Let’s create a fairer Liverpool

Faith, colour and sexuality should not matter but they do. We need policies and attitudes that will address inequalities and give everyone a good chance of a good life

One of the reasons that I joined the Liberal Party, as we were then, 54 years ago was because liberals believe passionately in internationalism and in true equality of opportunity. We don’t care about the colour of a person’s skin but about the colour of their heart. We don’t care about people’s faith as long as they don’t seek to inflict it on others. We don’t care about people’s sexuality but hope that their sexuality is expressed within mutually loving relationships.

As Liberal Democrats we believe that “no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance and conformity” and that the “role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives”. There is a specific need to ensure that women and people from LGBTQ+ and BAME communities and those with disabilities are not left behind in our City.

To look at repression in wider terms we can see a huge waste of resource as we fail to engage a significant element of our population in activity, social or economic which could benefit society. This is played out with individuals and communities unable to establish a meaningful life because they cannot develop their own potential.

I value difference. A popular song of the 60s set the aim of creating, “khaki coloured people by the score”. This was a time when a Saturday night favourite was the ‘Black and White Minstrel Show’ when white men blacked up to sing American slave songs. I don’t want us to be khaki coloured I want our City to be diverse. I want people to be comfortable in their own skins and the rest to be respectful of lifestyle choices that others make. I love being able to go from a Yam Festival from Nigeria to Chinese national events within three miles of each other in our own City.

So below is the extract from our manifesto, Demand Better, which deals with these issues. You will find parts of our responses to sexual and racial issues in other pats of our manifesto as well. We believe that we are the “World in One City” and we must ensure that Liverpool is a great place to live for all people who care about our City. Our manifesto can be accessed at http://www.liverlibdems.org.uk

Our Overriding Policy

Our overriding policy is to ensure that the Council and all decision makers are aware of the issues that affect BAME communities, women, those from LGBTQ+ especially trans communities and those  with disabilities  living in Liverpool today. These issues range across all spheres from health to housing and from education to social care and must be embraced by all players within our City.

Background:

Liverpool is a City with high levels of inequality based on faith, colour, ethnicity, disability and sexuality. Liverpool will only achieve its full capacity as a City if all individuals within the City can achieve their full capacity. These existing problems have been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic resulting in higher infection rates, hospitalisation and death. It has also had a particular effect on the employment opportunities for these communities in the post-Covid era.

Our Six to Fix

  1. We will lead by example. Our Council Group currently has a 50:50 gender balance. We will put in place actions to ensure that continues and to help women develop their potential in leadership positions within the Council. We will work across all spheres within the council and the key employers in the city such as the NHS, the Police, and the Universities to positively promote women into employment and key positions within those organisations.
  • We will further develop existing partnerships with organisations and groups that currently provide services for BAME and LGBTQ+ communities, women and those with disabilities  in Liverpool to understand the work that is currently being achieved in the city and coordinate activities. We will ensure that those partnerships will be given a place in all decision-making processes in order that their expertise can be incorporated in all public sector organisations.
  • We will appoint an Equalities Champion to ensure that the Council and its partners observe equal opportunities policies in the appointment of staff at all levels and in the policies and programmes that they create throughout the City.
  • We will conduct an audit of all public sector organisations in the City to review the position of women in senior management positions and on controlling Boards. We will then publish lists of those organisations highlighting good and poor performances in terms of gender balance at a senior level.
  • We will work with the Council’s public health department, the Liverpool Women’s Hospital, the Liverpool Royal University Hospital and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine to promote both policies and practices which will assist the specific physical and mental health issues faced by women and members of BAME, LGBTQ+ communities and those with disabilities.
  • We will promote policies both within the Education Service and voluntary sector to address youth issues such as period poverty, racial and gender stereotyping and bullying.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why haven’t more Labour Councillors resigned?

If Cllr Robertson-Collins and Cllr Leon Tootle can do the decent thing and resign why can’t more of them?

On Tuesday a precedent was set which I hope will be followed by other Labour Councillors in Liverpool. Cllr Robertson-Collins resigned as Cabinet member for the Environment and Climate Change on Tuesday in protest at Labour’s plans for the Strand and Lime Street. One could be churlish to point that she voted for them both and they are almost complete at a cost of some £90 million.

I often don’t agree with Laura but I do recognise that she is a woman or tremendous integrity and honour. I noted recently that she and Cllr James Roberts in her Greenbank Ward have been the only Labour Councillors that I have seen who have apologised to the people of Liverpool for the problems highlighted in the Caller report and being investigated by the Police. She is someone I could work with and I know that when she says something, I might not always agree with it but she is enunciating a well thought out argument from her political perspective.

Cllr Leon Tootle has stood down from the Council after the Caller Report showed that the audit functions of the Council, for which he was responsible, just were not working.

So, what of the rest of them?

It seems to me that there are three other lots of people who should be considering their position as Councillors given what has been revealed.

Firstly, anyone who has been Deputy Mayor since 2012, step forward Cllrs Brant, O’Byrne and Simon. As Deputy Mayor they are the number two in the political side of the organisation. I repeat the questions that I have already asked of them but which they have all failed to answer:

  • Did you know what was going on in regeneration? If so, what did you do about it?
  • If you didn’t know why didn’t you, given your position of huge power and influence?

