Leading Liverpool business voice Frank McKenna calls for city-wide referendum ahead of an extraordinary meeting of the council to debate whether the Mayor role should be scrapped. Tony McDonough reports
Downtown in Business chief executive Frank McKenna is calling for a ‘people’s vote’ to decide whether or not Liverpool keeps its elected Mayor.
On Wednesday, September 4, an extraordinary meeting of the city council will take place at the Town Hall where councillors will debate whether or not to keep the elected role – or revert back to the old council leader model.
Labour’s Joe Anderson became Liverpool’s first elected Mayor in 2012 and remains in office, having since being re-elected for a second term. The meeting has been called by the council’s opposition Liberal Democrat group but a debate over the future of the role is also taking place within the ruling Labour group.
However, Mr McKenna, whose organisation counts many of the city’s high-profile businesses among its membership, says the issue should be decided by a city-wide referendum. He added the business community was in favour of of the elected Mayor model, saying it provided a “powerful figurehead” for the city.
“The very people who are banging on about the Prime Minister undermining democracy are among the same political leaders who are trying to rob the people of Liverpool of a genuine say over how their city is governed,” he said.
“The majority of the business community support an elected mayor leadership model. The track record of the current Mayor is very good, but more importantly the role has led to a clearer decision making and accountability process.
“Gone are the days when we would have finger pointing on who was to blame for any perceived cock-up’s or the clamour to take credit for the things that get delivered on behalf of the city. The buck stops at the Mayor’s office.
“The Mayor is also a powerful figurehead for the city. The person who has genuine and direct connections into Whitehall and who is able to speak up on the key issues that uniquely impact on Liverpool.
“Why anyone would want to dilute that powerful voice and influential role by going back to a model that, let’s face it, didn’t serve us particularly well when it was in place, is beyond me.”
Mr Anderson also received powerful backing on Thursday from trade union Unite, which, like Mr McKenna, praised the Mayor’s track record in office, including his policy of bringing outsourced services back in-house and resisting compulsory redundancies despite savage cuts by central Government.
Mr McKenna added: “My view is that if it isn’t broke, why fix it. Nevertheless, should this council motion, led I note by political leaders who are slaughtering Boris Johnson’s undemocratic actions of the last 48 hours, decide that a review of the council structure is required, then the electorate of Liverpool, via referendum, ought to be the way our future governance arrangements are decided.
“If you support a people’s vote in respect of Brexit then I would find it to be highly hypocritical for you to oppose a people’s vote on whether the mayoral position that has served us well for the last eight-years should be scrapped. The electorate has to be given a direct opportunity to have its say at the ballot box.”