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Merseyside councils bicker over metro mayor

Council leaders in Merseyside cannot agree on plans for a new metro mayor for the region as part of a devolution deal.

Mayor Joe Anderson of Liverpool has accused several other council leaders in the region of bringing the area into “disrepute” after they demanded a referendum on the issue of the new mayor.

Anderson claims that St Helens MBC leader Barrie Brunewald and Knowsley MBC leader Ro Round have gone back on their word by demanding the referendum.

Knowsley council also approved a motion, proposed by Cllr Round, which claimed there was “no public support” for a metro mayor in Merseyside.

Mayor Anderson said the matter was “about integrity” after council leaders had agreed to discuss the issue “with no preconditions”.

He said: “Only a matter of weeks ago we told government in a letter agreed by all leaders that we would discuss with no preconditions devolution of powers and resources similar to Greater Manchester.

“We had a letter from the Leader of St Helens in the Echo demanding the precondition of a referendum, then we had Knowsley Council saying the same in a motion to their council. We simply cannot make a statement one week saying one thing and do something different the next, it brings discussions and our standing into disrepute.”

He added: "How can we have a referendum when we have no question to ask the people? If we have not got any negotiated powers or resources to show how and what can we ask?"

Cllr Grunewald retaliated by threatening judicial review were the government to impose a regional mayor without a referendum. He also stressed his position had always been against a metro mayor and there had been bad faith over the entire matter.

A letter to regional leaders from chancellor George Osborne, sent last month, said he would “encourage” devolution proposals that included an elected mayor.

The new mayor would chair the regions combined authority and come as part of a devolution package similar to what was received by Greater Manchester last year.

(Image: Mayor Joe Anderson. Source: Peter Byrne/PA Archive)

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