I’ve been asked many times recently what does the City Region Mayor and the Combined Authority actually do? So, I’ve done some digging around and now believe that an urgent review of the staffing levels and the wage levels of the staff of the Liverpool City Region Combined authority is badly needed. I’ve now got a full list of the people who work for the Liverpool City Region Mayor, Steve Rotheram and the Combined Authority and I’m appalled by what I have found.
It is quite clear from the report that whilst front line jobs in local government are being slashed and with councils forced to make huge cuts the number of highly paid back room jobs in the City Region Authority is booming.
If asked for their priorities the people of Liverpool City Region would not be the employment of a speechwriter for up to £35,000 a year or a political adviser for £48,500 a year but would be for the employment of people to keep our city clean and safe and the old and the young looked after.
There is clearly not enough attention being paid to this free-flowing gravy train. Before being selected and then elected to the position Steve Rotheram hit out at the staffing levels proposed by the Authority when it was led by Joe Anderson. These staffing levels are far higher than those suggested by Mayor Anderson and at much higher salary levels.
Other highlights from the staffing list include:
- A Director of Policy and Strategic Commissioning for £124,848 a year which is a higher salary than Liverpool Council pays for Executive Directors with huge responsibilities.
- A communications team of 11 people who seem simply to recycle press releases from the Mayor of Greater Manchester.
- There are two heads of investment at £87,000 a go
- A head of Government Relations at £87,000
- Housing staff when housing is not a core function of the authority but a responsibility of the 6 Boroughs within the City Region.
Scrutiny within the Authority clearly is not working. The scrutiny committee has had to scratch around to get a quorum and sometimes has not been able to meet because of a lack of one. That lack of scrutiny by politicians, the press and frankly people like me has meant that the staffing levels and rates of pay have grown enormously from those originally planned.
Back room boffins are being paid for by taxpayers when what is needed is enhanced front line staffing levels. £99,555 for an assistant director of research is ludicrous when we have three universities in the City with a huge and relevant research capability.
The Regional Mayor’s remuneration at £93,000 is approximately 3 times the median wage within the City Region. Nice work if you can get it and very good money for an organisation which has few delivery functions outside transport for which there are separate budgets and staffing levels.
All the Authority has done is to spend money which had been applied for and agreed when the Combined Authority adopted the Mayoral model. So what do the Regional Mayor and Combined Authority actually do? The answer appears to be relatively little as the key headlines that Steve Rotheram will campaign on for re-election such as a new Ferry; bus regulation and a tidal barrage on the Mersey are the same ones that he campaigned on three years ago. In fact, the tidal barrage for power generation has been a priority since the 1970s.
The original idea when I supported the creation of the Combined Authority which needed a Mayor in the model that the Government proposed was that there would be a merging of teams and not the creation of a new one. By now all strategic economic development activity should be being undertaken by one team not 6 separate ones for each Council. The big stuff should be done centrally while the small-scale stuff continues to be done by each council.
The housing work relating to rough sleepers should have been handed direct to the 6 Councils who are the strategic housing authorities and could have been merged effortlessly with the existing anti homelessness work of those councils.
We could have entered a much more effective system of providing back office work together across the City Region. Why do we have separate Directors of Public Health, legal teams, revenues and benefits teams and tax collection teams when they are all doing basically the same thing but costing money to do them separately.
The Mayor of the City Region needs to get a firm grip on spending and ensure that next year there is no levy for fancy pants jobs on the hard-pressed taxpayers of the Liverpool City Region.
Can you learn anything from that city down the road Manchester?