Mayor’s IT Bills – update!!!

LpoolTH

As almost everyone who reads this blog will be aware the Mayor spent a lot of time at the last council meeting defending his use of public money to settle his own IT bills. He did so in a  part of the council meeting where councillors are not allowed to challenge, comment on or even ask questions about what the Mayor has said! My next blog will explain this in more detail but it means that Anderson can bluster and waffle and be hugely disingenuous because he cannot be challenged.

Some of our members came to the meeting and I told them that one of the first items would be a 20 minute attack on Erica and I specifically and the Liberal Democrats generally. I was wrong – it was 22 minutes! How did I know this? Because it happens at most council meetings. Mayor Anderson always seems to spend a large part of the meeting saying how irrelevant we are which somehow defeats his own argument!

Anyway I have been exchanging e-mails on the subject with a senior council employee who, apparently I cannot name! His responses always raise more questions than provide answers. His latest was no exception.

So I attach below an e-mail which I have just sent. Always happy to receive responses. I am particularly happy to let Mayor Anderson reply to this blog. Joe I know you are one of my most dedicated readers. Anything you say will be repeated as you send it unless there are parts which are libellous or abusive in which case I will just delete those parts.

Here are my latest comments and questions to the council

Dear XXXXXX   XXXXXXXXXX,
Thank you for your reply. I am afraid its rather like a cheese souffle I had recently. It looked good on the outside but with little real substantce.
1.       Thank you for confirming that the Council did not try and clear this matter up with DCLG before spending £89,000+. Had you done so you would have received confirmation that this is a matter which is affected by legislation. It did not need an Industrial Tribunal to ascertain this. I understand from the Liverpool Echo that the council has now been told this and furthermore that the Government will not be contrsibuting to the payment of the bills. I also understand that it is also a fact that an IT decision could not affect legislation except for legislation relating strictly to employment law. This is not true in this case.
2.       Thank you for confirming that the Council’s staff did not try to make contact with their opposite numbers in other mayoral authorities. Had they done so they would have found that there have been at least two other cases which were analogous, although not identical to this. In both those cases the Mayors in question and their advisers decided not to take the matter to the IT using council funds because it was clear that the IT could not affect the legislation concerned. In fact in both cases I understand that the individuals decided as they had a large salary which had its own substantial pension they should settle for that!
Thus two opportunities to deal with this matter by finding out more expert opinion have been missed by the council’s staff.
3.       The statement has continually been made that this would affect the running of the council and that therefore spending on it would not be ultra vires. There has been no explanation of why this is the case. The implication is that this will affect the people who might in future stand for the Council. Thus it cannot affect someone who is already elected. In future it will also have no effect. Who stands for the council, why and under what circumstances is not a matter for the council providing that candidates are legally entitled to stand. Perhaps you could give this matter your attention and give me some detailed thoughts as to how the running of the council could be affected by this?
4.       You are right that we have not exchanged views on this before so that is no discrepancy between what you have told me before and anything else. The discrepancy is between the officer’s version of events and those of the the Mayor.
I would be grateful if you would clarify in detail:
1.    When officers were first made aware of the situation regarding Mayor Anderson
2.    When officers decided to make preliminary enquiries on Mayor Anderson’s behalf?
3.    When officers first instructed the solicitors in this matter
4.    When officers agreed that the solicitor should employ a barrister
5.    Assuming that standard legal practice was observed of ensuring that large bills would be paid. When did the council agree to pay costs in the case of a failure of the matter?
6.    At this time was the Council, as is standard legal practice, given an estimate of the costs?
7.    When were the council aware of the final bill?
8.    Have all bills in this matter been paid or were they deferred in the vain hope that the government would contribute to them?
Lastly you point out that this matter has been discussed with and supported by the External Auditor, Grant Thornton. This is not confirmed by them in an e-mail to me today in which I pressed the issue following an earlier e-mail. The head of the Audit told me today, “As you know we have to act independently of the council and given our statutory responsibilities we have to be mindful of NOT (my capitals) expressing judgements on matters that we may need to consider formally in due course”.  Perhaps you would explain the differences between what you think the external auditors said and what they think they said!
Cllr Richard Kemp CBE,
Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

 

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. . Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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14 Responses to Mayor’s IT Bills – update!!!

  1. joedd says:

    excellent writing – I look forward to reading the officers response…….

  2. Bob says:

    I have read your comments and have as a council tax payer contacted my MP Maria Eagle, the NAO and Grant Thornton expressing my disquiet about this situation. I find the attempt to suppress free and open comment within the council chamber in a word disgusting. I am contemplating contacting the City of London Police as they have one of the best financial investigation units as I feel Merseyside Police are potentially compromised by having a PCC who is closely connected with local politics.

  3. Pay up now Anderson. Teaming up with John Bishop and all those Liverpool bands you’ve never heard of in order to bathe in their reflected glory just won’t wash. You’ve dragged yourself through the mud and sullied your own blackened reputation once too often now – perhaps fatally on this occasion. There are now 89,000 reasons it’s time for you to do one. For God’s sake, do us all a favour, make the most positive move ever in the interests of Liverpool’s people and …….. GO !

