This is my response on behalf of the Liberal Democrats to the publication of today’s Inspection Report by The Government.
Liberal Democrats response following the publication of the Caller report into Liverpool City Council.
Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Richard Kemp CBE (Lib Dem) said:
“This is a sad day for our city which the people of Liverpool do not deserve.
The inspection team led by an independent Civil Servant, Max Caller, has exposed the grotesque practices of Liverpool Council over the past decade which Lib Dems have continually raised but were stonewalled by Labour and former officers. We continually warned about land transactions, tendering and other areas where there was a clear lack of due process. We continually warned about the lack of proper governance and the failure of the scrutiny process of the Cabinet and Officers. The Caller Report has vindicated our continued and continuing objections to bad and malpractice within the Council.
There can be no doubt where the blame lies for the damage that has been done to Liverpool’s reputation. Liverpool Council has a Labour Mayor with a cabinet of 9 members, all Labour. Liverpool Labour have controlled the Council since 2010 and have 72 of the 90 Councillors.
All three people who have been Deputy Mayor, Cllrs Brant, O’Byrne and Simon and all current or former cabinet members connected to decisions in Regeneration, Planning or Property Development should resign today. I will ask the senior Labour Representative being imposed on the Liverpool Labour Party to investigate all such people.
If they knew what was going on, they are implicated. If they did not, they are incompetent
No other Council in living memory has seen 16 arrests and a senior officer being summarily dismissed.
- There has been inappropriate behaviour from Council officers and from Labour councillors leading to many of the problems that the Inspection Team have reported on.
- There has been huge waste within the Council and a squandering of Council taxpayer’s money, and a failure to collect £millions that should have been due to the council from Developers.
- There must be proper recording and scrutiny of all council decisions with an open culture which welcomes criticism and accountability.
- No Councillor or Officer should accept hospitality from developers which places them in a position to be compromised.
It is right then that the Government should insist on some level of intervention. That intervention needs to be achieved in a way that strengthens the Council by increasing the capacity of officers and members. It is welcomed then that the intervention will only be imposed on the wider regeneration functions of the Council.
Where I cannot agree with The Secretary of State is the suggestion that we move to a smaller number of Councillors in single member wards in 2023. This totally ignores the community leadership role provided by Councillors, especially those in deprived parts of the City. It also ignores the elephant in the room the position of Elected Mayor.
The post of Mayor was imposed on Liverpool It gives too much power to one person. Liberal Democrats would seek to abolish it and offer the people of Liverpool full consultation on all the options for governance open to them.
Just as it did after the Militant and Hatton era it will take many years to overcome the damage done to the finances and reputation of our City.
Just as we did then the Liberal Democrats and the people of Liverpool will bring the City through this crisis and we ask for their support on 6th May.”