, she would not be replaced. That would mean that at the Annual Council Meeting at the end of May the biggest Party, either Lib Dems or Labour, would choose a Leader post-Election and install them as Council Leader to implement the new system. In fact if Joanne were to resign at any time the Council would move to the new system after an in-principle decision post consultation. Who knows what’s in Joanne’s mind!?
We Lib Dems will urge every voter in Liverpool and every business and organisation to express an opinion on this so that the Council will have a clear understanding of the contempt with which the people of Liverpool hold the idea of an Elected Mayor. No other decision will say so clearly that the lost decade of Joe Anderson as Elected Mayor is truly over.