It would be absolutely wrong of me to comment on the events which on Friday led to the arrest of Mayor Anderson. I have been advising people not to speculate and I have no intention of ignoring my own advice.
There are things that can be said however, which don’t impact on the case which affects the way we do business.
On the 6th May next year we have the opportunity to change the Council. Whatever happens to the Mayor in the meantime he will be up for election. That means he can be voted out of office. As you may have seen I have suggested that the honourable thing for him to do is to at minimum step aside from the Mayoralty or, even better, resign. However, a weakness of the Mayoral system, which he introduced with a compliant Labour Party is that he cannot be forced to do this. He could even ignore a vote of no confidence of the Labour Party.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Under the legislation that applied at the time the Council had only two choices for the way it ran itself. It could either have the Mayoral model which is what we currently labour under (pun intended – sorry) or the system we had before that in which the Leader of the Council is elected by the controlling Party or Parties. The Leader of the Council model means that they can be disposed because they are answerable to the people of Liverpool via the members of the Council.
However, there is now a third model available. A committee system with committee membership proportional to the political membership of the Council as a whole. In some ways we have this now. We have Select Committees which scrutinise the Cabinet but in fact they are next to useless. Members are kept in check with a series of PowerPoint presentations to make them feel important.
This would change if they were given decision making power as they used to have before 2000. Under this system far more councillors are involved in decision making and there is far more real scrutiny of decisions because Cllrs actually vote on the propositions every time. This will stop there being so many dark corners in the Council. Far too much happens under delegated powers. Far too many decisions get taken by too few people. As an example of our lack of power even if the Council voted by a large majority to oppose a decision of the Cabinet all we can do now is refer it back to the Cabinet who can ignore the vote.
Last week Cheshire East voted to return to this system after May and Wirral has already made a similar decision. Up to now, our policy in Liverpool has been to return to the Leader/Cabinet model as the lesser of two evils but my own preference would be to move to a Committee system. At the right time and in the right way Liverpool Liberal Democrats will consider this and include it in our actions and policy programme.
But this is not the only thing that needs to change. We need to ensure that those who control the Council under any system should do so properly. That means putting temptation out of their way. We propose a number of changes:
- The public diary of the Leader of the Council should be available for inspection. This would also apply to either Cabinet Members or Committee chairs if the new system was introduced.
- Notes should be taken of every meeting that the Leader of the Council has. This would also apply to either Cabinet Members or Committee chairs if the new system was introduced.
- The Leader should not have meetings with any organisation without a relevant officer being present. This would also apply to either Cabinet Members or Committee chairs if the new system was introduced.
- Political Parties should declare locally every donation that is received from any organisation that does business with the Council or is seeking planning applications etc. Lib Dems have a policy not to accept money from any such businesses.
- It must be made easier for Councillors and members of the Public to access information about acceptance of tenders or awarding of contracts, sale of land or any other financial transaction outside these areas.
Frankly, we should not have to be considering matters like these. They are just good practice and should be part of the internal wiring and thinking of any elected member or council staff.
On May 6th we will be working hard to increase the number of Lib Dems on the Council to enable us to hold Labour to account better. If we haven’t by then managed to persuade the Council to abolish the Mayoralty (watch this space) I will be standing with a pledge to immediately start the legal processes to abolish the position I have just been elected to.
I need your help to bring the brooms in and sweep the cobwebs and worse out. You can help by joining us, delivering leaflets for us or otherwise campaigning with us. The other thing we need is money to spread our message across the City. If you can donate to us we would be most grateful. Unlike other Parties all our money comes from small donations to the Parry or what our members put in. Whatever you can put in will be appreciated and will assist our fight.
You can donate here: https://t.co/P4tQR64OCM?amp=1