At last the LGA Peer Challenge Report on the running of Liverpool has been published. It shows there is a long way to go if Liverpool is to become a properly functioning, properly led organisation
Yesterday councillors in Liverpool received from the Council a link to the recent Peer Challenge Report. Interestingly the media that I have talked to about this have yet to receive a press release from the Council which is hardly surprising as it was a report which, whilst mentioning the undoubted good things that the Council has done, was highly critical of the governance of the Council.
I have welcomed that report. The fact that 3 of the 9 top level recommendations relate to the way the council operates both politically and in the cross over between political and managerial leadership reflects the earlier finding that “Liverpool operates outside the norms of local government”.
In particular the report highlights the poor level of behaviour inside the Council Chamber; ineffective relationships between officers and members; and failure to use the talents of all members of the council. It also suggests that the Liverpool Cabinet needs support and capacity building.
Lib Dems have complained since the mayoral system was introduced of the bullying and hectoring tone of the Labour Party; the failure to involve members properly inside the scrutiny process which is usually just a mass of PowerPoint presentations and the failure of many officers to understand that they work for the Council as a whole and not just the Mayor.
For too long there has been no performance management culture within the Council. The council has not even measured its own performance internally never mind comparing that performance to what other similar councils are doing.
For too long The Mayor has wandered around the Council Chamber in Liverpool like a Poundland Donald Trump spraying out accusations and facts pretending to be fiction and in clear defiance of the Council’s own standing orders
For too long officers of the Council have believed that they worked for the Mayor. Incredibly some staff members actually told the Challenge Team that. Of course, all staff work for the Council as a whole.
We hope that the acceptance of this report and the arrival of a new Chief Executive will mean that Liverpool Council moves from being ‘Dodge City’ to a more normal, inclusive and mature method of inclusive working.
The full report can be found here: http://councillors.liverpool.gov.uk/documents/s225754/LGA%20Peer%20Review.pdf
Top level Recommendations of the LGA Peer Challenge
There are a range of suggestions and observations within the main section of this report that will inform some early practical actions, in addition to the conversations on-site which provided ideas and examples that the council may wish to think about adopting.
The following are the peer team’s recommendations on the next steps for the council:
- Sharing our findings in a timely way to as wide an audience as possible
- Effectively scoping the capacity, expertise and infrastructure necessary for the delivery of the Inclusive Growth Plan and the council’s other ambitions; agreeing investment in areas where there are shortfalls. This activity should include an immediate focus on the communications function, Human Resources and organisational development, digital/ICT as well as analytical and policy capacity.
- Developing the detailed plans necessary for managing the budget pressures and delivering the agreed savings
- Embedding and establishing further straightforward mechanisms to enhance cross-council working and understanding, building on what the Elected Mayor has done in creating and leading staff engagement initiatives
- Building on the robust recruitment process for the new Chief Executive that helped provide a positive message to the extensive range of stakeholders taking a very strong interest in the council
- Seeking to change the way that politics is played out in the council and in particular in the Council Chamber, through elected member development activity in order to achieve a consensus on standards of behaviour governing political discourse across the political spectrum
- Building quickly on the positive example of the council having identified the need to review urgently the Member/Officer Protocol
- Exploring the potential to undertake capacity-building work to support the development of the Cabinet
- Reflecting on the very strong feedback we received from young people we met regarding the need for earlier and better mental health support in schools