Both Labour and Lib Dem councillors are keen to consider a change to the council leadership model but the CEO of Downtown in Business claims it would be a ‘backward step’. Tony McDonough reports
One of Liverpool’s leading business voices Frank McKenna says scrapping the city’s elected mayor role would be a “drastic and detrimental” step.
On Monday, Liverpool City Council’s Labour group meeting considered a proposal by former Deputy Mayor, Cllr Ann O’Byrne, that the position of city mayor be removed and the authority revert to a leader and cabinet model. It was a move firmly opposed by current elected mayor Joe Anderson.
However, a vote early in the meeting saw Cllr O’Byrne lose her bid to remain as deputy leader of the Labour group and her motion to consider a change in the leadership model was deferred until the next meeting. Both ruling Labour and opposition Lib Dem councillors are keen to debate a possible change so the issue remains a live one.
Mr McKenna, chief executive of business lobbying organisation and networking club Downtown in Business, led the original campaign for Liverpool to have an elected mayor which saw Joe Anderson first elected to the role in 2012.
He claimed having a powerful figure in the shape of an elected mayor had enhanced Liverpool’s global reputation and had helped accelerate investment into the city. He added: “People quickly forget the bureaucracy and lack of genuine accountability that existed at a leadership level before the mayoral model was introduced.
“Back in 2003, through to the introduction of the elected mayor model, the business community was tired and frustrated at the lack of clarity over who was making decisions and where the buck stopped.
“There was widespread support across the private sector to streamline the number of agencies involved in business support and investment and to have a single figurehead who could champion the city and focus on the big issues Liverpool faced.
The evidence since the mayoral role was established suggests that it was a very positive move. The city is delivering £14billion worth of regeneration projects, creating new jobs, attracting new investors and driving our local economy forward.
“The city’s reputation at an international level has been enhanced. Attracting the International Business Festival, strengthening Liverpool’s ties with other global cities and having a single point of contact for entrepreneurs and investors can be credited to the mayoral office.
“To return to the traditional leader/cabinet model may have attractions for local politicians, but there is little appetite among business to go back to an old fashioned, traditional approach that failed to deliver in the way a mayoral model has done for Liverpool.”
Mr McKenna also dismissed the suggestion that the establishment of a Metro Mayor made the need for a city mayor redundant
“The Metro Mayor, as the current post holder Steve Rotheram will tell you, has to represent the whole of the city region. It is not his job to promote and work on behalf of Liverpool. It is his job to win funding and strategic investment that can benefit the entire region.
“As the economic driver and the brand that will continue to deliver wealth and prosperity to the region, Liverpool needs and deserves its own full-time representative who can stay 100% focused on continuing the amazing momentum Liverpool has earned in recent years.
“The scrapping of the city mayoral office would be daft and I hope that council members of all political parties on the city council think long and hard before taking such a drastic and detrimental step.”