Sometimes I think after 32 years on the Council I think I have seen it all. Yet even I have been staggered and astounded by the results of an employment tribunal which was given yesterday which involves the Mayor. Chesterfield High School and Sefton Council.
Incredibly it appears that Sefton Council agreed to pay Joe Anderson for his paid holiday entitlement from May 2010 when he became Leader of the Council to a point in time when Chesterfield High School where he had hitherto worked.
The facts are made absolutely clear in the decision made by Judge Serota sitting in an employment tribunal which met last year but whose decision was only made public yesterday.
This is how the Liverpool Echo has today reported the findings of the Judge:
What the judge had to say
Dismissing the appeal, Judge Serota said: “[Mr Anderson] was entitled to receive almost £80,000 per annum from Liverpool for his role as elected mayor, yet also procured a payment (albeit modest) from public funds for which he provided, and was not expected to provide, any service.
“It was, more likely, considered to be a reverse form for a zero hours contract, whereby the [school] was bound to make payment of salary but [Mr Anderson] was not bound to provide any services.
“It is certainly fairly arguable that this arrangement may strike members of the public as constituting a misapplication of public monies.
“I asked Mr Morgan (Mr Anderson’s counsel) on several occasions what benefits there might be that accrued to the [school] for the payments and for preserving [Mr Anderson’s] post for an indeterminate period.
“The only answer that I received was that it gave ‘kudos’ to the school to be associated with the Mayor of Liverpool.”
Judge Serota questioned why city council lawyers were instructed to act in a personal capacity.
Mayor Anderson said the city solicitor had sent an initial letter, but that law firm Brabners had acted for him since.
The judge suggested that Mr Anderson had “not given sufficient attention” to how the arrangement “might look to outsiders”.
He said: ““What most people would consider the [school’s] desire to extricate itself from this arrangement, which could have been a public relations disaster for the school, would seem to me to be a clear example […] for ending the employment relationship with [Mr Anderson].
“I am satisfied that this is the conclusion to which the employment tribunal came and to which it was clearly entitled to come.”
There are three very worrying aspects to this case:
1. Why did the City’s legal department work for Mayor Anderson in a personal capacity?
2. Why does Mayor Anderson continue to say that he does not take as Mayor what he is entitled to although the payment of allowances table on the Council’s website shows that he earns almost to the penny the amount awarded by the Independent Review Body?
3. Why does he think that a school in a deprived part of Bootle should pay him (and did pay him) money for doing nothing?
Lastly, I have to ask, “Doesn’t Mayor Anderson think that £80,000 a year plus pension is enough?” I have never earned anything like that much.
And on a personal level last time I was up for election Labour put out an eve of poll leaflet in my ward with a headline figure of my salary and expenses from the Local Government Association. I have no doubt that they are going to do it again because they have already asked for details of my earnings and expenses to date. There was no explanation of the fact that this amount had accrued over 13 years and that for 7.5 of those years I was a senior spokesperson for the Association which involved frequent travelling and stays in London and other parts of the Country. Of course it looked like a lot of money until you divided it by 13 to get an annual sum for both salary and expenses which then looked incredibly reasonable. Of course because the leaflet was distributed on eve of poll there was no way I could not respond although my electorate did by re-electing me.
By and large I don’t criticise other people salaries or expenses. In this case however I have to say that the position taken by Mr Anderson is immoral and hypocritical. I suspect most people will if they see the whole story as revealed in today’s Echo.
I was talking this morning to our Parliamentary candidates for Wavertree and Wallasey. I asked them how many community based hustings meetings they had been invited to. In the case of Wallasey it was one and in the case of Wavertree it was none!
I cast my mind back to 1979 when I stood for Wavertree and I seem to recall a hustings meeting almost every night and one night we had two. They took place across the Constituency and were put on by churches, community groups, ethnic minority groups and Hope University (although I cannot recall whether it was the University or the Students Union that had called it).
That meant that all the candidates were exposed to the scrutiny of about 1,000 local voters. A small part of the electorate but perhaps if they talked to their friends and neighbours about what they saw it might get to two or three per cent of the electorate of the Constituency.
I think hustings meetings are very important because they enable people to judge their candidate and not just their opinion of the party leaders on the telly and radio. We still have a [position whereby we vote for individuals. We need to know if they are up to the job or have just been chosen because of Party loyalty. We need to know if they can fight for our area or will; do what they are told when they get to the Big House. We need to know if there are areas that they disagree with their Party and where they might be prepared to go it alone rather than as Gilbert & Sullivan put it, “always voting at their Party’s Call and never ever thinking for themselves at all”. All that is lost when there is just an air war of carefully prepared stunts and sound bites.
