Wirral’s council leader decisively re-elected

Wirral’s council leader was decisively re-elected at a contentious meeting disrupted by protesters.

Cllr Paul Stuart was elected as the local authority’s leader for the second year in a row after he replaced Cllr Janette Williamson in 2023 as leader of the council’s 29 Labour councillors, the largest political group in the authority. Labour councillor Jean Robinson was re-elected as his deputy.

In his speech following his re-election, Cllr Stuart said it was an honour, adding, “We have made good progress as a council in the past year. We have seen the Independent Assurance Panel step down. They described us as much improved with a clearer vision for the organisation and our borough.”

He said the council had a big year ahead with a mission to provide “high quality, universal services to all residents,” adding, “We have many challenges but we also have many opportunities.” He said the council would invest in new jobs and businesses through its regeneration programme.

The meeting also saw the election of committee chairs who will steer council policy over the next 12 months. Labour will lead five of the six major policy committees covering major financial decisions, health, children’s services, housing, regeneration and the environment as well as the committee overseeing the Merseyside Pensions Fund.

The Conservatives will retain their command of the tourism, communities, culture and leisure committee as well as the council’s audit and risk management and regulatory committees which respectively oversee council decisions and issues like licensing and fees. The Liberal Democrats will continue to chair planning.

The meeting was not without controversy. Shortly after its 6pm start, protesters over the conflict in Israel and Palestine began shouting over councillors forcing the meeting to be paused while they were escorted from the building.

Once the meeting reconvened, councillors from all political parties condemned the behaviour. Cllr Stuart said one female councillor had been threatened and several had received abuse. He accused the Green Party of encouraging the protest but this was rejected by Green Party co-leader Pat Cleary who said the behaviour was “disruptive and unacceptable”.

Green councillors also challenged the fact no chair or vice chair positions had been given to them despite them holding 14 seats in the council, only three behind the second biggest party which is the Conservatives. They argued this was undemocratic and disrespectful to the voters who had elected them.

However, the other parties argued the Green Party had been given plenty of opportunities to engage in discussions and alternative proposals put forward by the Greens were decisively voted down.

Image: Wirral’s council leader, Cllr Paul Stuart. Credit:Ed Barnes

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