Deputy Mayors are well paid. About £42,000 in total. That is more than 1.5 times the median wage on Merseyside. For that much cash they should have been putting the hours in! They should have made it their full time job.

Secondly, anyone who held the post of Cabinet Member for Regeneration. This is a little bit complicated because different parts of the regeneration work have come under different cabinet members with different titles. I think there are 6 in all. Again, we can ask the same questions as raised above. Again, we can point out the more than adequate payments that they get of about £27k per year which is a reasonable wedge to oversee one department.

Thirdly, most of the people who have been ‘Mayoral Leads’. I say most because some of them, I think particularly of Jane Corbett who is a passionate advocate for fairness and equality, have earned their money. Others seem to have had no job description and done very little. It seems that they were paid to watch Joe’s back and be loyal supporters rather than true advocates of their topic.

Perhaps, we should then ask all of Liverpool’s Labour Councillors to do the honourable thing! Did they know what was going on; did they like getting any of the other 18 paid posts which the Mayor dished out to his favourites? Could they really not understand what was happening? Those who have wards like Kirkdale, Central and Everton must surely have seen the evidence of corruption which are the stalled sites in their area.

As part of the Improvement Plan that I am recommending we adopt to respond to the Caller Report I have put a great emphasis on systems and training. Too many councillors have little understanding of the way the Council works. In a way that’s understandable. The Council is a complex operation with about 10,000 staff and a gross budget in the order of £1 billion a year when you add in all the income and specific and general grants that we get in addition to what we bill to our residents and businesses in the form of taxation.

But ignorance is not bliss. Not knowing isn’t good enough. Some councillors will say, “I don’t understand all that sort of thing I’m just there to represent my ward”. That answer just isn’t good enough. They get paid, at minimum, £10,500 a year to act as the equivalent of None-Executive Directors. They get paid to make decisions which affect every single person in Liverpool. If they don’t know how the system worked, they need to find out pronto.

That might then leave a major question for all the Parties on the Council. How do we ensure that the people we put up are both competent and committed? How do we monitor their performance in their ward, committee and Council? This is a relatively easy job for me with a small group of 10 all of whom are highly committed to their ward, our cause and the City.

However, we are already putting in place actions to ensure that we get the right people into place with the right support and commitment. In the past when we were a big group, we made some of the same mistakes that Labour have made, although no-one ever accused us of corruption or Malfeasance in Public Office.

If elected as the Council’s Leader on May 6th I will personally lead the actions to improve the quality, role and understanding by councillors of the organisation that they lead. This will be helped by new systems of transparency and probity that I will introduce.

The people of Liverpool deserve nothing less than a 100% commitment from knowledgeable and hard-working councillors. The situation that we are in demands that we should work both hard and, wherever possible, unitedly minimising political controversy and uniting behand key objectives.

That’s my ambition for our new Council. I hope that it is yours as well.

Posted in Liverpool Politics | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Liverpool’s need is a Lib Dem Lead

Our manifesto is a distillation of much thought over a four month period which has been updated in light of the Caller Report. Have a look at it and tell us what you think.

As I’ve listened to the discussions about the future of the City Council following the Caller Report I have been struck by how many people know what they are against. They are against the mayoralty, corruption, waste, incompetence, dodgy deals. And quite right too. I have been struck, however, by how little detail people are putting into their responses about what they will do about their concerns.

Plenty of platitudes about launching a fight against bad practices and doing good things but there is very little substance. Of course, we are all against bad things and in favour of good things but that isn’t enough.

Yesterday, I launched the Liverpool Lib Dem manifesto for this year’s local elections on May 6th. I described the manifesto, “Liberal Democrats Demand Better” as a blueprint to take Liverpool from a mess and a muddle to a bright post-Covid, post-Brexit future.

When launching it I said, “Since the Caller Report was published it has been abundantly clear that Liverpool’s need is a Lib Dem lead. Our 5,000+ word manifesto is the distillation of detailed proposals that will cover all aspects of how the Council works and what the Council should be doing. This manifesto was not produced as a response to the Caller Report. It has been many months in the making and has involved a number of meetings including one to which all our members were invited in mid-February.

It does answer many of the Caller issues because we were aware of the problems but were unable to get to the bottom of them because we did not have the powers of ‘interrogation and search’ that an official Government Inspection has. Even now we know that many other issues are being looked at by another investigation team with even more powers the Police both local and national who are delving deep into the City’s activities.

It is because we are both experienced and prepared that we can hit the ground running from May 7th because we have the knowledge and experience to know what is required now. That’s the quick start that our City so badly needs.

Lib Dem priorities include;

  • Proposals to change the political machinery of the council
  • Changes to the levels of accountability of officers
  • Increased transparency throughout the Council
  • Creating a cleaner, greener city to take us out of the post-Covid and post-Brexit era.
  • Greater support for teachers and their pupils.
  • New ideas about the changes required to our City Centre and District Centres
  • Creating a fairer and more equal City for all faiths, races and genders

But there is much more in our proposals than these. All the sections of the manifesto have a name after them who would be pleased to give more details on their particular bit. Just contact them by email at first name.last name@liverlibdems.org.uk.”

