It was quite a week last week. There were three big events in Liverpool but two of them, the World Heritage Status announcement and the leaked report into the running of the Labour Party took up so much air time and energy that the third one got almost overlooked.
This was the second of Joe Anderson’s three attempts to get a Judicial Review of three organisations too place in Court.
The first Judicial Review has already been knocked back without a hearing costing Mr Anderson £8,000. This was an attempt to declare that the arrest of Mr Anderson and his son David was in some way unlawful. As the case was thrown out before coming to court, we do not know why he was claiming this.
The third is a Judicial Review against the Government for producing the Caller Report and the conclusions that it has come to. As this has not yet been to Court, we don’t know what arguments will be advanced. However, what is beyond doubt is that the Government has the right to order a ‘Best Value Inspection’, and that the conclusions of the Caller Report were broadly correct. Perhaps Mr Anderson is most concerned about the Memorandum of Understand that Caller and the team agreed with the Police investigating a wide range of concerns within the Council. This one is, in my opinion highly unlikely to succeed.
The case that actually came to Court was a Judicial Review of the decision made by the Council not to pay for Mr Anderson’s legal costs. Elected representatives do have legal indemnity for their work I have once or twice been threatened by people that they would sue me, take me to court, ‘have my house off me’ by people who did not like things that I had done or decisions that I had made. These threats have never come to anything because people calmed down. They realised that although they might not have liked what I did (others did like what I did,) I had acted correctly and legally.
It is right that Officers and Members should have this protection as does anyone who is an employee will get covered by their employer. The proviso, however, is that I must be doing things properly and legally. I have certain enhanced rights of free speech as a Councillor but I must exercise that with caution. I can describe another councillor as being incompetent, that is a matter of opinion. But I cannot stand up in the Chamber and accuse him or her of being a bigamist because that would have to be a statement of fact.
To take decisions out of the political arena, decisions as to support an officer or councillor or not are made by the senior officers of the Council guided by the City Solicitor. This does not work perfectly. I believe that the Council wrongly supported Mr Anderson when he took on Sefton Council to get them to keep paying him when he was not working. In this case, after having an independent solicitor attend the first set of police interviews, they came to the conclusion that the allegations were not about normal business but abnormal business and the Council refused to pay out more taxpayer’s money.
I believe that they are right. We can now talk about the area s in which those investigations are being taken and against which arrests have been made. I make clear here that neither Mr Anderson or anyone else has been charged and I will not make any comment about the areas of investigation or what I know about them. We can talk about the nature of them because they have been voiced in court by Mr Anderson’s team and are therefore, ‘on the record’.
The first allegation is that Mr Anderson intimidated the Council’s Chief Executive who is a potential witness in cases where arrests had already been made.
The second is that he had in his possession documents that he legally should not have had and had been told that he should not have them. This related to a disciplinary proceeding where he was himself a witness.
The third area of the police investigation is the allegation Mr Anderson received financial advantages in exchange for either access to privileged information, privileged access or contracts. This is in connection with the contract received by his son’s company for work in connection with the demolition of the flyover.
I emphasise again that no charges have yet been brought. We don’t know if any of these matters will come to court. We also don’t know if the Police investigations will lead to more arrests and more charges. Latest opinion is that there will be charges laid in the late autumn but these are speculative assessments of when a complex set of cases will be brought to resolution.
There may well be some things that take place inside the Council before then relating to the internal disciplinary proceedings for officers and members.
So, for those who are taking a keen interest in these matters there is no some clarity about the potential charges to one of the 15 people arrested. I continue to urge patience and caution. These are complex issues and the Police are investigating them thoroughly.
The Judge who heard the case has reserved judgement so we have yet to know the outcome. I really hope that the Council is successful and that no more taxpayer’s money is paid out on Mr Anderson’s behalf. It would be interesting to know who is paying the money if the Council isn’t. I suspect that the long-suffering members of Unite the Union, could well be picking up the tab.
It is estimated that the Council wasted or lost more than £100,000,000 during Anderson’s wasted decade. Let’s not waste any more.