Mayor for Liverpool comes 'a step closer'

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Indy Politics

Liverpool today moved a step closer to becoming the first British city outside London to have an elected mayor.

Liverpool today moved a step closer to becoming the first British city outside London to have an elected mayor.

The recommendation was made in a report drawn up by the city's Democracy Commission which was set up in January this year.

According to the report the successful candidate for the post, believed to be worth around £100,000, would have the power to appoint cabinet members from outside the council.

Mike Storey, the Liberal Democrat leader of Liverpool City Council, has already declared himself in the running should the plans be approved by local government minister Hilary Armstrong.

Other recommendations contained in the report include the creation of 25 directly elected Neighbourhood Councils, based on new local authority wards, and a streamlined administration replacing the current 33 wards and 99 councillors.

The Commission suggested legislation should be brought forward to modernise the voting process with the electorate being offered "different means of voting" and being allowed to vote over an extended period.

The Liverpool Democracy Commission, drawn from members of the Church, business and voluntary sectors, politics and the media, was set up following publication of the Government's initial plans to revive local democracy and bring town halls closer to the people.

Its role was to consult widely and imaginatively with residents in the city - where voting figures in local elections have halved in less than two decades and where the average turn-out is just 20%.

Commission chairman James Ross said: "Our proposals are not just about an elected mayor. This is a total package aimed at rebuilding local democracy in Liverpool from the bottom up.

"These recommendation are the result of an extensive and imaginative public consultation exercise and they reflect a very broad consensus of evidence. "People genuinely want effective local democracy but they can see that the current system does not work and needs radical change," added Mr Ross, Littlewoods chairman.

Liverpool City Council's executive board said the report had "attractive points worthy of mature and detailed consideration".

But they said proposals for an elected mayor should be put on hold until after the vote in London.

Veteran Liverpool Liberal Democrat Councillor and party spokesman Richard Kemp said: "All the signs are at present that there will be even less people voting for the London Mayor than in London Borough elections.

"The City of Liverpool should not be used as an experiment in untried, untested, ill-thought political dogma.

"We are still recovering from the last people to try that - the Militant Tendency in the early '80s."

Liverpool Labour Group leader Gideon Ben-Tovim welcomed the report and called for an early referendum.

The report was being unveiled in the House of Commons this afternoon. Ms Armstrong said the report was Ã’a wholehearted endorsement of our modernisation agenda".

She added: "It is vital that our cities have strong leadership and the report makes it clear that the people of Liverpool want a directly-elected mayor as a means of achieving this.

"We are committed to introducing legislation that will make this a real possibility."

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