Merseyside

Joe Anderson was arrested by Merseyside Police on Friday
THE Mayor of Liverpool has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.

Joe Anderson, 62, was arrested by Merseyside Police along with four other men on Friday.

They were arrested in connection with alleged offences of bribery and witness intimidation as part of an investigation into building and development contracts, the Liverpool Echo reported.

The arrests were made as part of "an ongoing investigation", cops said.

Anderson has also been suspended from the Labour Party following his arrest, it was revealed.

Anderson today released a statement as he was released on bail, saying he was "cooperating fully" with police.

He said: "I was arrested as part of the Operation Aloft on Friday 4th December and interviewed for six hours.

"I cooperated fully with Merseyside Police and will continue to be cooperative in their continuing investigation.

"I will be talking to my cabinet colleagues over the weekend to ensure the challenges our city faces with the Covid pandemic continue to receive the focus they deserve.

"I also support the Labour Party's decision to apply an administrative suspension while this investigation continues.

"I have been bailed to return in one months' time. Given the investigation is continuing, and there are bail conditions I will not be making any further comments."

Yesterday, Councillor Richard Kemp, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool, said if the arrest was confirmed Mr Anderson should stand down from official duties.

In a statement, he said: "Firstly, mayor Anderson must follow precedent and immediately stand down from all official duties until cleared or convicted.

"We all have deputies capable of carrying out our work.

"Secondly, we must allow the police to carry out their enquiries.

"They have been working for 18 months now on a series of allegations relating to problems within the regeneration directorate in relation to the awarding of contracts and property disposals.

"This is a complex matter and takes time.

"Justice is best served by not speculating on any potential issues as these might compromise subsequent trials."

Cops arrested people in the city, as well as in Ormskirk and Southport.

In addition to Anderson, a 33-year-old man from West Derby and a 46-year-old man from Ainsdale were both arrested on suspicion to commit bribery and witness intimidation.

A 25-year-old man from Ormskirk was arrested on suspicion of witness intimidation.

Anderson lost his brother to Covid-19 in October.

The Labour politician has been mayor of Liverpool since 2012.

A Liverpool City Council spokesperson said: "Liverpool City Council is co-operating with Merseyside Police in relation to its ongoing investigation. We do not comment on matters relating to individuals."