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