It will be interesting to see if the 6 other candidates for the mayoralty and 200 candidates for the council etc produce a manifesto in anything like this detail. For the past three elections in the City we were the only ones to produce a manifesto and say what we actually wanted to do. Even though an opposition party we have used those manifesto pledges to put motions to Council and Committees to try and move the agenda forward in a meaningful and liberal way

This is a radical set of proposals that meet both the short-term needs of the Caller Report and the long-term needs to reshape the economy of Liverpool. Our Lib Dem team has a great mix of experienced councillors and enthusiastic newcomers. The road ahead for Liverpool will be long and complicated. However, we can start the processes to recover the position of our council and City very quickly. In particular we can show the World that our sad past decade has been thrown off and that a new dawn has broken for our City.

The Liverpool Liberal Democrats manifesto, “Liberal Democrats Demand Better” can be seen and downloaded at this link. https://www.liverlibdems.org.uk/manifesto_for_liverpool. There’s also a videoon the website there from me and some leading members of my team explaining some of the key points.

Of course, you can always send your comments to me at Richard.kemp@liverlibdems.org.uk.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Putting decency, honesty and transparency back into Liverpool Council

Our Town Hall should the epitome of decency, honesty and probity. The Caller report showed just how much of these have been missing in Liverpool. A Lib Dem Council will do all that’s neccessary to clear up the Wild West image of the City.

People have asked me recently on a number of occasions how I will put decency, honesty and transparency back in to our Council after the Caller report showed how much they are missing from our day to day work. I have included some of the things that I believe need to be done in some previous blogs but I am happy to put things together here.

It all depends on three things

Firstly, we need to elect and then employ people who have integrity and honesty at their heart. In my view, which is not necessarily popular, that does include the vast majority of councillors and our staff. Remember the problems that we have seen in the past weeks has shown Liverpool Council to be almost unique in the extent of its problems.

Politicians need to be chosen by their Parties after full scrutiny. Different Parties do it in a different way in our case to be eligible for standing you have to fill in a lengthy form and then face the Panel. This is by no means easy. Our panel has my wife, Erica, as the chair and I think I only just scraped through last time!

Then they need to be scrutinised by the electorate. Frankly, too many politicians prefer to spend their time in the Town Hall than in the communities that they are supposed to serve. All my Lib Dem colleagues and I hold regular advice centres, often at Farmers Market for 4 hours at a time. You can see us in the street regularly and you can monitor our work through our regular Focus newsletters and street letters. That by no means applies in a lot of wards in Liverpool where the first Labour Rose appears like the first cuckoo of spring in early April.

Councillors should just not accept gifts of any real value. In August I helped a group of businesses in the City Centre. They gave me a little speech of thanks and gave me a bottle in a really scratty Aldi bag. I thought it was a bottle of Prosecco or cheap fizz so I accepted it. When I got home, I found that it was a bottle of expensive champagne. I could hardly take it back so I immediately rang the Council to declare it.

Those politicians must then ensure that there is a decent process in place for choosing good staff. It is quite clear that from 2010 this partly broke down. First class officers were asked to leave because they were tainted by association with the Lib Dems. “Old friends” were brought in. I one point I suggested that Labour were raiding a pensioner’s club in Knowsley to get new recruits! There was a high level of sexism on show with some of the appointments in those early years of the Anderson administration.

Secondly, we need to establish proper processes so that decisions are properly made and properly recorded.

On the political side, that means proper scrutiny of decisions and a questioning approach to reports. It means being willing to challenge politicians of your own Party if you are in control. It means not assuming that everything is wrong if you are in opposition. Politicians should be prepared to work together to ensure that good ideas come forward, bad ideas are squashed and that best value for taxpayer’s money is ensured.

This does need the right attitude from the Councillors but also proper support from the council system. There needs to be part of the Council which operates to support councillors in making legitimate enquiries about proposals and in helping them to look for alternatives so that there is a proper discussion about all available options.

The Council itself must all establish a system which provides councillors with important information about how well the Council is doing compared with other similar councils either locally or nationally. Any effective system of performance evaluation for councillors was abolished in 2014. We need a set of key performance indicators which can show simply and quickly what our departments are really delivering for our City and its residents and businesses.

The Council leadership must make themselves available for questioning. We can ask written questions at full Council but it has been 5 years since we could supplementary oral questions. The written answers are properly provided by officers but it has often been apparent that the Leader or Cabinet Member hasn’t understand the answer which has been written for them.

Lastly, we need due processes. Decisions need to be properly recorded and followed through. If changes are needing to be made by circumstances. It is obvious that due process disappeared out of the window in our regeneration functions in 2010. In one recent case an agreement was made to sell a property for £425,000. It eventually sold for £325,000. The delegated authority for this change was written and publicised two years later. Whether this was incompetence or done for another reason may be dealt with elsewhere.

All three of these changes really on something else. Transparency! If everything takes place in the right way and is open to inspection by councillors, journalists and the media then the likelihood of wrong doing even if an officer or councillor is bent is minimal. That includes proper keeping of our register of interests which both officers and councillors. I was amazed that so many councillors changed their register of interest in December when they knew that the inspectors would look at them.

