Wirral set for first female leader since 1991

A councillor at the heart of her borough’s much-praised response to Covid-19 is set to become its first female leader in nearly 30 years.

Labour councillor Janette Williamson is in pole position to become Wirral Council’s next leader after being voted Labour group leader by the party’s Wirral councillors.

If successful, she will be the first woman in charge of Wirral Council for 29 years, following Yvonne Nolan in 1990-91, and only the second ever.

She will also become the only current female leader across the Liverpool City Region's local authorities.

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Cllr Williamson is the driving force behind Community Wealth Building, a new approach which seeks to boost the local economy by keeping money earned in Wirral, or held in its public institutions, circulating in the borough.

Cllr Tom Usher, cabinet member for education, was selected as the Labour group's deputy leader.

Wirral’s current leader Cllr Pat Hackett had pledged to stay on until May 2021, but it is understood that he will now stand down following the council’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in September.

Cllr Williamson said: “It's a huge honour to be voted as the next Labour Leader and I follow in the footsteps of Pat Hackett, whose leadership has provided stability and support to residents in the past year and through the Covid-19 pandemic.”

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Currently the cabinet member for finance, Cllr Williamson has been central to the borough’s tackling of Covid-19 and its economic impact.

Wirral Council was the first in the country to target a fund specifically at self-employed people and the move won praise on The Martin Lewis Money Show back in April.

The council has also put £12m of extra funding into social care to give carers working on the frontline of the battle against coronavirus the Real Living Wage and to ensure those off sick with Covid-19 received full sick pay.

Cllr Williamson is not yet guaranteed to become the next leader of Wirral Council, as she has to win a vote of councillors from all parties at the authority’s AGM in September.

Labour is by far the largest group on the council, but does not have an overall majority, meaning Cllr Williamson cannot be certain of being voted in.

Cllr Williamson added: “My values and vision have remained constant since I was elected in 2012 and are what drove me to stand for election.

“We must look after every resident of Wirral, but it is incumbent on us as politicians to care and support our most vulnerable.

“We must tackle the health, social and economic inequalities laid bare by the recent pandemic.

“The strength and heart of our communities has shone through in recent months and Wirral Council must remain focused on that community spirit.

“We will help to rebuild businesses and communities through community wealth building, large scale regeneration and environmental and cultural strategies.”