Liverpool is racing ahead with its plan to introduce a powerful city mayor.
A proposal to hold a mayoral election on May 3 was backed at a meeting of the city council, with 62 councillors voting in favour and just three against, with 12 abstentions.
It means that Liverpool will be voting for a mayor on the same day that Birmingham and Coventry vote in referendums on whether to create a mayor or not.
If residents in the Midlands cities say “yes” then they will have to wait until November before the actual elections take place.
Liverpool has apparently been promised an extra £130 million in spending power as a reward for creating a mayor. I doubt this is all new money, but it’s cash that the city will now get to spend instead of Whitehall.
Officially, cities are being promised more control over spending whether they adopt a mayor or not. But this is a sop to the Liberal Democrats, who support local government but not mayors.
The reality is made clear in Government documents which warn that cities need to demonstrate “strong, accountable leadership” before they get the money – and helpfully points out that “cities with a directly elected mayor will meet this requirement”.
According to journalists in Liverpool, the existing council leader, Labour councillor Joe Anderson, expects to get the job.
But he faces competition, and television writer Phil Redmond (if you’re my age you’ll remember his creations Tucker and Gripper) has hinted he might stand.
Mr Redmond is a bit of a local hero and has experience of running major organisations after overseeing Liverpool’s successful Capital of Culture festival in 2008. He’s just the sort of independent candidate that could give the established politicians a run for their money, it seems to me.
I’m not sure whether we have anyone like him in Birmingham. One name that gets mentioned is Lord Jones of Birmingham, the former CBI chief, but he’s said that we need a mayor for the whole West Midlands, not just Birmingham.
I’m willing to bet a West Midlands mayor won’t happen. The only job on offer is mayor of Birmingham (or Coventry).
Are there any other budding independent candidates out there?