So, it’s quite easy really; proper people; proper process; proper reporting and proper transparency. It will be more complicated than that because in some cases we will need to change culture and people’s thought processes. Starting will be easy. In fact, it has already been started. I will ask all leading councillors of all Parties to set an example so that the problems will never be repeated. We’ll do that from day one of a new Lib Dem led administration.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Labour’s Mayoral Candidate must come out of hiding

Will Cllr Anderson be a Mayor or a Mouse? So far she has refused my offer for a public debate on the key issues facing our City. If she can’t face me how will she face all the challenges that becoming Mayor will bring?

Last Monday I wrote ina very polite and courtesous way to Cllr Anderson to suggest to her two things:

“Firstly, I think that you should apologise for all the scandals and corruption that the Labour Party have caused to the City which have been evidenced by the Caller Report; and

Secondly, you should agree to debate with me, as your main opponent, what Liverpool needs to do next in terms of

i)                 Restructuring the political and managerial operations within the Council;

ii)               Promoting policies which will take Liverpool into a new post-Brexit and post-Covid world; and

iii)              Restoring the good name of Liverpool to its residents, businesses and potential investors”

I didn’t really expect a response to the first part. Labour have been very reluctant to say sorry probably because so many of them are tainted by the association with the Mayor mostly by taking Special Responsibility Allowances to keep them happy. But I did look forward to hearing from her a response to these very reasonable questions

To date I have yet to get a reply from her and I’m not the only one. In recent days I have received a stream of emails asking me to do a hustings meeting or a debate on topics with which they are particularly concerned. None of them, as yet, have had a response from her any more than I have.

Clearly, she and I are the two main candidates in this election. None of the other candidates is gaining any real traction. This imposes on us a discipline which the other candidates do not have to think about. They cannot be elected so can basically say anything that they want. However, either Jo Anderson or I will be elected and that means that we must show to the people of Liverpool not only what we want to do but allow them to judge from our behaviour who is the person most likely to be able to deliver.

I understand from friends in the Labour Party that they are desperate to avoid her being put to the test against other candidates, especially me. I understand that it’s because I have 38 years’ experience in all sorts of local, national and international roles and she has just 17 months experience as a backbencher!

But that isn’t good enough. She wants to be the Mayor and if she becomes the Mayor, she will be up front in the work to improved firstly our council and then our City She needs to demonstrate to the City how she will answer the three questions above and more.

In my case many of my answers have been put to Council already. Unless Labour have changed dramatically, they will not support the things that I want to put forward. I know that because they have already voted against them in Council. I have put them in my blog. I have attended meetings and held real (pre-Covid) and virtual (during Covid) discussions with many people and organisations.

The manifesto that Liverpool Liberal Democrats will put forward next week has not been pulled out of thin air but is crammed with practical ideas which will answer many of the questions that people want to put to us. In fact, for every idea that is in the manifesto there is at least one more that we could not find room for. Behind them there are detailed papers drawn up ready for our spokesperson to put into the system post May 24th when our Annual Council meeting will take place.

The Mayor, or Leader of the Council if I get in, needs to do much, much than have the right policies. He or she will need to be able to pull people behind them to deliver the ideas. They will need to convince our Council and our officials that they have good ideas that can actually be legally and financially[RK2]  delivered. Then they have to look at all the other people that need convincing:

  • The people of Liverpool who are now extremely sceptical of anything that the Council does. We cannot work properly unless all people in the City want to work with us inside the City and become ambassadors for the City when they leave it.
  • The Government to try and attract resources for our many pressing problems not least the growing number of elderly people in the City.
  • The Commissioners who have high-level step-in powers to take over the Council if we do not perform well.
  • Businesses within the City to help them expand.
  • Quality developers and investors from outside the City to encourage them to come in.
  • Local partners such as the Universities, schools and colleges, the housing association, the local operations of the NHS and the local parts of all central government.
  • The Combined Authority recognising that Liverpool is at the heart of the Liverpool City Region.

The Mayor/Leader needs to sit at the centre of all things pertaining to Liverpool and influence many decisions outside their control. The people of Liverpool need to see Cllr Anderson and I in action to see which of us is the most likely to be able to work and lead such complex partnerships. 

So, come on Jo Anderson don’t be like Joe Anderson. He sat in his palatial suite at the Cunard and failed to engage adequately with most people but appears to have engaged furiously with the wrong people. So, come on and don’t be, ‘a cowering’ timrous wee beastie.’  Debate the issues with me and let the people decide not only whose ideas are best but which of us can actually do the business and deliver for our City. You know to get hold of me!                                                                                       


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Liverpool Council must deal with the boring bits

As the Government Inspection Report shows the Council’s mechanisms just are not working effectively. How we make decisions and monitor the actions that flow from them must be overhauled.

If I was going out canvassing and opened my conversation with, “we’ve got some really exciting ideas about due process and governance which will transform our City”, I would be looked at with amazement which I would see in the 3 seconds before the door closed. Most people simply don’t care about issues like this and why should they?

But anyone who wants to lead the council out of the mess it is in not only needs to care but needs to have answers to address the multiple failings in the Caller Report. Some of those failings are on the management side and the Chief Executive will need to conduct a view of all our officer led delivery and recording systems especially when it comes to the disposal of council assets.

On the other side – that inhabited by politicians – Mr Caller was even more scathing. It is quite clear that he believes that our system of scrutinising the direction and performance of the council is woeful.

