A letter is to be sent to every household in Liverpool asking for their view on how the city should be governed and whether or not the elected Mayor role is scrapped. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool City Council is to ask every household in the city how they want it to be governed and specifically whether the role of elected Mayor should be scrapped.
In 2012, councillors voted in favour of replacing the council leader role with that of an elected Mayor. It bypassed the typical practice of a local referendum and was said move would create “the most powerful politician in England outside the capital”.
Labour’s Joe Anderson was elected as Liverpool’s first Mayor in May 2012, winning almost 60% of the vote. Later explaining why there wasn’t a referendum, Mr Anderson said the £130m in extra grants promised by the Government was an incentive that was too good to refuse.
Mr Anderson secured re-election in 2016 and was all set to run for a third term when, in December 2020, he was arrested by Merseyside Police on suspicion of bribery and witness intimidation as part of the wider Operation Aloft investigation. He was released shortly afterwards, no charges have been brought and he maintains his innocence.
He stood aside as Mayor shortly afterwards and, in May 2021, Labour councillor Joanne Anderson (no relation) was elected as the new Mayor. Ms Anderson had previously said she would like to scrap the role and return to the old council leader model.
But plans for a referendum were scrapped as, at an estimated cost of £450,000, they were deemed to expensive for the cash-strapped authority. Instead, a cheaper public consultation, costing £120,000, was proposed. The Mayor said: “We believe that doing a consultation will do the same job and provide the same results as a referendum.”
Next Friday (March 18) the city’s cabinet will be asked to approve the consultation plan. This follows a motion that was passed at full council in January. It proposes a letter is sent to every household in the city, with a secure link to an online portal, to answer the question: “How would you like Liverpool City Council to be run?”.
The options are the three forms of governance that are allowed by law:
- By a Mayor who is directly elected by voters every four years (current system).
- By a leader who is an elected councillor, chosen by a vote of the other elected councillors.
- By one or more committees made up of elected councillors.
The documentation will include a summary of how the consultation is being conducted and information about the models of governance and how they are different. There will be instructions in multiple languages, to make it as accessible as possible and paper copies of the voting form will be available on request for those without internet access.
A digital information campaign in support of the consultation will also take place to raise awareness and encourage participation.
If approved, the consultation will begin on Monday, March 28 ,and end on Monday, June 20, after which officers will collate and analyse the responses. The outcome of the consultation will be reported to full council who will make the final decision on whether to change governance arrangements.
Any change in governance will take effect from the elections in May 2023, and will be binding on the council for five years. It will still be possible to hold a referendum in this period if a petition of 5% of electors is presented to the council.
City Solicitor Dan Fenwick said: “The council wants to give as many people as possible the chance to have their say over the future governance of Liverpool City Council. A consultation is the only way that local people can express a preference for all three available governance models.
“People’s views in the consultation will be reported back to the council, which will make the final decision on whether to keep the mayoralty or move to a different model of governance from May 2023.”