On Friday, December 4, Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson was arrested on suspicion of bribery and witness intimidation, along with four other men, and will now step aside from his role. Tony McDonough reports
Joe Anderson is stepping aside as Mayor of Liverpool just days after he was arrested as part of a police investigation into building and development contracts.
The 62-year-old politician is currently serving his second term as Mayor of Liverpool, having been first elected to the role in 2012. On Friday, December 4, Mr Anderson was arrested on suspicion of bribery and witness intimidation along with four other men.
The others are a 72-year-old man from Aigburth in Liverpool, a 33-year-old man from West Derby in the city, a 46-year-old-man from Ainsdale and a 25-year-old man from Ormskirk. All five were later released on conditional bail.
The arrests formed part of the wider Operation Aloft investigation, started by Merseyside Police in 2019, to probe deals between Liverpool City Council and property developers.
Now, in a move that has seemed inevitable for days, Mr Anderson will temporarily step aside from his role as Mayor. Cllr Wendy Simon, current deputy mayor, will step up to run the city in his absence.
In his statement, Mr Anderson said: “I have always done what I believe is best for the city, and I am taking the following action with those best intentions in mind. It is important that everyone in Liverpool knows that our leaders are focused on what is most important to the people; their livelihoods and, with a pandemic still in force, their lives.
“For this reason, I believe it is important that the city, and Government, are reassured that our city is indeed operating in the correct way. I am, therefore, stepping away from decision-making within the council through a period of unpaid leave, until the police make clear their intentions with the investigation on December 31.
“I will make a further statement at that point. Wendy Simon will be acting as Mayor and I have all faith that she will provide the leadership our city requires at this time.”
The day after his arrest Mr Anderson, who has been administratively suspended by the Labour Party, said he had co-operated fully with the police and that he would be speaking to his council colleagues over the weekend.
He added: “I was arrested as part of Operation Aloft on Friday 4th December, and interviewed for six hours. I co-operated fully with Merseyside Police and will continue to be co-operative in their continuing enquiries.”
Cllr Simon has also issued a statement. She said: “Our number one priority remains on steering this great city and its people through the pandemic – and preparing for the recovery. Work on this is ongoing. It has not stopped. Cabinet colleagues and I will be working alongside chief executive Tony Reeves and the brilliant officers of the city council to deliver a recovery that puts the city back on its feet and firmly back on course.
“I have two clear priorities that will guide me and the council through this period: To create a city that has equal opportunities for all, no matter your income, your race, your sex or where you live; and, to establish a platform of confidence, that reassures investors in our city so that we deliver schemes that provide quality jobs and training opportunities for the people of our city.
“For the past decade I have politically led the city’s culture and visitor economy portfolio. This is one of Liverpool’s biggest success stories. Today, more than 28,000 people are employed in more than 3,000 businesses across this dynamic and vibrant sector, which generates more than £3.5bn a year for our economy.
“The lessons learnt from this journey and the models developed to support the businesses and allow the networks to flourish will be used to inform how we fully maximise the vast potential of the city’s knowledge sector and harness the skills and assets of our world leading institutions to create an exciting new decade of growth and success. As a city, Liverpool’s future is very bright.”
Click here to read Cllr Simon’s full statement.