It does, however, raised as many questions about civil society as it does about political parties. It isn’t, in most cases, the parties fault that there are no hustings meeting. It is the fault of the people who no longer are prepared to put the effort into doing the work required to establish and run such a meeting. Politics has become too much a spectator sport. Too often candidates get told, “we never see you except at election time”. One of my ripostes to this, partly because I am highly visible in my Ward, is, “when did you invite me?”
If elections are just about the political parties then democracy is dead. Democracy should be about the active engagement of the many and not the few. Democracy should be about debates raging in the Churches, Community Centres and Pubs and not just in a studio between the leaders. Democracy is for all of us and people who do not involve themselves in it at least on a superficial level of voting should have nothing to say when things happened that they do not like.
So well done to the Friends of Allerton Library who have invited the Church Ward Local Candidates to a Hustings. They at least are aware that there are local elections as well as the national election on May 7th. They want to ensure that a full discussions of local issues takes place because it is not the Government who will be making decisions about the services we get and the fabric of our community. It will be local councillors who can work with and for the community to effect local delivery of so many services for good or bad.
Incidentally The Friends of Allerton Library seem to be far ahead of the media in this regard. I have seen next to no mention by the media about the important local elections that will also take place on May 7th. Even the local press seem not to be giving those elections and coverage at all.
BUT there is still time to change all this. We have 3.5 weeks to go before polling day so come on you churches and community groups get stuck into the election. Play YOUR part in democracy by setting up events which expose local council and parliamentary candidates to scrutiny.
Liberal Democrats are fielding a third more candidates in this year’s local election than last year and they have attributed it to a surge in people joining the Party in the last 12 months. They believe that locally more and people are disgusted with the way that the Liverpool Labour Party and particularly Mayor Anderson are behaving. Nationally they are seeing the return of the UK to growth at a higher rate than any other economy in Europe.
Liverpool’s Lib Dem Leader Cllr Richard Kemp said, “People are beginning to see through the arrogance and incompetence of the Labour Party in this city. We are losing control over £billions because of Labour Leaders squabbling with each other and our green spaces and services are threatened by bigoted and inward looking policies.
A full list of candidates is listed below. The Liberal Democrats key 14 actions for the city are available at https://richardkemp.wordpress.com. The Liberal Democrats are the only Party to have a released a ‘manifesto’ in the city.
Allerton and Hunts Cross – Mirna Juarez
Belle Vale- Ian Phillips
Childwall – Pat Moloney
Church – Richard Kemp
Clubmoor- Chris Latimer
County – Karen Afford
Cressington – Anna Martin
Croxteth- Paul Twigger
Fazakerley – Graham Seddon
Greenbank- Jeanette Makinson
Kensington and Fairfield – Bill Barrow
Knotty Ash – Norman Mills
Mossley Hill – Paul Childs
Old Swan – Jackie Wilson
Picton – Kevin White
Riverside – Mikey Francis Dunne
Speke-Garston – Tim Pollard
St Michael’s – Kris Brown
Tuebrook and Stoneycroft- Jerry Lonsdale
Warbreck – Richard Roberts
Wavertree – Leo Evans
West Derby – Graham Hulme
Woolton – Malcolm Kelly
Yew Tree – Angela Hulme
Garston and Halewood – Anna Martin
Liverpool Riverside – Paul Childs
Liverpool Wavertree – Leo Evans
Liverpool Walton – Pat Moloney
Liverpool West Derby – Paul Twigger
April 7th 2015
When you stepped down from the council about 18 months ago I write a blog praising you for your intellect passion and commitment. I said that your departure was a loss to Liverpool Council and therefore a loss to Liverpool. I still believe that. There are not many capable councillors in Liverpool and you were certainly one of them.
However, I must say that I am both surprised and disappointed to hear the reasons for your departure and now the fact that you are coming back so quickly. As a Barrister you are well aware of the law about possession of Class A drugs and many other matters, although I think that you not a criminal barrister. However we all know that this is a serious matter and that those of us in a public position should not be ‘holier than thou’, but should lead from example where matters of this kind are concerned. I neither know nor want to know the circumstances in which you were caught – that is no-one’s business but your own. But having been caught you need to face the consequences of your actions.
If you are successful in May you will only have been off the council for about 18 months and I really do not think that this is an adequate time for a re-entry into public life. Perhaps a little more contrition should be shown. There are so many ways that you could serve the City without being a leading light in the political world or as a councillor.
Wouldn’t it have been better to have done those things and then come back on better terms after, say, 5 year? Saying “I am sorry and I am back” doesn’t seem to fit the bill!
