Neither I nor my Lib Dem Council Group Colleagues will be dissuaded from saying what we believe to be right in the face of legal threats
Today’s Liverpool Echo has a story about attempts by the Council in Liverpool to limit our legal right and indeed our responsibility to talk about the things that matter to our constituents specifically and the wider population of Liverpool generally.
The threats came after a blog that I produced in November when I said that we should abolish the post of Chief Executive of the Council.
The claim was that I was placing the council in some financial jeopardy by making comments about our current Chief Executive. Furthermore, that such actions might also prejudice the legal actions being undertaken by Lancashire Police. Neither of these claims bears serious scrutiny.
You can see my blog at https://wordpress.com/post/richardkemp.wordpress.com/6441.
You will see from this that the blog in no way gives or implies any criticism of the post holder, the current Chief Executive. I made this very clear in the blog, “This is not a reflection on the reasons for Mr Fitzgerald’s suspension”. This statement is demonstrably true. In March at the Budget meeting of the Council we moved the deletion of the post of Chief Executive and other changes as well as the removal of the post of Elected Mayor. We did so as a point of principle. The creation of the new Combined Authority for the Liverpool City Region along with the election of a regional mayor means that Liverpool needs to change its officer and political structures. We believe that our management structure is top heavy and that we have a “spare Mayor!”
This was of course legal. At any time, the City Solicitor has to approve the legality of motions or amendments moved at a council meeting of any type. In addition, at the budget meeting of the Council the Director of Resources also has to agree that the amendment is both legal and deliverable.
I believe strongly in our system of justice in this Country. It does not always work perfectly but there is an abiding principle which runs through it and has done since Magna Carta that everyone is innocent until proved guilty in due process in a court of law.
The letter suggests that because I had not turned up to a meeting to discuss the way that the council had treated this issue the indemnity that I have as a councillor when I do ‘council work’ would be removed from me. This could, have serious consequences for me and my family if I were to be sued for any reason. In fact, I do want to know more about the advice given to the Council in this matter. I understand that I am legally entitled to see the legal opinions given and have been asking for this since last May last year. I have yet to see them.
Before publishing my blog, I took legal advice which was very clear, providing I talked about the post and not the post holder what I have said was perfectly acceptable. Indeed, if I genuinely believed in the course of action I had recommended it was my duty as an elected representative to pursue what I believed to be right on behalf of my constituents.
So, I have repeated my request to see the legal advice in writing but otherwise will take no further action in regard to the council’s actions other than to refer the letter to the Lancashire Police. I have done this on the advice of my own solicitor who believes that the Police should know about an issue which is germane to the case they are looking at.
At the budget meeting of the Council in March my colleagues and I will again seek to reduce the top-heavy structures at the top of the council. In hard times, and these are hard times, we must limit spending in the centre in order that we can maximise it where it is really need in our front-line service delivery.
I will be making no further comment on this matter until we move our amendment at the Council in mid-March. I gather in football jargon that what is we doing is attacking the ball and not the man! That is what we will continue to do legally and where appropriate.