Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson has announced he will step aside from his role following his arrest as part of a corruption investigation.
Anderson was arrested last week on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation and remains on police bail.
He was one of five men arrested as part of a Merseyside Police probe into building and development contracts in Liverpool.
Following his arrest, Anderson – who has led the city as mayor since 2012 – was administratively suspended by the Labour Party.
In a statement, he said: “I have always done what I believe is best for the city, and I am taking the following action with those best intentions in mind. It is important that everyone in Liverpool knows that our leaders are focussed on what is most important to the people; their livelihoods and, with a pandemic still in force, their lives.
“For this reason, I believe it is important that the city, and government, are reassured that our city is indeed operating in the correct way.
“I am, therefore, stepping away from decision-making within the council through a period of unpaid leave, until the police make clear their intentions with the investigation on December 31.
“I will make a further statement at that point. Wendy Simon will be acting as mayor and I have all faith that she will provide the leadership our city requires at this time.
“The arrest on Friday has also been a painful shock for me and my family, following a difficult few months. I need to focus on their future and returning to a normal they can recognise, with the reassurance that I am no longer under suspicion.
“Therefore I am going to focus on co-operating with the police in their ongoing inquiry, as I believe time will make it clear that I have no case to answer.
“This situation has not dampened my passion for our city and the inspiring people who live and work here, most particularly the dedicated public servants who work within the council and the cabinet. They will continue their incredible work, as we would expect, against the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in.
“But I am not prepared to contribute my own circumstances to those challenges, so I have reached this decision for that reason alone.
“I am very grateful for the many messages of support I have received and I have faith that, as always, the future of our city is bright and its best days are ahead.”