Liberal Democrats will not be campaigning against you on this issue in Fazakerley or anywhere else. Many people have suggested to us that your police caution should be a campaign issue but we will not make it so. So this is the only comment that the Lib Dems in Liverpool will make on this issue.
So let’s move forward and see if together we can do something about the drugs situation in the City and the Country.
It’s ironic that at the moment the Liberal Democrats are coming under attack from the Labour Party with the allegation that we are soft on drugs issues and offences. We have clearly said that the war on drugs has failed. For 60 plus years we have been clamping down, arresting, jailing both in this country and supporting activity in far flung parts of the world where drugs are produced. All to little avail. Just like the prohibition of alcohol in the USA in the 1930s where ways were found around the system and shebeens and speak-easys’ flourished. In the end the US Government realised that it was a war that could not be won and decided instead to regulate and tax alcohol.
Liberal Democrats have not gone as far as that but what we have said is that if the way we are seeking to control drugs has not worked for so long we need an evidence based approach to drugs to try and find ways that will work. Almost half of all petty burglary and theft is caused by people seeking to continue their drugs habit. Much of serious crime is based around drug distribution routes. Ill-gotten gains are then often used either for other criminal ventures or are placed toe establish legitimate businesses partly to launder their drugs cash.
Saying we need an evidence based approach is not the same as throwing in the towel on drugs. My drug of choice is alcohol. Some people drink too much and harm themselves or others. Most do not. Regulation and taxation work to inhibit mass alcohol use. The war against binge drinking and over consumption is being won with young people a lot more careful about alcohol use than the preceding generation.
The war against tobacco is also being won in this and other developed countries. My father died 30 years ago at the age of 64 because he had been a heavy smoker so this is one that means a lot to me. Year by year regulations and tax mechanisms have changed to reduce tobacco users to less than 20% of the population when it used to be about 90% of men and 80% of women.
Your own personal experiences must surely tell you that the same cannot be said in the field of drugs with ingenious new legal highs being produced on a regular basis.
Will you join me to work to ensure that a new approach to drugs is pioneered in this City? After all we are the City that had the first Medical Officer of Health and where inside the Council we first proposed a ban on smoking in public [places which led to the national ban.
Together we could start a real debate in this city which would enable us to join up our services differently and which could act as a pilot for work that could spread throughout the Country.
If you, or anyone else is up for the challenge you know where to find me.
Regards as always,
Our Pledges to the people of Liverpool
The nominations are now open for Liverpool City Council as they are for the General Election. Every vote cast for a Liberal Democrat Candidate and every Liberal Democrat Councillor elected is a fight for the following things:
Getting better Use of Council Assets:
1. We will oppose the sale of any public open space not legally committed and will look at imaginative ways to establish partnerships to ensure the development of the large amounts of brown field land which is already available within the city.
2. We will seek professional help in looking at potential land deals so that unlike the Cunard Building we will not be purchasing inappropriate white elephants
Getting Value for Money
3. We will conduct a ‘Total Place Review’ of all public spending in the City to find ways by which we can work in partnership with other public bodies to use public money more effectively.
4. We will reduce the top levels of council staff by deleting the post of Chief Executive and creating a new city manager incorporating the position of Director of Regeneration. We will reintroduce the position of Town Clerk with a senior officer responsible for the legal and administrative side of the Council’s work.
5. We will look at all services provided by the council to ascertain whether they could be better run by none-profit making social enterprises led and run by local people.
6. We will specifically look at the Sure Start and Libraries Services to look at innovative mechanisms and funding to ensure they can adapt to new circumstances and maintain a permanent presence in the City.
Getting the Council to work for the People
7. We will ask Liberty to conduct a review of the way that the council uses the suggestion of ‘commercial confidentiality’ and its responses to Freedom of Information requests to make the council more transparent to the taxpayers of Liverpool who pay for it.
8. We will ask the Centre for Public Scrutiny to review the lack of scrutiny within the Council and the endless use of PowerPoint presentations to keep councillors ‘unusefully’ occupied.
9. We will totally review the Council’s consultation processes to ensure that consultation takes place before a decision is made and not after it!
10. We will campaign for the abolition of the unwanted elected mayoralty and the unwanted Elected Police Commissioner
Getting a long-term Future for our City
11. We will speed up the development of the Liverpool Development Framework and install within it more protection so that we will build less flats and student apartments and more houses for local people.
12. We will take Liverpool Vision out of council offices and make it once again an independent business led body
13. We will work with the Government and any interested local bodies to promote the development of a democratically led Liverpool City Region Authority committed to taking power and money from London
14. We will fight to ensure that the HS2 and Northern Powerhouse projects continue to develop and are fully extended to Liverpool