Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson today announced he would step aside from politics after being arrested over bribery and witness intimidation offences as part of a probe into fraudulent building contracts.
The city leader, 62, was sensationally arrested on Friday and suspended from the Labour Party, prompting immediate calls for him to resign as mayor.
Derek Hatton, the former Trotskyist deputy leader of Liverpool City Council, was also arrested as part of the investigation and held on suspicion of witness intimidation, it was reported earlier this week.
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson (pictured) has been arrested in connection with bribery offences and witness intimidation
Mayor Anderson – who maintains his innocence – announced today that he will taking ‘unpaid leave’ from his position while the investigation into him continues.
This means that Deputy Mayor Wendy Simon, a councillor for Kensington and Fairfield, will become the defacto Mayor of Liverpool and leader of the city.
In his statement, Mayor 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 focussed on what is most important to the people; their livelihoods and, with a pandemic still in force, their lives.
Who is Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson?
Joseph Anderson was born in 1958 in Liverpool to a cleaner and a Merchant Navy officer.
He joined the Merchant Navy after leaving school and then went onto work for P&O Ferries
He went to Liverpool John Moores University and got a post-grad diploma in social work. He went onto be a social worker in Crosby.
He became a councillor in 1998 and, in 2003, became the Leader of the Labour Group on Liverpool City Council.
He became council leader in 2010 and then was elected Mayor in 2012.
Last year he secured the Labour Party selection to run to be Mayor of the city for a third term at May’s delayed elections.
‘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 the 31st December.’
Describing the aftermath of his arrest, he said: ‘The arrest on Friday has also been a painful shock for me and my family, following a difficult few months. I need to focus on their future and returning to a normal they can recognise, with the reassurance that I am no longer under suspicion.
‘Therefore I am going to focus on co-operating with the police in their ongoing inquiry, as I believe time will make it clear that I have no case to answer.
Mayor Anderson’s initial attempt to stay as Liverpool leader was greeted with incredulity by both political opponents and voices from within the party, from which he is suspended.
‘Joe cannot continue as mayor while being investigated by the police,’ former Liverpool Walton MP Peter Kilfoyle said. ‘He can’t carry on.’
It is understood that the veteran Labour politician was held at his home address in the Old Swan district on Friday.
Mr Anderson hit the headlines in October with his vocal criticism of the Government’s tiered lockdown system, which he branded a ‘shambles’.
Liverpool was the first English region to be put into the top Tier Three – prior to the country’s second national lockdown – as cases surged in the city.
Anderson, 62, (pictured with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace last month) was arrested by Merseyside Police alongside four other men as part of a police probe into building and development contracts in the city
He accused the Government of railroading through its Tier Three measures for the city without local leaders agreeing to anything back in October.
His pushback came alongside criticism from Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who also blasted the rules – with affected vast swathes of the North.
Mr Hatton was also believed to be among those arrested.
The 72-year-old was the ringleader of the Trotskyist Militant tendency in the 1980s which set an illegal budget in Liverpool – causing ‘grotesque chaos’ in the city – and brought about bitter divisions in the party.
Mr Hatton was also believed to be among those arrested
The arrests come as part of Merseyside police’s Operation Aloft – a 15-month operation looking into agreements between property developers and the council.
As part of the probe a 25-year-old was arrested on suspicion of witness intimidation.
Two other men – aged 46 and 33 – were accused of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.
A spokesman for Merseyside Police said: ‘Five people have been arrested by detectives in connection with offences of bribery and witness intimidation as part of an investigation into building and development contracts in Liverpool.
‘The arrests are part of an ongoing investigation.’
Mr Anderson was elected mayor of Liverpool in 2012, having been on the council since 1998.
The father-of-four was in the Merchant Navy and worked as a social worker before taking up the role.