About three weeks ago I sat down with a senior officer and Cllr Leon Tootle when we discussed a paper that I had written about a way forward. I’m not sure that I know what happens now with the Acting Mayor ceasing to be the Acting Mayor on 7th May and Cllr Tootle leaving the Council altogether.

Below is my revised note as a result of that meeting. You might find it incomprehensible or boring or both! But I do want to assure you that as Council Leader I would be paying attention to these boring but absolutely vital bits of work. It’s a bit like having a good looking car which is going in the right direction. If what’s under the bonnet isn’t working the car won’t get far!!

If you do want to comment on any of this please get in touch:       

Reorganisation of Committee Structure

Committees outside the Select Committee system but inside the proportionality rules.

  1. Mayoral Overview, Financial Control and Performance Management Committee. Chaired by Member appointed by the main opposition Party normally presumed to be the Leader with a Deputy Chair from the controlling Party.

To look at Key Performance Indicators from across the Council and hold the Mayor/Leader and Chief Executive accountable for them. To consider, before final presentation to Council, all overarching strategies. To oversee and approve the work programmes of all other select committees in relation to supporting the delivery of the Corporate (City) Plan and associated work programme. This Committee will report direct to council.

  • Audit and Companies Management Committee. Chaired by a member of the controlling Party with a deputy chair from an opposition Party.

To agree and monitor the annual audit plan of the internal and external auditors and to present them to Council. To receive the annual internal and external auditor’s annual reports and present them to Council. To order specific internal or external audit actions; consider the Accounts and management of council owned companies and to receive and consider the annual audit report from the external auditors. This Committee will report direct to Council.

Note: As these committees will have some authority over the work of the Council and or committees their members will serve on no select committee.

The work of the Mayoral Overview Committee will be supported by a new head of scrutiny.

The work of the Audit & Companies Governance Committee will be supported by a new part time appointment of an independent technical adviser reporting directly to the Chair, Deputy Chair and membership of the committee.  This will be properly and transparently advertised.

Six Select Committees to mirror the City Plan and to perform statutory roles.

  1. Social Care and Health Care Committee

To consider all aspects of social care from cradle to grave. To act as the statutory committee for reviewing NHS performance and statutory health plans. To review all aspects of equalities needs within the Council and City.

  • Education, Training, Skills and Culture Committee

To consider the all aspects of education, training skills and culture, including reviewing the performance of universities and colleges and to act as the statutory Education Committee.

  • Regeneration, Development and Employment Committee

To consider all aspects of Regeneration, Strategic Development, housing and employment initiatives in the City from the Council, private sector and Combined Authority.

  • Tourism and Culture

To scrutinise all aspects of the Tourism and Culture offer of the City Council and its departments including an assessment of relevant employment and promotional strategies.

  • Climate Change and Transportation Committee

To consider all environmental and transport initiatives of the Council, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and other partners.

  • Communities, Housing and Community Safety

To look at all aspects of community development, housing strategy and community safety.

All the above select committees to combine three workstreams:

  • Proactive policy development in partnership with the relevant chief officer and cabinet member
  • Pre and post scrutiny of Cabinet decisions
  • Review of KPIs of relevant organisations within the City

The Chairs and Deputy Chairs to be shared on a proportional basis between the Parties on the Council.

Other Committees:

  1. Planning Committee – No change
  2. Licensing Committee – No change
  3. Disciplinary & Appointments – No Change
  4. Health & Wellbeing Board – No Change
  5. Combine Member Development, Governance and Standards Committee
  6. Cabinet – Change membership of Cabinet to include none voting Leader of the main Opposition Party and with changes of responsibilities as below.
  7. Group Leaders Meeting – To develop the informal meetings of Group Leaders into a formal meeting of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and other Group Leaders. In the first instance this would be the grouping that responds to the improvement plan which will flow from the Inspection Team.
  8. All other committees and outside appointments unchanged.

This would give a reduction of one Select Committee and the creation of more coherent strands of investigation of pro and reactive policy making relating to the City Plan. It would also take out 2 other committee by combining other committees into more coherent strands.

Moreover, it would create a clear point of focus for interrogating the Mayor and Chief Executive on the overall position of the Council including the day to day finance. The separation of these aspects will leave an Independent Committee able to concentrate on council companies and continuing internal and external audit.

Each Select Committee in addition to its Council members will have 4 unpaid advisory members selected from appropriate Public, private and community organisations after an advertising process.

Reorganisation of the Cabinet

If it is accepted that it makes sense to reorganise the Select Committees to meet the leadership requirements of the City Plan then it would make sense to do the same for the Cabinet.

This could create:

The Mayor/Leader responsible for the leadership and direction of the Council as a whole.

The Deputy Mayor/Deputy Leader responsible for the finance and organisation of the Council.

6 Cabinet Members responsible for each of the City Plan strands.

This is, of course, in the gift of the Mayor/Leader but to align Cabinet posts with the Plan and scrutiny will maximise the efficiency and the capacity of the whole organisation.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

What I’ll do within 10 minutes of becoming Mayor of Liverpool

Our problems are huge and will take time to put right. BUT I can set the direction and style of what I intend to do within 10 minutes of being elected on May 6th if you choose to support my team and I.

Today my nomination papers have been submitted and I am officially the Lib Dem Mayoral Candidate for Liverpool. I am looking forward to the campaign although, because of Covid restrictions, it will be very different to any I have fought in before.

