Liverpool Council must deal with the boring bits

As the Government Inspection Report shows the Council’s mechanisms just are not working effectively. How we make decisions and monitor the actions that flow from them must be overhauled.

If I was going out canvassing and opened my conversation with, “we’ve got some really exciting ideas about due process and governance which will transform our City”, I would be looked at with amazement which I would see in the 3 seconds before the door closed. Most people simply don’t care about issues like this and why should they?

But anyone who wants to lead the council out of the mess it is in not only needs to care but needs to have answers to address the multiple failings in the Caller Report. Some of those failings are on the management side and the Chief Executive will need to conduct a view of all our officer led delivery and recording systems especially when it comes to the disposal of council assets.

On the other side – that inhabited by politicians – Mr Caller was even more scathing. It is quite clear that he believes that our system of scrutinising the direction and performance of the council is woeful.

About three weeks ago I sat down with a senior officer and Cllr Leon Tootle when we discussed a paper that I had written about a way forward. I’m not sure that I know what happens now with the Acting Mayor ceasing to be the Acting Mayor on 7th May and Cllr Tootle leaving the Council altogether.

Below is my revised note as a result of that meeting. You might find it incomprehensible or boring or both! But I do want to assure you that as Council Leader I would be paying attention to these boring but absolutely vital bits of work. It’s a bit like having a good looking car which is going in the right direction. If what’s under the bonnet isn’t working the car won’t get far!!

If you do want to comment on any of this please get in touch:       

Reorganisation of Committee Structure

Committees outside the Select Committee system but inside the proportionality rules.

  1. Mayoral Overview, Financial Control and Performance Management Committee. Chaired by Member appointed by the main opposition Party normally presumed to be the Leader with a Deputy Chair from the controlling Party.

To look at Key Performance Indicators from across the Council and hold the Mayor/Leader and Chief Executive accountable for them. To consider, before final presentation to Council, all overarching strategies. To oversee and approve the work programmes of all other select committees in relation to supporting the delivery of the Corporate (City) Plan and associated work programme. This Committee will report direct to council.

  • Audit and Companies Management Committee. Chaired by a member of the controlling Party with a deputy chair from an opposition Party.

To agree and monitor the annual audit plan of the internal and external auditors and to present them to Council. To receive the annual internal and external auditor’s annual reports and present them to Council. To order specific internal or external audit actions; consider the Accounts and management of council owned companies and to receive and consider the annual audit report from the external auditors. This Committee will report direct to Council.

Note: As these committees will have some authority over the work of the Council and or committees their members will serve on no select committee.

The work of the Mayoral Overview Committee will be supported by a new head of scrutiny.

The work of the Audit & Companies Governance Committee will be supported by a new part time appointment of an independent technical adviser reporting directly to the Chair, Deputy Chair and membership of the committee.  This will be properly and transparently advertised.

Six Select Committees to mirror the City Plan and to perform statutory roles.

  1. Social Care and Health Care Committee

To consider all aspects of social care from cradle to grave. To act as the statutory committee for reviewing NHS performance and statutory health plans. To review all aspects of equalities needs within the Council and City.

  • Education, Training, Skills and Culture Committee

To consider the all aspects of education, training skills and culture, including reviewing the performance of universities and colleges and to act as the statutory Education Committee.

  • Regeneration, Development and Employment Committee

To consider all aspects of Regeneration, Strategic Development, housing and employment initiatives in the City from the Council, private sector and Combined Authority.

  • Tourism and Culture

To scrutinise all aspects of the Tourism and Culture offer of the City Council and its departments including an assessment of relevant employment and promotional strategies.

  • Climate Change and Transportation Committee

To consider all environmental and transport initiatives of the Council, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and other partners.

  • Communities, Housing and Community Safety

To look at all aspects of community development, housing strategy and community safety.

All the above select committees to combine three workstreams:

  • Proactive policy development in partnership with the relevant chief officer and cabinet member
  • Pre and post scrutiny of Cabinet decisions
  • Review of KPIs of relevant organisations within the City

The Chairs and Deputy Chairs to be shared on a proportional basis between the Parties on the Council.

Other Committees:

  1. Planning Committee – No change
  2. Licensing Committee – No change
  3. Disciplinary & Appointments – No Change
  4. Health & Wellbeing Board – No Change
  5. Combine Member Development, Governance and Standards Committee
  6. Cabinet – Change membership of Cabinet to include none voting Leader of the main Opposition Party and with changes of responsibilities as below.
  7. Group Leaders Meeting – To develop the informal meetings of Group Leaders into a formal meeting of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and other Group Leaders. In the first instance this would be the grouping that responds to the improvement plan which will flow from the Inspection Team.
  8. All other committees and outside appointments unchanged.

This would give a reduction of one Select Committee and the creation of more coherent strands of investigation of pro and reactive policy making relating to the City Plan. It would also take out 2 other committee by combining other committees into more coherent strands.

Moreover, it would create a clear point of focus for interrogating the Mayor and Chief Executive on the overall position of the Council including the day to day finance. The separation of these aspects will leave an Independent Committee able to concentrate on council companies and continuing internal and external audit.

Each Select Committee in addition to its Council members will have 4 unpaid advisory members selected from appropriate Public, private and community organisations after an advertising process.

Reorganisation of the Cabinet

If it is accepted that it makes sense to reorganise the Select Committees to meet the leadership requirements of the City Plan then it would make sense to do the same for the Cabinet.

This could create:

The Mayor/Leader responsible for the leadership and direction of the Council as a whole.

The Deputy Mayor/Deputy Leader responsible for the finance and organisation of the Council.

6 Cabinet Members responsible for each of the City Plan strands.

This is, of course, in the gift of the Mayor/Leader but to align Cabinet posts with the Plan and scrutiny will maximise the efficiency and the capacity of the whole organisation.


About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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