The Elected Mayor of Liverpool?
We’ve just had the proposals for the way that the Labour Party intends to establish committees in the City Council for this municipal year.
Chief amongst them is the abolition of the Mayoral Select Committee – a committee which is in place for every other Elected Mayor in the Country (16 of them).
Other Mayors also have much enhanced public scrutiny session at which any member of the public or organisation within their area can ask questions.
In Liverpool this right is even denied to councillors. The Mayor makes statements in a part of the Council agenda which no other councillor can respond to and at which no other councillor can even ask a question unless the Mayor invites them to! This is not democracy its shamocracy. It’s happening because the Mayor is scared to face criticism; scared to meet opponents head on to debate the issues and even tried to have me taken off the Roger Phillips show last year when I was talking about green space issues.
I would be the first to say that the Mayoral Select Committee has not been a success to date. This is for two reasons:
1. It had no effective work programme and was poorly chaired. There are key objectives of the mayor which have not been looked at on a regular basis and councillors find out about things from the pages of the Echo or the air waves of the radio stations.
2. The quality of reports that have been submitted to it have often been poor and sometimes have had no point at all.
For example last year £20,000 was paid to produce a report that compared Anderson as Leader of the Council with Anderson as Mayor of the Council! Not surprisingly it found he was doing quite well! What we needed was to judge his effectiveness against other elected mayors and other Council Leaders., Sir Richard Leese is managing to maintain a high profile and get added cash for his city without the need for a city mayor although Manchester is being forced by the Tories into having a City Region Mayor.
We also get no key performance indicators against which we can judge our performance against other cities with similar problems. Both officers and politicians have set their face against such information preferring instead to look at our own performance against previous quarters/years. Quite simply Liverpool is scared of comparison with others because as far as I can tell without such hard information Liverpool is slipping behind the rest.
I was going to argue for a much stronger committee adequately chaired with decent reports which could enable effective monitoring of the work of the council. Instead Liverpool’s committee system will be subjected to the bland and boring PowerPoint regime which gives councillors the pretence of scrutiny whilst avoiding the possibility of hard questions.
Three years ago I suggested that Liverpool, should get a peer review from the IDeA to look our scrutiny processes. This would not have cost the council a penny BUT of course the move was rejected.
The sad fact is that councillors are almost powerless to raise issues despite that fact that even on a major day for council elections 33% of the people of Liverpool did not vote Labour. That puts the onus more on members of the public to raise issues and particularly of the press to raise issues in a positive way. I have already spoken to some of the media leaders in the City Region about this. The abolition of all pretence at scrutiny makes this discussion more urgent.
Joe isn’t very good at forecasting and looking into the future. At the last council meeting he confidently predicted that I would soon be an ex-councillor and even came to Church Ward to try and ensure that happened. Well despite the hundreds of Labour people who swarmed into the ward on May 7th and before I still got 851 more votes than his candidate so I am still there to ask questions and expose what I believe to be the basic incompetence of our council.#
I need your help. If there are things that you think I should know about – things that are concerning you please let me know at Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember that all this could end next May when Joe Anderson is up for re-election!
In the meantime I hope that when the Labour Group meets on Tuesday to ratify these proposals they will reject them and ensure that their Leader can be publicly held to account