It is clear that putting the Council right will be a long journey. Our internal structures both political and managerial need a major overhaul. Putting the City right will take even longer. Remember we have 39 stalled sites and somehow, we will have to find between £250 and 500 million of public money to put right.

But there’s also a saying that the longest journey is started with the first step.  I think we need to move fast as a Council to restore confidence in the City by showing that the Council is setting off in the right direction to do the right things.

I intend to do 10 things within the first 10 minutes to show my intent on behalf of me and my Liverpool Liberal Democrat team. These are my first steps. They are baby steps which will expand and grow over the years but I hope that you too will think they are the right ones:

  1. I will rename the position I hold to that of Leader of the Council. Just like all the other councils in the Region. I will have to lead using mayoral powers and routes because that is the legal position I will inherit. I will mitigate those powers wherever I can to make the council more of a normal one.
  2. I will halve the salary received by the current postholder which is grossly more than that received by other Leaders in the Region. Seeking election should be a way of giving service not making a profit.
  3. I will take away any mentions of Mayoral funds or programmes and not replace them with Leader programmes. We are one Council and will work as one council.
  4. I will request the head of democratic services to establish a series of monthly ‘Meet the Leader’ meetings in the Town Hall, if safe, which will last for up to two hours and will allow any resident or local business person to submit questions and ask supplementary questions.
  5. I will request the Chief Executive to prepare a report on the due processes to be followed to consult the people of Liverpool on the system of governance that they want to see. There are four options which can be used and we Lib Dems believe that it is the people of Liverpool who should make the decision on the right one for our City. I don’t know when is the right time to move to another system given the problems indicated by the Caller report but I vow that if it is within my power, I will be the last person ever to be elected as Mayor of Liverpool.
  6. I will abolish the Mayoral Leads with immediate effect for those both within and outside the Council. I will not see taxpayer’s money used as political sweeteners providing no benefit to taxpayers in the running of the Council.
  7. I will reduce the size of the Cabinet from 10 to 8. This will give a focus on getting the Council right and concentrating on the key priorities which are contained within the City Plan. It will provide a clear basis for accountable strategies and performance.
  8. I will institute a reduction in the number and scope of scrutiny committees on the same lines as the Cabinet. This will enable all councillors to adopt real key performance indicators to monitor the performance of Cabinet Members and senior staff.
  9. I will establish an independent audit committee to oversee the internal and external audits of the Council and its owned companies. We simply don’t do this now as has been picked up within the Caller report. I will ask this committee to review the effectiveness of Grant Thornton, our current external auditors, and beef up the internal audit team.
  10. I will invite the Leader of the Labour and Green Parties to discuss with me the establishment of an all-Party Cabinet, in essence a ‘War Cabinet’, to take our City out of this current mess. I anticipate that this all-Party Cabinet will last until the all up elections on new boundaries which will take place in 2023.

All this will be announced or initiated in the first 10 minutes of taking office. They are important in their own right but they are also important in meeting some of the demands of the Caller Report and Government. By 24th May we need to propose an improvement plan. Some of the things here will move forward as important parts of the programme. Councillors, in particular, need much training and support. Too few councillors have had the training to allow them to undertake the vital duties that we need to perform.

So, what do you think? Do you like the things here? Do you think I’m moving too fast or too slow? Do you want the mayoralty to end? How do you want to see the Council run? Should the Leader have public question times?

I hope that now that a Labour candidate has been announced we can move quickly to hold virtual hustings meetings when my ideas and those of others can be tested. Above all you need to decide which of the candidates has the experience and ideas to move the City forward So can I make you a challenge? Do you belong to an organisation, club, society, voluntary group, resident’s association? If you do why don’t you get the organisation to challenge the candidates to a debate.

On May 6th either the Labour candidate or I will be elected. I hope that before you go to vote you will test us to the full in order to decide how to use your vote for the good of your family, community and City.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What did I know about Liverpool’s scandals?!

Since 2012 I have tried, alongside my Lib Dem team, to shine a light into the murky interior of Liverpool City Council. The Caller report vindicates the things I have been saying as I tried to get the council’s problems dealt with properly.

Since I became Leader of the Liverpool Lib Dems in 2012, I have received hundreds of tip offs by email about bad behaviour in the Council. Some days I get 6 or 7 and I have a number of regular correspondents. Only today I got an anonymous but detailed letter through the door. Regrettably, much of what I have got is unusable.

  • Sometimes the information wasn’t specific enough to apply to different people and different parts of the Council.
  • Sometimes they were specific but were just allegations.
  • Only sometimes they were specific and had enough hard information in them for me to take forward.

However, although as a Councillor I can take advantage of a ‘Councillor’s Right to Know’ but that didn’t get me far in Liverpool for two reasons caused by the culture of secrecy and misinformation which pertained throughout the Council.

Politically, Labour have closed down the public scrutiny process. There is clear direction to all Councils that the Opposition should play a big role in scrutinising the work of the Mayor and Cabinet. In Liverpool that was totally ignored. All Scrutiny Chairs, the people who set the agenda, are Labour. When our team have submitted questions, the responses have largely been dismissive and cursory. When we have called in Cabinet items for scrutiny, they have on every single occasion seen it as their duty to defend that decision. Labour has called unto Labour!

