Anyone who has seen the Secretary of State for Local Government, Robert Jenrick, stumbling through his brief will realise that he has been grossly over promoted from his job as a fireplace salesman. The question now must surely be will be short term intervention into the property and contractual deals of Liverpool Council damage the 18-month police investigations in the City.
This boy child has clearly wanted to show that HE IS DOING SOMETHING!!??** but at what cost? Below I set out the letter that I have sent to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry saying that a long-term intervention would be the wrong thing to do. In the short-term Government size 9s might actually contribute to such a muddying of the waters that cases will need to be abandoned and people who might be prepared to talk might become less likely to.
It has long been known that things have not been well within the property market in Liverpool. This is not to tar everyone with the same brush but there are a large number of shabby deals involving fractional investments and now property bonds where, in my opinion, ordinary ‘person in the street’ investors have lost between £0.5 and £1 billion. I have been drawing attention to this scandal since 2012 and yet sometimes felt like a lone voice. How involved parts of the Council or individuals within the Council have been is not for me to speculate but for the Police to investigate.
I believe that they must be extremely careful with what they do with the information that the Council will send them tomorrow. The most important thing now is to let the Police get on with their work rather than respond to a desperate plea from a Minister who wants to be noticed!
Noticeably, however, the Government has not said a word about this or done a thing about this. The matter has been raised in the Commons, not least by Vince Cable, but the Government has adopted a laissez-faire policy that the market will sort things out. Not really surprising. This is a Government of Spivs, chancers and hedge fund brokers. Dodgy deals and tax evasion come as naturally to them as breathing. So why now? The most likely reason is because Anderson is a Labour politician.
The Government is in difficulty with huge splits in their ranks so what better than to try and divert attention to supposed misdemeanours in another Party? Little people losing money doesn’t concern them but getting obe over on Labour suits them well. So, my warning to the Government is don’t screw things up in the short term. It’s also my warning to them in the long term.
I have written to the Permanent Secretary and warned them against putting in Commissioners if they don’t like what they see in the information that the Council sends them. If they come in now, they will let Labour off the hook. The Labour Party have created the problems that exist in our City and the Labour Party must either own the problems and solve them or get out of the way and let another Party solve them. Commissioners will allow Labour to claim ignorance and also to avoid coming up with the changes needed to restore confidence. As I say in my letter it is not the Government’s job to change the politics of Liverpool but mine. My Lib Dem team and I will be trying to do this in May which will be the most important election in the City for decades.
In my view many of the internal actions of the Council either have been or are in the process of being sorted by our new officer team. I hope that the Government will come and review the changes that are being made here and certify that those changes have created robust methods for dealing with the interfaces between public and private sectors. If they say so publicly, they can do some good as this will encourage public and private.
This is one of the three things that I have suggested which I list here.
Firstly, the Labour Group needs help and help is available for them. The current Cabinet is one of the worst if not the worst serving in any City in the Country. Help could eb provided by bringing in competent Labour Leaders from other Councils such as Manchester and Leeds to assist them. Such hep has been offered before but almost always refused.
Secondly, the Government must review and publicly acknowledge the considerable steps that have been made by officers which are hindered by the incompetence of the Labour administration.
Thirdly, I think we need help with our legal department on whose watch too much has gone wrong with deals and development.
My full letter is attached below. As ever I would be pleased to enter a dialogue with anyone who has solid views or information. I have already passed on the Operation Upload team within the Police details of someone who approached me yesterday and said that they want to talk to them.
My letter to the Permanent Secretary at MHCLG
Government intervention in Liverpool.
I hope things are well with you. I have read in the Liverpool Echo details of the letter that you have sent to the Council. I am a little surprised that in a democracy MHCLG appears to have involved the press via a posting on your website but not the Leader of the Opposition on the Council!
You will be aware that not only am I the Lib Dem Leader but I am also the longest serving Councillor. I have seen Liverpool from within the Council for 38 years and survived the Militant period. In addition to this I have been an LGA officer for 23 years including being its senior vice chair. I have intervened in many of the most problematic councils in the Country either as an Inspector for the Audit Commission or as a peer mentor/reviewer for the LGA.
Using all this experience I can tell you that a general involvement of Commissioners in the City would be a great idea for the Lib Dems, just imagine the headlines that we could generate in our campaigns, but it would be a bad idea for the Council and the City that we serve.
As I have communicated with you before many of the issues which are being investigated by the Police are legacy issues going back to different times with different officers. There have been many problems with the way that the Council worked with developers in the past. It is interesting to note that successive Government’s chose to ignore the problems whilst they were happening despite all the evidence that I used and tried to fight with.
Since those dark days we have recruited two officers who in my experience are amongst the best in the Country. Our Chief Executive, Tony Reeves has changed dramatically the way that we interact with the private sector not only in terms of property development but in all aspects of tendering and financial interactions.
Our 151 Officer, Mel Creighton, has an iron grip on our finances. Despite what Mayor Anderson said Liverpool was never in danger of having an S114 notice issued. I have no doubt, following a meeting that we have had today, that Liverpool will balance its books for this year and has a strong process in hand to deal with next year’s budget when we receive our final settlement in the next few days.
The real problem in Liverpool is not the officers but the politicians. The C-Ex and the 151 officer can control the excesses of the politicians but cannot create in them the knowledge, capacity or vision to take the City forward. But it is not your job to change the politics of the City but mine! A general intervention in the Council’s affairs would undermine the work of our officers and let the politicians off the hook.
I believe that there are three ways in which the Government could help Liverpool:
- Insist that the Labour Group gets mentoring support from Labour politicians from places lie Manchester and Leeds.
- A review be taken of the Council’s interactions with the private sector to verify the strength of the actions that the Officers have already given and give clear public confirmation that the direction of travel is sound and to provide our officers with more support to carry out their work.
- Undertake a specific review of our legal department which I believe is under powered and has been unable to exert is statutory powers in past times.
I am sure that you will realise that what I am proposing is just bad politics. It would be best for us to let chaos ensue and for you to unleash the commissioners. However, my primary concern, and that of the Lib Dem group, is the wellbeing of the people of Liverpool.
That is why I am suggesting that a lesser set of actions would actually have more effect and be less divisive.
Finally, I hope that the decisions about Liverpool and necessary support or interventions will be taken by you and your staff and not undertaken on the whim of a politician.
I am available to speak to you and your staff at any time.