Kim Jong-Un would feel at home in Liverpool City Council
Sometimes politics can be very complicated and local government can be very complex for outsiders (the ones that pay their taxes to make it work!) We deal in £millions in capital and revenue spent over many years with inputs from lots of places and lots of outputs required by many people; our citizens; our businesses and our visitors. Sometimes, however, something comes along that is so small and simple that even the average councillor never mind member of the public, can understand it. The £10,000 for the self-congratulatory luvvies festival is a perfect example of this.
Let me recap. We all (including most councillors) learnt that the council had been a sponsor to some sort of champagne based shindig in the autumn when a freedom of information request forced the council to admit that it had put £10,000 into the event. Before that no none cabinet member councillor appears to have known about this. It was not reported anywhere and the decision was not scrutinised by anyone outside the charmed circle of the Elected Mayor’s cronies.
I immediately put down some questions about this event. I wanted a copy of the report; to know which officers and members had suggested that £10k be put in; which members and officers had authorised the expenditure and what outputs and outcomes the council expected to get back for this expenditure at a time when the council claims it cannot make ends meet.
So what have I been told in response to my questions?
1. That the Elected Mayor had authorised the expenditure – this actually was not a surprise as it had to be the case
2. That £10k was put in. This was already disclosed.
3. That the Council got some publicity out of this. True but much of it bad publicity.
What I don’t know is:
1. Which members and/or officers suggested the expenditure
2. Whether a report was prepared about the expenditure and if so by whom?
3. What outputs and outcomes the council expected to get from the expenditure.
In my fourth time of asking I have reiterated my desire as an elected representative to get to the bottom of things but I will NOT hold my breath!
The sad fact is that I have no doubt at all that what has been done is legal. The Mayoral system induces an Emperor and court system. Most councillors have little involvement in the true running of the council. Most are too cowardly to ask questions because of the bully boy tactics which Cllr Jake Morrison so clearly exposed when he left the Labour Party.
So the people of Liverpool are not informed of many of the decisions that they end up paying for. A culture exists within the Council where the letter of the law is observed but not a true spirit of openness, honesty and transparency which should be the hallmark of a truly democratic city and a truly democratic council. Decisions are taken that are immoral at a time of great pressure on the council’s budgets. Yes things are difficult financially but they would be a lot better if the council had a true sense of purpose and direction and leadership that was competent. How can we go and ask the Government for more when we so clearly waste some of the scarce resources that we have.
Lastly, I am saddened by a related matter. I understand that a blogger in Liverpool has now received two legal letters threatening action because of a blog that he has written about this issue. It is not my job or within my experience to comment on legal issues. As I have said before I never have and never well take people to court for either libel or slander although many false things have been said about me over the years including comments in council and on the radio recently.
The likelihood that anyone has suffered in any way because of a local blog about them is remote. Who would stop giving a contract to a company because of something in a local blog? Whose reputation is really damaged because someone says something which is read by a relatively small number of people who probably already have their minds mind up on many of the things that they read?
People who resort to the legal process in matters like this are either trying to stop proper debate and enquiry or they have £note signs in their eyes. The Jonathan Aitkens of this World are not the sort of people that I would like to emulate.
So I have told the threatened blogger 2 things:
1. That I will give evidence in court on his behalf to explain the dreadful systems that we have in place in this city which might, in some circumstances cause people to go over the top.
2. That I will make a contribution to the legal fees of that person.
There are lots of people in this city who hate what is being done in their name but too few are prepared to stand up and be counted. I will not allow anyone who honestly is trying to shine a light in the murky waters of Liverpool City Council to be thrown to the wolves without some attempt to try and help them. At a later stage I might turn to all my readers and ask them for some support in this matter.