On a wider level the Council nowhere compares its results and actions with those of other cities and local councils so that we can see how well we are doing relative to others.

The officers were no better. Our Right to Know has too often been converted into the weaker Freedom of Information route. Those replying have had to rely on responses from the officers running the departments. That has been OK in most departments but clearly if the officers of a department wanted to hide things or had such a bad system that they could not answer them the whole system failed.

We now need skilled officers to help councillors with scrutiny. That costs money but just think how much money would have been saved if one or two staff had had scrutiny and transparency responsibilities.

So, within the Council I did what I could but, like many things in the City, things immediately got better when Tony Reeves arrived as Chief Exec. I used to have a 1:1 meeting regularly with the former Chief Exec but gave them up because they were useless. My 1:1 with Mr Reeves is very, very different. They are confidential and are based around firstly my concerns and then his.

It became very clear that Mr Reeves was a good listener and a better doer! He incorporated things I was saying and asking and if he didn’t have answers would get staff to respond. It also became clear quickly that he was taking action both within the Council and through other routes as he found things out and stopped bad things happening.

Many people challenged me to go public about the issues they raised with. For good reasons and bad there are laws of libel and slander which mean that people like me can be easily taken to court if we say things that people don’t like and which we cannot produce evidence for. Anyone can say anything they like in social media and usually get away with it. If someone in public life says the same things, they are much more accountable.

The other reason that I have to be more careful is that I am ‘inside the system’. If I say things, they carry more weight than would apply to others. If I say the wrong things then they might well prejudice the investigations that I knew were being carried out by both the Police and our own audit and disciplinary procedures.

So, on many occasions I have just had to bite my tongue and keep passing information to the relevant authorities knowing that in private they were being acted upon. It was more important to get justice than to get a headline. To be absolutely fair to the Echo staff they have the same problem. I know that on many occasions staff have despaired as stories they wanted to use were spiked by the company lawyer.

For the last two years there has been a police investigation taking place. From some of the information and documents I have no doubt that investigations are continuing and that there will be more arrests and that the arrests will convert to charges which will convert to sentences against people who have, at best, been careless with your hard-paid cash.

Things are getting better. Proper processes are being put in place within the Council and transparency is being introduced. I believe that significant changes will start to be made in the Council as early as May 24th. Until then though I implore people to be patient. Send me information if you can but the more it is evidenced the better. I will raise matters if I think they seem to stack up. This morning I raised with the C-Ex and Acting Mayor some very reasonable and informed questions about the Stonebridge Cross development that I received only yesterday.

I suspect that by the early summer we will all know what the Police’s actions will lead to.  We will see the actions that the Council is taking.  Let’s just stay calm until then. Consider the implications of what the Caller report says and all act on them. I have my role to play but so do you. We need to make major changes in Liverpool on May 6th. when the local elections are taking place. That will be your opportunity to pass judgement on the Councillors and your opportunity to demand a new team takes control in a way that so many people clearly want.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The damning report that shows Liverpool to be the worst Council in England

Today’s damning report from the Government’s Inspector, Max Caller, portrays a council that is the worst in England. I’ve called for resignations of at least three Labour councillors but have pledged to work cross-Party to deal with the very serious issues involved.

This is my response on behalf of the Liberal Democrats to the publication of today’s Inspection Report by The Government.

Liberal Democrats response following the publication of the Caller report into Liverpool City Council.

Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Richard Kemp CBE (Lib Dem) said:                                                                                                                                          

“This is a sad day for our city which the people of Liverpool do not deserve.

The inspection team led by an independent Civil Servant, Max Caller, has exposed the grotesque practices of Liverpool Council over the past decade which Lib Dems have continually raised but were stonewalled by Labour and former officers. We continually warned about land transactions, tendering and other areas where there was a clear lack of due process. We continually warned about the lack of proper governance and the failure of the scrutiny process of the Cabinet and Officers. The Caller Report has vindicated our continued and continuing objections to bad and malpractice within the Council.

There can be no doubt where the blame lies for the damage that has been done to Liverpool’s reputation. Liverpool Council has a Labour Mayor with a cabinet of 9 members, all Labour. Liverpool Labour have controlled the Council since 2010 and have 72 of the 90 Councillors.

All three people who have been Deputy Mayor, Cllrs Brant, O’Byrne and Simon and all current or former cabinet members connected to decisions in Regeneration, Planning or Property Development should resign today. I will ask the senior Labour Representative being imposed on the Liverpool Labour Party to investigate all such people.

If they knew what was going on, they are implicated. If they did not, they are incompetent

No other Council in living memory has seen 16 arrests and a senior officer being summarily dismissed. 

  • There has been inappropriate behaviour from Council officers and from Labour councillors leading to many of the problems that the Inspection Team have reported on.
  • There has been huge waste within the Council and a squandering of Council taxpayer’s money, and a failure to collect £millions that should have been due to the council from Developers.
  • There must be proper recording and scrutiny of all council decisions with an open culture which welcomes criticism and accountability.
  • No Councillor or Officer should accept hospitality from developers which places them in a position to be compromised.

It is right then that the Government should insist on some level of intervention. That intervention needs to be achieved in a way that strengthens the Council by increasing the capacity of officers and members. It is welcomed then that the intervention will only be imposed on the wider regeneration functions of the Council.

