Ian Stewart, Salford's first elected Mayor, today announced formally that he is set to stand down before next May's mayoral election. At the end of today's meeting of the full council, Stewart declared his intention to quit...
"There's been much speculation about things, one of them my future, whether I intend to stand again for a second term...I will be standing down" he said, adding "But this isn't the end. All that's happening is that we're coming to the next phase of the assault course. And because we in the Labour Party work as a team I will be handing that baton over...looking after the interests of the people of this city. "
In the meantime, Stewart added "It's going to be business as usual...in trying to mitigate the worst effects of the Government's austerity measures in the interests of the people of this city...there's a lot more hard work to do before you see the back of me..."
Councillor Bill Hinds thanked Stewart, who had been "under the microscope like never before to do what he's had to do; and the flak that he's had to take from all quarters, he's done that with the utmost integrity..."
Ian Stewart was elected as the first Salford City Mayor in 2012 and, in the four years in which he will have earned £276,000 from the role, he has overseen the sell-off of the city's remaining council house stock, the almost total privatisation of adult social services and huge cuts to public services; while presiding over the Salford Reds scandal and the funding of prestige projects, including the £200,000 a year Greengate Fountains and £40,000 bridge beauty contest.
When elected, Stewart promised "a changing model of governance... we as a Council must be more open and transparent with the public. I will seek to generate that openness and transparency in future…"
In fact, the very opposite has happened, with the Information Commissioner's Office itself having to monitor Salford Council's ways of dealing with Freedom of Information requests. Meanwhile, Labour Party spin doctor, Matt Finnegan, was employed in the `politically restricted' role as head of PR, was later to be found spinning for the Labour Party and had to resign.
Parents of disabled people have been branded `rent-a-crowd', while others who have challenged his policies have been labelled `extremists' and `liars'. The Salford Star itself was called `evil' in a mayoral tweet. The Salford Star ran a full charge list of Mayoral Misdeeds is the last printed issue (to read an electronic copy - click here). At today's meeting of Salford Council, Stewart described himself as "the listening mayor"...
Now the race is on to find the Labour Party candidate to stand at the next election in May 2016, with Councillor Paul Dennett, who has never publicly challenged any of the Mayor's decisions or actions, seen as the Stewart clique's chosen one.
Meanwhile, Councillor Paul Wilson who announced that he was intending to stand as a possible Labour Party mayoral candidate before today's official announcement, was last night dragged before a meeting of Salford Labour Group to be censured.
Councillor Wilson had promised "integrity and transparency" in his letter to potential supporters, adding that he would "protect the City of Salford and deliver front line essential services, and not those costly prestige projects that so many people have criticised..."
Sources have told the Salford Star that the vote to remove the Labour whip from the councillor was incredibly narrow – leaving the Salford Labour Party split down the middle and at war with itself. Such is the result of the "changing model of governance" that Stewart promised...
More details on Councillor Wilson's witch hunt - click here
• For full details on Ian Stewart's time as Mayor see last November's Salford Star article which first revealed he was standing down – click here.