The cost of the legacy of Joe Anderson is still mounting up with a report to next week’s Cabinet indicating costs to improve the Council of £2.5 million over the next 3 years. The costs include the costs of the Commissioners and a range of training and support programmes that need to be delivered to ensure that both staff and councillors are both knowledgeable about and competent to manage the challenges of pulling Liverpool Council back from the brink.
This figure does not include the cost of the Caller led Best Value Inspection team which came to about £150,000.
I am not quibbling about this figure. The Council is in a mess and we always knew that we would need support to put it right. It can be seen in the context of the £100,000,000+ that has been lost in various ways. We have a gross budget of about £1 billion a year so this a relatively small amount. But it is money that has had to be moved from the delivery of front-line services when the Council has many problems with the environment, adult social care, roads and education.
Joe Anderson always claimed that Liverpool had been singled out for cuts from the Government. It is absolutely true that Councils have been underfunded since 2010 but Liverpool was dealt with in the same way as other councils. The same formulae were applied and all Councils took a hit.
What made us different was the spectacular incompetence or worse, that Liverpool suffered. The £100,000,000 largely but not exclusively came from the regeneration dept. We failed to collect commercial rents; we failed to get planning gain money; we gave assets away at ‘mates rates’ to selected chums of Labour, many of whom contributed to Labour campaign funds; we allowed incompetent practices which meant that we failed to provide the efficiency that Liverpool council tax payers deserved.
We employed some people at less than reasonable competence levels at the highest levels of and then, in two cases, leased high end cars at a cost to taxpayers of £90,000 to encourage people to come to Liverpool and cause havoc.
I am sure that there are more horrors to come out. Our staff are getting into the systems which have gone so terribly wrong. They are being supported in this by the new Mayor and Cabinet and, through the proper political process, the Lib Dems are supporting them. We are beginning to introduce proper scrutiny into the process in part with the creation of a powerful and independent Audit Committee chaired by my Lib Dem colleague, Cllr Kris Brown.
Some of the costs will be more long-term. We have no idea about the cash required from the public sector to remediate the failed developments in and around the City Centre. Our education service has taken a huge hit. In 2010, Liverpool was the best performing education authority in the Core Cities and above average in comparison to every English authority. Since then standards have declined an we are now a poor performer on almost every indicator.
I am amazed that Joe Anderson is still proceeding with a judicial review of the Council’s decision not to pay for his legal costs. He has lost one case against the Police which will have cost someone, I would guess the long-suffering members of UNITE, £8,000. This would have been much more if the Judge had not thrown it out on the first hearing as being without merit.
He is still continuing with two attempted judicial reviews.
The first is against the Government because he claims, in the face of all the evidence, that the Caller report is all wrong and has damaged the Council and his own reputation!
The second is against the Council on the grounds that we should be paying his legal costs for the other two legal actions! The City Solicitor and Chief Executive have stood firm on this with the support of all reasonable councillors. It is true that Councillors have a legal indemnity to defend actions properly taken if legal challenges are made to them personally. The Caller Report has laid bare the Council’s problems that were caused by the attitudes and behaviour of the Mayor and some of those that he brought in. We should not have to pay twice for that set of unacceptable actions.
Joe Anderson has cost every homeowner in Liverpool about £1,000. It’s time he said, ‘enough is enough’ and got on with the work of defending his own actions using his own money.