Today is an important day in the life of Liverpool although we will only know how important next week. Today the Inspection team led by Max Caller is going to submit its report to the Government on the dreadful state of Liverpool City Council. Next week the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, will announce to Parliament the conclusion of that report and the steps that he intends to take. This will probably be on Wednesday.
The council is bracing itself for that report. The Labour Party are fearful of the results and well they should be. This is one of two types of report being compiled at the moment. This report will look at the competence of the Council and will recommend a wide range of structural changes. The Council report will create huge changes in the way we do business. Excellent – big changes are required.
The other report is the one that will be presented by the Police to the Crown Prosecution Service looking at a wide range of criminal allegations. This may bring life style changes to those who are charged but may also bring closure to the thousands of people who have lost thousands of millions of pounds in a series of Ponzi schemes which have robbed them of their savings.
We know that the Police investigations will only come to a conclusion in the summer because Mayor Anderson and Co have been bailed until then. But what should we look out for next week? I’ll be looking at the report in three sectors:
Firstly, what happened before the middle of 2018? It is clear that the Inspectors will be looking at a series of incompetences and mal practices throughout the regeneration department. I believe that it will find poor leadership, both political and managerial, bad and corrupt practices in the awarding of contracts. I suspect that only part of this will become clear now.
Worryingly for those who have been arrested there has been an agreement for the Inspection Team to exchange information with the police’s Operation Aloft. The police don’t really understand how local government works. Max Caller does and I have little doubt that things he has found will have been passed on.
Secondly, what’s happened after the middle of 2018? My own reflection is that the managerial side of the Council has been massively improved since the next Chief Executive arrived at that time. Slack practices have been abolished, proper processes have been introduced to the managerial side. There is a greater sense of openness and honesty. A greater sense of the need to have high level strategies and then deliver them.
I suspect that the Inspectors will commend the direction of progress made by the new team and suggest greater support is needed at the heart of the Council to help our top management team.
That change has not been mirrored on the political leadership of the Council. We can see from the desperate straits of the Labour Party in selecting a replacement for Mayor Anderson just how little drive and direction the ‘controlling Party has. There has been no overview of the investments made by the Council many of which have been loss making. No overview of the Companies owned by the Council. No effective use of the internal and external audit programmes. No review of how the Council is performing against other Councils either the Core Cities or local councils within the City Region.
Lastly, what does the report expect the Council to do in future? Here it will focus on the improvement of the internal processes of the council in the way it ensures efficiency and abolishes the opportunities for poor or malpractice. Clearly record keeping of decision making and decision makers has been poor. The people in several departments, for whatever reason, have been unable to fully discharge their responsibilities.
The report will suggest sweeping changes in the political process to look at things that seem tedious like improving our overview and scrutiny functions but are absolutely vital if we are to provide cost effective and functionally effective services to our residents.
Will the Commissioners be sent in to run the Council? My hunch is that this will not happen but there will be a level of support provided on a compulsory basis. There will be compulsory support for all the Groups on the Council and a huge training programme for councillors to deal with the obvious deficiencies in our knowledge and competence.
All that costs money and the Council will have to find it. We have already paid out £140,000 for the inspection team and we will have to find most, if not all, the costs of improvement and supervision. We have to pay and, in fact, it will lead to savings in the future. But we will also pay in terms of reputational damage. The Council and the City have been drastically damaged by the 16 arrests and the need to bring in an inspection team and support process. It will take a long time for us to live down this debacle and that will cost investment and it will cost jobs.
There is another Way!! At least one Party in Liverpool accepts the real need for change. On May 6th I will be leading a strong team of Liberal Democrats on election day. I am the Mayoral candidate (a position I will abolish) and we have Lib Dems standing throughout the City. These range from old hands like Andrew Makinson (Church), Mirna Juarez (Allerton & Hunts Cross), Malcolm Kelly, (Woolton), Pat Moloney (Childwall) but also includes strong and promising newcomers such as Rebecca Turner (Wavertree), Rob Mc-Alister-Bell (Mossley Hill) and Richard Clein (Cressington).
We have already suggested many ways in which to change the way that the council works and many policies to lead us out of the dreadful pandemic. All we need now is your support and your help. Please vote for us on May 6th and if you want to take things further you can offer to help us or join us at http://www.liverlibdems.org.uk.