Merseyside’s new “super council” scarcely could have got off to a less promising start.
Just hours after the combined authority's first meeting, Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson is seeking legal advice about pulling the city out.
The Mayor accused other leaders of playing “clandestine toy town politics” after they voted Wirral Council’s leader Phil Davies to be chairman of the new Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.
But the vote for chairman was cast before Mayor Anderson and Sefton boss Cllr Peter Dowd had arrived.
It is believed Cllr Dowd was planning to nominate Mayor Anderson to be chairman, although they still would have been out-voted by four to two.
In an email to Labour colleagues leaked to the Liverpool Echo, the clearly furious Mayor said he felt he and the city had been treated in a "totally disrespectful" manner.
He wrote: “As you are all aware I have reported to you the fact that members of the City Region previously held caucus meetings in a clandestine way to decide who would chair the CA [combined authority] - when I confronted them, they admitted to this.
"They said (and by ‘they’ I mean Wirral, St Helens, Halton and Knowsley) that I was too big a personality and Liverpool was too strong and therefore they would oppose me being chair of the CA or Liverpool chairing the CA.
“I think the clear message that was sent out this morning - and the behaviour of leaders - was not one I would have hoped for.
“In my view people are more interested in their own personal ambitions than that of the City Region, and it was not the best start I would have hoped for."
The Mayor continued: “This is such a missed opportunity; instead of thinking and behaving like leaders of a big global city, the City Region leaders have engaged in a dysfunctional debate akin to toy town level politics and ambitions.
“I am considering options at the moment and seeking legal advice and will discuss this further at full council in two weeks.
“However, my own view is I can’t sign up to something which disadvantages our city.”
Wirral Conservative group had opposed the new “super council” from the start.
Their leader Cllr Jeff Green said: “What a complete shambles.
“We warned this new authority would be all about internal Labour politics and personalities.
“Even so, I find it absolutely astonishing that within a few hours of this body being set up, it is in complete disarray.
“Now that we are irrevocably and formally linked to this unnecessary authority, we will be a laughing stock to any other regions competing for jobs and inward investment.
“In terms of the democratic process, it's shocking that the leaders should commence the inaugural meeting and take a vote on chairmanship while the Mayor of Liverpool is not even in the room.
“What a farce.”
Councillor Davies told the Globe it was important the combined authority moved forward with a united front.
He said: “The fact is I was elected as chair of the new combined authority at the inaugural meeting and from my point of view now, it is essential that everybody, all the leaders, unite around the agenda in terms of growth and creating jobs.
"This is at the heart of what we want to do, and we must move together in that direction.
“I don’t think it does anybody any favours if we are not seen to be pursuing a united front.
“I hope Joe Anderson will reflect on the situation and work in partnership with me and the other leaders to see how we can get people, particularly our young people who are unemployed, back into the labour market.”
Councillor Davies confirmed Mayor Anderson had been in the building since 10am.
He said: “The meeting was scheduled to start at 11am, there were around 50 members of the public there and the meeting was called to order and we were asked for nominations.
“I can’t do anything if Joe Anderson isn’t in the room.
"The meeting started at the scheduled time and he turned up late.”