Under siege from all sides, including his own, the mayor of Liverpool Ned Mannoun last night bowed to the pressure and announced a range of policy changes, including reversing plans to outsource council’s cleaning services.
Council staff carrying banners held a noisy protest outside before the council’s monthly meeting started and then filed inside to sit in the public gallery.
There was standing room only as the meeting got under way.
During a sometimes rowdy meeting that threatened to get out of control, Mr Mannoun opened proceedings with a pre-emptive strike.
The record will show that it was the mayor who moved to save the council cleaners’ jobs, as well as to, among others:
• Provide a report detailing how his office is staffed and its running costs, as well as that of the CEO, Mr Carl Wulff;
• The cost of renovating his office;
• Ensure pork will be served at all council functions;
• Change the name of the mayoral ball to Mayor and Councillors charity ball from 2016 onwards.
But the reality is that the mayor was reacting to sustained criticism in the past few weeks that he wasn’t consulting his fellow councillors enough.
His aim last night was to offer some concessions so there would not be a debate where grievances would be aired.
And that’s what happened: once it was obvious he had addressed most of the concerns of the councillors there was very little debate.
For the record, notices of motion were submitted before the meeting by Liberal councillor Sabrina Mamone (mayoral ball); Labor’s Anne Stanley (cleaning tender); independent Peter Harle (executive support for mayor’s and CEO’s offices; interfaith lunch of July 2, also known as “porkgate’’); Liberal Cr Peter Ristevski (demolition of Liverpool bowling club).
And Cr Harle withdrew a notice of motion calling on the mayor to apologise to the Wests Tigers after media publicity ensued from confidential meetings with Liverpool Council about the rugby league club moving its operations to Carnes Hill.
On top of the major backdowns, the mayor came very close to suffering an embarrassing defeat on the floor of the chamber over an urgency motion calling on him to stop using mayoral minutes except in urgent cases, as is the usual convention.
The motion was proposed by Labor’s Cr Geoff Sheldon and when the vote was taken it showed that it had been supported by a majority of the councillors.
Just Mr Mannoun, his current deputy Gus Balloot and former deputy Mazhar Hadid voted against Cr Sheldon’s motion. Cr Tony Hadchiti did not attend the meeting.
The four Labor councillors and Cr Harle voted in favour of it and it looked like Liberal councillors Sabrina Mamone and Peter Ristevski had abstained because they did not raise their hands either for or against.
A division was called for and the pair stayed sitting down, so it was ruled that they had in fact voted against – so the motion was lost.
But either way this was a historic meeting of Liverpool Council – the night when councillors flexed their muscles against the mayor.
And as one Liberal councillor told me after the meeting: “this wasn’t just about doing the right thing for Liverpool; this was for Ned’s own good, too.’’