Where I cannot agree with The Secretary of State is the suggestion that we move to a smaller number of Councillors in single member wards in 2023. This totally ignores the community leadership role provided by Councillors, especially those in deprived parts of the City. It also ignores the elephant in the room the position of Elected Mayor.

The post of Mayor was imposed on Liverpool It gives too much power to one person. Liberal Democrats would seek to abolish it and offer the people of Liverpool full consultation on all the options for governance open to them.

Just as it did after the Militant and Hatton era it will take many years to overcome the damage done to the finances and reputation of our City.

Just as we did then the Liberal Democrats and the people of Liverpool will bring the City through this crisis and we ask for their support on 6th May.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What should Liverpool expect from the Inspector’s Report?

Next week we will get a damning report from the Inspection Team put in by the Government to look at the appalling state of Liverpool Council. On May 6th Liverpool will have the opportunity to vote for a new team to take the City forward. My Lib Dem team and I will bring a new brush to sweep out the conwebs and malpractices in the Cunard

Today is an important day in the life of Liverpool although we will only know how important next week. Today the Inspection team led by Max Caller is going to submit its report to the Government on the dreadful state of Liverpool City Council. Next week the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, will announce to Parliament the conclusion of that report and the steps that he intends to take. This will probably be on Wednesday.

The council is bracing itself for that report. The Labour Party are fearful of the results and well they should be. This is one of two types of report being compiled at the moment. This report will look at the competence of the Council and will recommend a wide range of structural changes. The Council report will create huge changes in the way we do business. Excellent – big changes are required.

The other report is the one that will be presented by the Police to the Crown Prosecution Service looking at a wide range of criminal allegations. This may bring life style changes to those who are charged but may also bring closure to the thousands of people who have lost thousands of millions of pounds in a series of Ponzi schemes which have robbed them of their savings.

We know that the Police investigations will only come to a conclusion in the summer because Mayor Anderson and Co have been bailed until then. But what should we look out for next week? I’ll be looking at the report in three sectors:

Firstly, what happened before the middle of 2018?   It is clear that the Inspectors will be looking at a series of incompetences and mal practices throughout the regeneration department. I believe that it will find poor leadership, both political and managerial, bad and corrupt practices in the awarding of contracts. I suspect that only part of this will become clear now.

Worryingly for those who have been arrested there has been an agreement for the Inspection Team to exchange information with the police’s Operation Aloft. The police don’t really understand how local government works. Max Caller does and I have little doubt that things he has found will have been passed on.

Secondly, what’s happened after the middle of 2018? My own reflection is that the managerial side of the Council has been massively improved since the next Chief Executive arrived at that time. Slack practices have been abolished, proper processes have been introduced to the managerial side. There is a greater sense of openness and honesty. A greater sense of the need to have high level strategies and then deliver them.

I suspect that the Inspectors will commend the direction of progress made by the new team and suggest greater support is needed at the heart of the Council to help our top management team.

That change has not been mirrored on the political leadership of the Council. We can see from the desperate straits of the Labour Party in selecting a replacement for Mayor Anderson just how little drive and direction the ‘controlling Party has. There has been no overview of the investments made by the Council many of which have been loss making. No overview of the Companies owned by the Council. No effective use of the internal and external audit programmes. No review of how the Council is performing against other Councils either the Core Cities or local councils within the City Region.

Lastly, what does the report expect the Council to do in future? Here it will focus on the improvement of the internal processes of the council in the way it ensures efficiency and abolishes the opportunities for poor or malpractice. Clearly record keeping of decision making and decision makers has been poor. The people in several departments, for whatever reason, have been unable to fully discharge their responsibilities.

The report will suggest sweeping changes in the political process to look at things that seem tedious like improving our overview and scrutiny functions but are absolutely vital if we are to provide cost effective and functionally effective services to our residents.

Will the Commissioners be sent in to run the Council? My hunch is that this will not happen but there will be a level of support provided on a compulsory basis. There will be compulsory support for all the Groups on the Council and a huge training programme for councillors to deal with the obvious deficiencies in our knowledge and competence.

All that costs money and the Council will have to find it. We have already paid out £140,000 for the inspection team and we will have to find most, if not all, the costs of improvement and supervision. We have to pay and, in fact, it will lead to savings in the future. But we will also pay in terms of reputational damage. The Council and the City have been drastically damaged by the 16 arrests and the need to bring in an inspection team and support process. It will take a long time for us to live down this debacle and that will cost investment and it will cost jobs.

There is another Way!!  At least one Party in Liverpool accepts the real need for change. On May 6th I will be leading a strong team of Liberal Democrats on election day. I am the Mayoral candidate (a position I will abolish) and we have Lib Dems standing throughout the City. These range from old hands like Andrew Makinson (Church), Mirna Juarez (Allerton & Hunts Cross), Malcolm Kelly, (Woolton), Pat Moloney (Childwall) but also includes strong and promising newcomers such as Rebecca Turner (Wavertree), Rob Mc-Alister-Bell (Mossley Hill) and Richard Clein (Cressington).

We have already suggested many ways in which to change the way that the council works and many policies to lead us out of the dreadful pandemic. All we need now is your support and your help. Please vote for us on May 6th and if you want to take things further you can offer to help us or join us at http://www.liverlibdems.org.uk.

Posted in Liverpool Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments