What do you mean you can’t ask the Mayor questions?!

The most frequent request that I have had in the last few days is to explain why I was unable to respond to  the tissue of half truths, misleading information and dissembling which was the basis of Anderson’s speech to council last Wednesday. You may recall that in a recent blog I said I would tell you about how badly the council was led and managed and how pointless much of the work if councillors was so I will put both things together.

Back to Wednesdays’ Council meeting. We had some new members there and I told them beforehand that Anderson  would spend 20 minutes attacking the Liberal Democrats whilst simultaneously saying how irrelevant we are. I was wrong – he spent 22 minutes doing it. What he said was inaccurate and in most cases a total distortion of the facts. Most of it was his justification of his decision to take £90,000 of the council’s money to settle a personal Indutrial Tribunal case. The IT case could not have dealt with the issue in hand because, as the Government has told Liverpool it requires legislation. Anderson hides behind officers decisions but the ultimate decisions are his. He decided to become the Labour candidate for Mayor, he decided that he wanted to get paid for doing no work and he decided to let the council pay when any decent person would have paid themselves.

The important thing from this rambling discourse is that the standing orders of the Council do NOT  allow any other council to ask questions, make comments or in any way challenge what the Mayor has said. But that is not all. Labour abolished two committees where the Mayor in particular and the Cabinet generally could be held to account. No admittedly these committees had not in the past been well led. In fact I stopped going to one. But the answer was not abolition but their replacement by one committee with proper opposition leadership and a proper work programme.

But it still gets worse. Last year we received a report from Baroness Estelle Morris in which she said that she would think her job done if she left within our education service the concept of bench marking and comparison with other councils. We warmly welcomed her report. The next item was a motion from me about establishing such a bench-marking across the the council and comparing ourselves with other similar authorities, namely the core cities. Labour voted against the move with both councillors and officers coming up with excuses such as the statistics are not available and that  it would cost too much to collate them.  Neither  of these statements is true. Most of these comparators are readily available and it would take a member of staff an afternoon to collate them.

The fact is that both politicians and officers in Liverpool are scared of a performance management culture and afraid of comparison with other cities who in truth are doing much better than us.

So the summary that I can give to the people of Liverpool is that there is no mechanism anywhere within the council where I can challenge the Mayor on your behalf. That means in the true style of a coward he can talk whatever bluster and bollocks he wants secure in the fact that no-one can challenge him. As many people know you cannot challenge him outside the council either. Ask him a question on his Twitter account and he blocks you.

The rest of the council is no better. Agendas for the ‘scrutiny’ committees are written to ensure that Labour councillors ate given something to do. A rich diet of PowerPoint presentations with pretty pictures makes them feel important but the real meat of their work to challenge the Cabinet and senior officers is left left totally undone.

So we have a council where the political and managerial executive cannot be challenged and where openness and transparency are transparently missing!

This will always be the case whilst Anderson is Mayor. There is an obvious conclusion to this issue which I invite you to remember at the Mayoral elections next May!

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Coincidentally I have been talking to both the Lib Dem elected Mayors at Conference.

Both of them can be questioned on any issue at Council, without warning, by any councillor. Both of them have regular ‘Meet the Mayor’ sessions both in their Town Hall and also in the community. Would  you believe it some Mayors don’t hide away but regularly appear in shopping and community centres to meet their residents and hear from them their concerns at first hand. In both councils there is a full scrutiny programme with councillors being asked to help in policy making and not just choosing to listen to bland presentations.

At the end of the day this is not Anderson’s city – it is not the council’s city – it is the people’s city. We need to have a Mayor and council that understands that.

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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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3 Responses to What do you mean you can’t ask the Mayor questions?!

  1. joedd says:

    Corruption is just another form of tyranny.

    All the political tyranny of Mayor Andersons needs to gain a foothold is the Labour Councillors/Officers to remain silent…..it never surprises me how far the labour councillors will go to protect their Mayor even when they can see the cruelness of his tyranny’s and how it impacts on the people of Liverpool including the most vulnerable.

    Mayor Anderson used 90k of public money and tried to hide the fact from the tax payer, his tyranny does not protect him, the power of the people is stronger, he was plucked from obscurity and we the people can put him back their – power via the ballot box 2016.

  2. Catherine says:

    The one good thing about this shameful episode is that it is such a clear and blatant example of greed and hubris that however much he tries to spin it, people can see through it. And hopefully will not forget. You need to make sure that they don’t.
    It helps that we have the actual judgement, which comprehensively contradicts all the rubbish he keeps coming out with about this. People are finally able to see him for what he is.
    As for the next Mayoral election, I really hope that people will realise that however much they may support the Labour party and however they might despise other parties, nationally, they need to judge the man and his actual record – and get rid of him.
    I

  3. Catherine says:

    On the scrutiny point, it is revealing that the Audit committee is the only select committee we are left with. They can’t abolish this, as it’s a legal requirement. Although the delegated powers it has to approve the accounts, which previously, and rightly, was first on the list of its duties, seem to have disappeared from its mandate. And, of course, it has taken over the duties of the Finance & Resources select committee – which members of the public could submit questions to. The new and improved multipurpose Audit and Governance committee does not take questions from the public. Fait accompli.

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