Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson has announced he is “stepping away” from the role after he was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.
Anderson, 62, said it was a “painful shock” when he was arrested on Friday along with four other men as part of a Merseyside Police investigation into building and development contracts in Liverpool.
In a statement on Thursday, he 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 focused on what is most important to the people; their livelihoods and, with a pandemic still in force, their lives.
“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 December 31.”
He said Wendy Simon, the deputy mayor, would take over the role.
He added: “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.
“This situation has not dampened my passion for our city and the inspiring people who live and work here, most particularly the dedicated public servants who work within the council and the cabinet.
“They will continue their incredible work, as we would expect, against the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in.
“But I am not prepared to contribute my own circumstances to those challenges, so I have reached this decision for that reason alone.
“I am very grateful for the many messages of support I have received and I have faith that, as always, the future of our city is bright and its best days are ahead.”
Anderson was bailed on Saturday along with a 33-year-old man from West Derby, Liverpool, and a 46-year-old man from Ainsdale, who were also held on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation, and a 25-year-old man from Ormskirk and a 72-year-old man from Aigburth, in Liverpool, who were detained on suspicion of witness intimidation.
The father of four, who lives in the Old Swan area of the city, was elected mayor of Liverpool in 2012, having been on the council since 1998.