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Former elected mayor for Liverpool eyes legal challenge against council over legal costs following arrest

Liverpool City Council’s former elected mayor is expected to take the authority to judicial review over its refusal to pay his legal costs following his arrest in December on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.

Joe Anderson, who had been the Labour elected mayor since 2012, has denied any involvement in wrongdoing follow his arrest in Merseyside Police’s Operation Aloft investigation.

He has said the council should pay his legal expenses as its rules allow for him to be indemnified as he was elected mayor at the time.

A statement issued on Mr Anderson’s behalf in response to an enquiry about a proposed judicial review said: “Joe Anderson has asked Liverpool City Council to meet the legal costs of defending the allegations arising in Operation Aloft.

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“The legal costs indemnity is set out as part of the council’s constitution and has been provided to other members and officers in similar circumstances.

“Mr Anderson firmly denies the allegations and wishes to put the records straight, particularly in light of how [Government-appointed inspector] Max Caller’s recent report described the decision-making processes across a number of services. He cannot respond properly without the benefit of the indemnity and the council’s refusal in this respect means that he must issue proceedings.”

In response to Mr Anderson’s statement, a spokesperson for Liverpool City Council said: “No one has been offered an indemnity for their legal fees by Liverpool City Council regarding Operation Aloft where they are facing allegations of bribery, corruption and intimidation of witnesses. One officer has the benefit of the indemnity in relation to an allegation of misconduct in public office.

“In accordance with the legislation which sets out the circumstances within which an individual can be indemnified, the indemnity is available to an officer or member where they are carrying out functions for the purposes of the Council. In that regard, Mr Anderson has been indemnified by the council for Lancashire Police’s Operation Sheridan, and two other former officers are currently indemnified for the same investigation."

The spokesperson added: “The City Council is of the view that the current circumstances made known to it by Merseyside Police do not fall within the remit of the legislation. It should be noted that where individuals have the benefit of an indemnity, the money becomes repayable if that individual is subsequently convicted of a criminal offence.”

Mr Caller was asked by the Government to issue a best value report on Liverpool, which last week led to Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick sending in commissioners to run the council’s planning, highways, regeneration, property management functions.

The report also called for the council’s proposed recovery plan to build the prominence of its legal services department.

A council statement said: “Liverpool City Council takes the findings of a report from [Mr Caller] into its highways, regeneration and property management functions extremely seriously.

“The inspector has found failings in relation to land disposal, governance and the relationship between elected members and officers, and makes a series of recommendations to tackle them.”

It said the council would address all of the concerns raised.

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