Exclusive: Inside the race to lead Sefton
Two families have dominated local politics for years. Now a shock move from the regional Labour Party has thrown the contest open
Dear readers — today’s story is about politics, and not Liverpool politics. Last week, Ian Maher announced he would be stepping down as the leader of Sefton Council after eight years. A leadership race sparked into life immediately, and very soon the close-knit (some might say too close-knit) world of Sefton politics started murmuring about a frontrunner: Trish Hardy, the council’s cabinet member for communities and housing, not to mention Maher’s own daughter.
Also throwing her hat into the ring was Carla Thomas, a relative outsider in the party. But in a surprising turn of events, The Post can now reveal that both Hardy and Thomas have been cast aside. A Labour insider tells us that this followed an intervention from the party’s regional office, with the application process for leader now thrown wide open.
With mere hours before applications close this evening, there seems to be no obvious consensus about who is going to lead Sefton, with some fearing a “leadership crisis” as a result. That’s today’s story, which as usual is a members-only affair, although our non-paying readers can always read the top of the email.
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Garston residents are seeking a review over decisions to expand a hazardous waste plant in the area. Plans by Veolia UK to install two new 30m towers for managing and recycling waste were approved by council planners after a site visit where they asked questions of council officers and Veolia staff as protestors gathered. Almost 600 people submitted objections to the plans and one campaigner said he feared the expansion would render Garston "a dustbin". The location has operated since 2000 and the two new towers will expand capacity by 28,000 tonnes, operating around the clock with a capacity to process 42,000 tonnes of hazardous solvent waste per year. Veolia rejected claims it would contribute to noise, pollution and health problems in the area. But Liberal councillor Billy Lake told the meeting: "If there was an accident there and there's noxious fumes, I'd want to know if my house was in the direction of them. It was very important when Chernobyl blew.”
Local street artist Paul Curtis is hosting his first ever public exhibition in the very place that inspired his now iconic artwork, The Royal Liver Building. Seven years on and more than 230 murals after Paul’s wings first took flight, the artist has decided to bring a selection of his work together in an event called In One Place, but Paul Curtis promises this will be far more than a retrospective display. He said: “I’m incredibly excited about what we have planned and to be exhibiting at The Royal Liver Building. It feels like a complete circle to be showing my work in a place so intrinsically linked to my first public mural”.
Liverpool-based training provider The Learning Foundry has been awarded funding by the Department for Education to deliver Government backed “Skills Boot Camps” across the North West. The boot camps provide individuals and businesses with the opportunity to upskill, reskill or retrain — giving access to sector-specific skills and careers in high-demand sectors.
And Liverpool has officially expressed interest in hosting the Gay Games in 2030 after the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) has announced the results of the first phase of bidding for Gay Games XIII. 25 cities on six continents expressed an interest in bidding by submitting an official response to the FGG’s Request for Information. The week-long event represents a critical cultural and economic opportunity providing significant economic impact to a region. Other cities expressing interest include Athens, London, Atlanta, Cape Town and Seattle.
Sefton politics tends to be a family affair. Now the council’s leadership is up for grabs
By Lisa Rand and Abi Whistance
This time last week, a council meeting was ticking along inside Southport’s grand town hall. Falling just after new year, attendance was a bit lower than usual and the meeting was a fairly dry affair — with procurement for highways works and council tax reductions on the agenda.
Then, after normal business was concluded, came a shock announcement. Council leader Ian Maher said it would probably be his last cabinet meeting at the helm as he had decided to step down. With characteristic bluntness, Maher thanked councillors and officers for their service during his tenure before drawing the meeting to an end. He confirmed he would be staying on as a backbench councillor.
It had long been expected that Maher would step aside after eight years as leader, yet some councillors say they are baffled at the timing, with the organisation of local elections due to begin soon in earnest. “I would have expected him to wait until the end of the municipal year,” one councillor told The Post. Another source in Sefton politics says Maher’s resignation — or at least the timing of it — came as a “shock”.
The leadership race that has since ensued might not compete for drama with the ongoing Republican primary in the US, nor last year’s many Conservative Party leadership bouts — but let’s not forget, Sefton is a land of political intrigue. Not only is leading the council an important job, with major influence over issues like the future of the Bootle Strand, there’s the question of who gets to have power in a borough where influence has often been shared among a narrow group.
As we reported last year, understanding politics in Sefton requires not so much a political scientist as perhaps a genealogist. Locally, Labour is dominated by two families: the Mahers and the Dowds. Between them, they hold the reins of power at both parliamentary and local authority level, all centred on the south of the borough in Bootle.
The Maher family have dominated Sefton Labour politics for many years. Not only is there Ian, the current leader, but his wife Christine is also a councillor — as is his daughter and a number of other extended family members. His son-in-law, Trish’s husband Darren Hardy, used to be a councillor before he quit in 2010 to take on a politically-sensitive post at Liverpool Council as divisional director of housing under the Anderson regime. Having now left that position, he returned to the party fold in Sefton in recent years and is currently a local party official.