WIRRAL’S controversial former council leader is being lined up to become the borough’s “first citizen”.
Labour’s Steve Foulkes was formally nominated by the borough’s ruling cabinet to be the next deputy mayor. The move means he will be expected to become mayor in 2014.
Current deputy mayor Dave Mitchell, a Liberal Democrat councillor, was nominated to be mayor later this year when Cllr Gerry Ellis steps down after his year in office.
Tory leader Jeff Green said his former opposite number was a “surprising choice” but said it was a “matter for the Labour party”.
Cllr Green said: “I am surprised they have chosen someone who is a divisive figure.”
The nomination was approved at a group meeting of the Labour party, then moved by the council’s ruling Labour-controlled cabinet.
Deputy mayors are usually nominated to become mayor, meaning Cllr Foulkes is likely to take up the position in 2014 when The Open returns to Hoylake.
The three main parties on Wirral Council take turns nominating one of their councillors to the position, a non-political role.
It includes chairing full meetings of the council as well as attending civic functions and representing the borough.
Cllr Foulkes said he was asked if he would take the role because it is traditionally offered to the longest-serving member who is able to carry out mayoral duties.
A councillor for almost 22 years, he said: “Labour in their kindness were gracious enough to offer me the deputy mayorship and I have accepted that.
“Our nomination for mayor this year is Dave Mitchell, the current deputy mayor.
“This is a non-political position, it is about long service and I am grateful people have recognised that.
“I will do my level best to promote Wirral as a place to live, work and visit.”
Council leader Phil Davies said it was a pleasure to announce Cllr Foulkes’s nomination during the meeting of the council’s cabinet at Wallasey town hall, which the committee agreed.
Afterwards he dismissed Cllr Green’s suggestion that the decision was “divisive” and said he had “no qualms at all about the nomination – Steve is absolutely the right choice”.
Cllr Davies said: “It will be an important year for Wirral, with the return of The Open, the International Festival of Business being held in Wirral as well as Liverpool. These are two really global events and he will do a fantastic job – he has the gravitas needed.”
He said Cllr Foulkes had given “tremendous service to Wirral and the Labour party”, adding: “They say the mayor is the borough’s first citizen and I know he is looking forward to it. I think this is a fitting accolade for the service he has given over the last 22 years.”