Merseyside Police arrested Joe Anderson on December 4 and are now extending his bail until February 19 and the Liverpool Mayor says he will not be standing in the 2021 election. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson says his time says his time as leader of the city is coming to an end after it was revealed he had been re-bailed by police following his arrest in early December.
Mr Anderson was arrested by Merseyside Police on suspicion of bribery and witness intimidation on December 4. Four other men were arrested on the same day as part of the same investigation, relating to building and development contracts. They were all questioned and released on bail.
The 62-year-old politician is currently serving his second term as Mayor of Liverpool, having been first elected to the role in 2012. In the days following his arrest, Mr Anderson voluntarily stepped aside from his role pending the outcome of the investigation. He was also administratively suspended by the Labour Party.
Cllr Wendy Simon, current deputy mayor, stepped up to run the city in his absence and Mr Anderson was hoping the investigation against him would be dropped this week, allowing him to resume his role. However, police have now extended his bail, along with that of the four other men, until February 19, 2021 as their inquires continue.
All five men were arrested as part of the wider Operation Aloft probe. They are:
- Joe Anderson, arrested on suspicion of bribery and witness intimidation.
- A 72-year-old man from Aigburth in Liverpool, arrested on suspicion of witness intimidation.
- A 33-year-old man from West Derby in Liverpool, arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.
- A 46-year-old-man from Ainsdale, arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.
- A 25-year-old man from Ormskirk, arrested on suspicion of witness intimidation.
In a statement on New Year’s Eve, Mr Anderson said he would continue to step aside as long as he remained under investigation and acknowledged he would not be the Labour candidate for Mayor at the election in May 2021.
He said: “As reported, Merseyside Police have extended my bail to mid February. I am disappointed by this decision as I have provided the police with all of the information they have asked for and answered all their questions in relation to the issues raised with me. I have also made it clear that I will continue to fully support and co-operate with them in their continuing enquiries.
“Although our justice system is built on the principle of being innocent until proven guilty, their decision does in fact change everything, and restricts and restrains me from functioning as normal. Any media attention around the investigation will clearly be focused on me and not on the positives of our city and this is not how it should be.
“I maintain that the police investigation will confirm I have done nothing wrong, and my name and reputation will be exonerated. However, it is now clear that the speed of the police investigation means it will not conclude in the next few days as I hoped.
“My faith is important to me as is also knowing that truth and justice will prevail, I have never done anything that would harm this city. There is an old saying, ‘it’s not about the man in the fight, it’s about the fight in the man’. I will continue to fight to both demonstrate that I am innocent of any wrongdoing, but also to protect my legacy as Mayor of my City of which I am proud.
“I have always put the city first, that is why it is a tough, but the right, decision to continue to step back from my role in the council until the enquiries are completed and to allow Deputy and Acting Mayor Wendy Simon, and my cabinet colleagues to continue providing the leadership for the city.”
Mr Anderson said it was now in the “best interests of the Labour Party” that a new candidate for the role of Mayor be selected. He added: “It has been a great privilege to represent the Labour Party and be part of a collective movement that represents people like me growing up in, and trying to find a way out of, poverty. Whoever the new Labour Mayoral candidate is, I will cheer them on with all my heart.
“My term as Mayor will end at the next election and, although currently I must be absent from decision-making within the council, my passions and energy will always be on the challenges our city faces and the opportunities we must seize.
“I hope that the Police enquiries will be completed swiftly and long before the expiry of my term of office, but whilst they continue I will voluntarily treat myself in the same way in which any other council staff member would be treated in any enquiry of this character and step back from any active role in the council.”
Speaking about his ten-year stint as leader of the city, the 62-year-old continued: “My passion and commitment to this city as leader and Mayor since 2010 has not diminished, and my desire to continue the progress we have made remains. Again, I do not want the focus to be on me, but on the progress we must make to secure our future.
“The challenges are many, including: first and foremost the continuing battle against COVID-19 as we have done for the last 10 months, against the backdrop of securing a balanced budget for 2021/22 that protects and maintains services to the residents and our workforce.
“We cannot cut services any further and we have to make that clear. Our priorities must be to protect the most vulnerable and to continue to provide a safety net for the growing number of families in need. With the known impact of COVID and the unknown of Brexit, more than ever the council has to lead economically and socially.
“Nothing prepared me, or my cabinet colleagues, for the austerity we would find ourselves in when we took control in 2010. Over and over again I have tried to draw attention to the overwhelming scale of budget cuts we faced and yet, Liverpool still stands tall and proud.”
“My biggest achievement is that our city is still here, still punching above its weight and still demanding the world’s love and attention. I have dedicated my life to my city, with loyalty and passion and I am not prepared to throw that away.
“I will do everything I am able to do to keep the vision of our city alive, with everyone working together without distractions, in support of Deputy and Acting Mayor Wendy. I want to stress that I will work with any and all government officials sent into the council and they will be assisted and supported in any way we can to help and assist them.
“I want to thank all the friends and colleagues who have been in touch to offer their support and friendship. I also wish to publicly thank my wife who is a constant source of strength and love.
“I am conscious that the strain and sacrifices of being married to a man involved in public life is rarely understood outside those involved in politics, she is my rock.”