Today my nomination papers have been submitted and I am officially the Lib Dem Mayoral Candidate for Liverpool. I am looking forward to the campaign although, because of Covid restrictions, it will be very different to any I have fought in before.
It is clear that putting the Council right will be a long journey. Our internal structures both political and managerial need a major overhaul. Putting the City right will take even longer. Remember we have 39 stalled sites and somehow, we will have to find between £250 and 500 million of public money to put right.
But there’s also a saying that the longest journey is started with the first step. I think we need to move fast as a Council to restore confidence in the City by showing that the Council is setting off in the right direction to do the right things.
I intend to do 10 things within the first 10 minutes to show my intent on behalf of me and my Liverpool Liberal Democrat team. These are my first steps. They are baby steps which will expand and grow over the years but I hope that you too will think they are the right ones:
- I will rename the position I hold to that of Leader of the Council. Just like all the other councils in the Region. I will have to lead using mayoral powers and routes because that is the legal position I will inherit. I will mitigate those powers wherever I can to make the council more of a normal one.
- I will halve the salary received by the current postholder which is grossly more than that received by other Leaders in the Region. Seeking election should be a way of giving service not making a profit.
- I will take away any mentions of Mayoral funds or programmes and not replace them with Leader programmes. We are one Council and will work as one council.
- I will request the head of democratic services to establish a series of monthly ‘Meet the Leader’ meetings in the Town Hall, if safe, which will last for up to two hours and will allow any resident or local business person to submit questions and ask supplementary questions.
- I will request the Chief Executive to prepare a report on the due processes to be followed to consult the people of Liverpool on the system of governance that they want to see. There are four options which can be used and we Lib Dems believe that it is the people of Liverpool who should make the decision on the right one for our City. I don’t know when is the right time to move to another system given the problems indicated by the Caller report but I vow that if it is within my power, I will be the last person ever to be elected as Mayor of Liverpool.
- I will abolish the Mayoral Leads with immediate effect for those both within and outside the Council. I will not see taxpayer’s money used as political sweeteners providing no benefit to taxpayers in the running of the Council.
- I will reduce the size of the Cabinet from 10 to 8. This will give a focus on getting the Council right and concentrating on the key priorities which are contained within the City Plan. It will provide a clear basis for accountable strategies and performance.
- I will institute a reduction in the number and scope of scrutiny committees on the same lines as the Cabinet. This will enable all councillors to adopt real key performance indicators to monitor the performance of Cabinet Members and senior staff.
- I will establish an independent audit committee to oversee the internal and external audits of the Council and its owned companies. We simply don’t do this now as has been picked up within the Caller report. I will ask this committee to review the effectiveness of Grant Thornton, our current external auditors, and beef up the internal audit team.
- I will invite the Leader of the Labour and Green Parties to discuss with me the establishment of an all-Party Cabinet, in essence a ‘War Cabinet’, to take our City out of this current mess. I anticipate that this all-Party Cabinet will last until the all up elections on new boundaries which will take place in 2023.
All this will be announced or initiated in the first 10 minutes of taking office. They are important in their own right but they are also important in meeting some of the demands of the Caller Report and Government. By 24th May we need to propose an improvement plan. Some of the things here will move forward as important parts of the programme. Councillors, in particular, need much training and support. Too few councillors have had the training to allow them to undertake the vital duties that we need to perform.
So, what do you think? Do you like the things here? Do you think I’m moving too fast or too slow? Do you want the mayoralty to end? How do you want to see the Council run? Should the Leader have public question times?
I hope that now that a Labour candidate has been announced we can move quickly to hold virtual hustings meetings when my ideas and those of others can be tested. Above all you need to decide which of the candidates has the experience and ideas to move the City forward So can I make you a challenge? Do you belong to an organisation, club, society, voluntary group, resident’s association? If you do why don’t you get the organisation to challenge the candidates to a debate.
On May 6th either the Labour candidate or I will be elected. I hope that before you go to vote you will test us to the full in order to decide how to use your vote for the good of your family, community and City.