We are all now aware of the financial and procedural deficits of Liverpool Council over the past 10 years. We have had a regeneration department that has gone rogue leading to huge losses to the tax payers of Liverpool, reputational damage to the City and who knows what else the continuing police investigations might find?
At the core of the problems appears to have been a disdain ensuring that the Council engaged in its business in a proper and decent way. A lack of acceptance that in the way it did its business there needed to be a moral core to our work as the elected representatives of the people.
In the private sector all the talk nowadays is about ESG. Environment, Social and Governance concerns. I have long argued that ESG was, or at least should be, an unnecessary concept in the elected bodies of the land. Regrettably, over the past couple of years we have seen corruption at every level. I won’t reprise again the specific problems of Liverpool. In Westminster and Whitehall this has been amplified further.
£billions worth of contracts have been given to people who have been friends of Tory Ministers or donors to the Tory Party. £500,000 for poling by friends of Dom. £33billon to Serco to conduct an appalling run and led Track and Trace programme. In Liverpool and London dodgy contracts were written to obtain PPE which was useless.
My colleagues and I must leave the national problems to others but we do want to do more to correct the attitudes which have been at the core of the problems in Liverpool. At the Council meeting on 21st July we will be moving a motion which will begin to address the three core areas. Areas which we want to put at the heart of our thought processes in everything than we do; in everything that we spend; in every partnership that we forge; and in every investment that we make.
If you look at the agendas of countless committees and indeed of full council, you would think that such as motion as we are moving was unnecessary. We have poured out countless resolutions, written scores of letters to Ministers, made pious speeches but we failed to live up tour own words.
You can see in the full motion which I show below we are not arrogant enough to think that a mere resolution will change things or even yet more words for well-meaning politicians.
We are asking the powerful Audit Committee to consider these moral issues alongside all the procedural and financial reviews they need to make. But at the heart of the things we do we must put the opinions of the people that we represent. That’s why we are asking the Audit Committee to enter into a two-way consultation process within the City’s both residential and business communities.
On the environment we want to ask questions about what we should invest in. For example, should we as a Council that, in theory, has accepted the climate change challenge and the urgency required to deal with it, invest in a sports car company?
On social grounds should we be allowing a wholly owned company of the Council to hold an arms fair in the City?
On governance grounds should we be changing our methods and practices to bring the Council’s decision-making processes closer to the people and make them far more transparent?
Of course, we Lib Dems have our own answers to these questions. You can probably guess what they are. The only reason that we are reticent about bringing those ideas is because we do not want to pre-empt proper public discussion. This is not our City, Councillors act as custodians of the Council on behalf of the people. We genuinely want to have a major discussion about this issue which should lie at the heart of the way we do things.
Tomorrow our Chief Whip, Cllr Kelly, will be at a pre-Council meeting with Labour’s Chief Whip. We hope to join our motion with one from Labour and hope that it will be a meaningful and committed all-Party approach to taking forward the moral standing of the Council on to a higher level.
As always, we would be delighted to hear from you what you think. That’s why our motion is given in full below. You can email me at Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org or any of our councillors at a similar address.
Creation of an ethical Environment, Social and Governance framework for the Council
Cllr Richard Kemp CBE
Council notes with concern a continued failure of the Council to prohibit relationships and partnerships which the majority of the people of Liverpool and their councillors will find offensive such as the Arms Fair taking place at the Liverpool Arena and a £1,000,000 investment in a sports car company.
It believes that as part of its review of governance, regeneration, procurement policies and council owned companies it should urgently review its ethical framework to restrict the ability of the council to engage in any way in activities of any sort which do not meet ethical criteria which would be inimical to the people of Liverpool.
It requests the Audit Committee to consider this matter and to consult with the people of Liverpool on areas where the Council’s external relationships should be restricted.