  4. Catherine says:

    You will know that there have been huge numbers of comments on this in the recent articles in the Echo. As well as expressing the disgust and outrage most people feel, some corrected the Mayor’s version of events (based on the published judgement), which conveniently omits the multiple shameless attempts he made to get Sefton to increase the amount of money it was paying him for doing nothing, from well before he was elected mayor, and many also outlined the complaints they had made to District Auditor Grant Thornton.
    The latest (number 162) one on the article on the Labour group councillors’ cheering of Anderson and his explanation – at the council meeting you refer to in your post, Richard, is an excellent summary of how and why the Mayor’s claims are baseless. Here it is:
    “The Mayor’s position on this has always been totally absurd. It was not an error that parliament left elected mayors out of the legislation that allowed local councils to give their staff up to 208 hours leave with pay to serve as elected members in other authorities.That provision was enacted in the days when all councillors were very much part-time receiving little or no remuneration and when they were still continuing to do the work they were employed to do.
    In the same way that it rightly has never applied to someone elected as an MP, it would be absolutely daft to apply it to someone who chooses to become a full-time, salaried elected mayor – especially one whose mayoral pay actually is rather more than he used to get when he went to work. There never was a wider interest for Liverpool Council that justified the Mayor’s personal legal costs falling on the council taxpayer. Accordingly the expenditure was ultra vires. Moreover, it was doubly unlawful because it must have been clear from the outset that the money was going wholly to be wasted as the case was certain to fail.”
    Says it all.
    In addition to comprehensively debunking the Mayor’s position, this also clearly raises the question of what on earth the City Solicitor thought she was doing getting involved in this – and in particular, in recommending to the District Auditor that it was appropriate for the City to underwrite the costs of this grasping exercise. It surely exposes serious issues around her competence and/or professional behaviour.

    • Catherine says:

      Another great request. Someone now needs to get hold of exactly what the District Auditor was told about all this, to authorise the “indembity”. Anderson has stated that they “ran it part” the DA. But you really have to wonder if they accurately informed him of the background. I summarised the timeline as set out in the Employment Appeal judgement in a comment in the Echo, and it’s worth repeating here:
      “He did a lot more than willfully accept the maximum salary allowed, he made repeated efforts to have it increased, and it is this more than anything else that made the school decide it had had enough.
      The judgement makes this crystal clear. Clearly none of the clapping councillors bothered to read it. Just look at the time-line:
      – April 2010: He becomes leader, and wants to do the job full-time. Sefton agreed to let him go on leave, with the statutory 208 hours’ – pay, then on 21 July he wrote asking for more – he wanted 50% paid leave (para 10).
      – 8 September 2010: He complained about sticking to the legal limit, and actually argued that he was a special case, and was outside the limit set in the LGHA , and so should get more (para 12). This was the point at which the judge said that “No concern appears to have been given as to what the public perception might be of the expenditure of public money to a full-time politician who was not expected or required to provide any services in return” (para 13).
      – May 2011: You’d think at that point he would give up, but instead, he wrote a moaning email direct to the chief exec of Sefton, expressing his “extreme disappointment” talking about the “added insult of not getting any paid leave”, and pleading “unique circumstances” to ask for early retirement. He also said he’d asked the Council to “put.. in a grievance or look into unfair dismissal on his behalf, and that they will willing to do this (??) (para 21).
      – May 2012: He becomes Mayor.
      – 3 July 2012: The City Solicotor wrote to the head teacher, raising (again) the question of the 208 hour limit. This is the bit where the judge expressed his perplexity about “why the legal department of Liverpool should have been acting on behalf of the Claimant in his private capacity.” (para 26).
      The same paragraph states that this was found by the Employment Tribunal to be implicitly a request for the Claimant to be paid more by the Respondent than he was getting at the time, but, “In truth his desire was to increase his pension contribution”.
      This appears to have been the last straw, the same paragraph then goes on to state that this letter ” stimulated consideration … about whether it was appropriate for the arrangement whereby the Claimant received payment from the Respondent to continue.” So they decided to terminate the arrangement, but messed up the procedure.
      So this whole mess started long before he was Mayor, and semantics about protecting individual’s protection rights really doesn’t cut it. This is all about his own sense of entitlement. He wanted to be treated as a special case, and was clearly outraged that they wouldn’t do this. (4 days ago) in the Echo he actually described the correspondence described above as trying to sort things out. Which presumably means that he couldn’t get them to do what he wanted. But why on earth should they? And how on earth does he think this is the right thing to do?”

  5. joedd says:

    Catherine – I’ve emailed Robin Baker district auditor – but he has now taken to ignoring me – who do I go via to make the FOI…..

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Audrey,
      Because Grant Thornton is not a public body, they’re not covered by the FOIA.
      The Council will have copies of their correspondence on this, so they’re the ones to ask. They may well try and say that the City Solicitor just had a chat on the phone. That’s what they did over the supposed massive cost of ending the LDL contract when they were refreshing it (that is what she actually told the Information Commissioner – just a quick chat). But that doesn’t wash, and certainly won’t in this instance – there has to be some documentation, even if it’s just notes of a meeting (face to face or a telephone conference) – otherwise it would surely be negligence of some kind.

      • joedd says:

        Hi Catherine – in the FOI all communication with Grant Thornton was refused….. thank you for replying…

      • Catherine says:

        After reading Audrey’s response below (about communication with Grant Thornton being refused), I had a look at her FOI requests on this. In the one requesting emails, she asked for all communications with outside bodies. Their response provided an exchange with a Law Society gazette reporter, and mentions e-mails to Brabner covered by legal professional privilege (which in this instance they can and should waive). But no mention of anyone else. Another FOI request produced Anderson’s misleading email to Greg Clark at DCLG.
        So there are no emails between the Council and the DA on this. Really?
        So how exactly was this “run past the district auditor”?
        They are either fibbing about the emails, or really did have a cosy chat. Surely that is not lawful.

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