Will officers take the rap for Liverpool Political incompetence?

Enough is enough. Tonight we will move that the pay of three politicians who have presided over the electricity fiasco should be docked by 25%

So let me give you two guesses. Am I talking about Liverpool, or Westminster here? Well ten out of ten to those who realised that I am talking about both. There are uncanny similarities between things that are playing out in London and the way that the controlling party, Tory in one case and Labour in the other, is dealing with things in Liverpool.

This is not about ‘Beergate’ or ‘Partygate’ although as an aside I would say that Keir Starmer is behaving honourably, and Buffoon Boris is not. No, what I am talking about is the failure of politicians at both levels, who accept the perks and plaudits when successful, to accept that their leadership ability has been called in to question by the way they have reacted to failure and bad news. They have one joint mantra which gets repeated ad nauseum, “It’s not our fault, it’s someone else’s.

In Westminster/Whitehall the failings are endless. Brexit failures, Northern Ireland failures, foreign policy failures, wasted £billions spent on a ludicrous track and trace system and the purchase of unusable PPE. All done on the Tory’s watch. But they have no shame and fail to even accept a scintilla of blame for these and many other bad decisions.

In Liverpool, the Labour Party have had an easy ride for a year. The current Cabinet, the ‘Babes in the Woods’ have now become the ‘lost in the woods’ Cabinet.  The Council’s Lib Dem team have laid off strongly criticising this new inexperienced bunch for the first year choosing instead to give gentle criticism and be supportive of the new guard wherever possible.

Of course, the Cabinet and Councillors generally have failed to accept that advice and have gone along on their merry way although have often had to come back to your solutions based on experience and knowledge later in the year. For the first year the Cabinet and Mayor have been able to say that the faults were not theirs, but they were trying to put right the failings of the previous administration!

By that they meant Joe Andersons’s Labour Party. Their problem is that 85% of the people that Joanne Anderson relies on to get matters through were members of Joe Anderson’s administration with almost two thirds of them getting extra dosh at one time or another for doing….. well in some cases I’m not at all sure what they were doing. This is not a new Labour administration but a continuation of the one that has been dragging us down since 2010.

Now we can see in all its bleak glory that they really are the same people in spirit and ability as their Labour predecessors. The issue has solidified around the appalling lash up about electricity purchasing at times of rising tariffs. Whilst every householder in the UK was nervously reading articles about energy price rises, Labour at two separate levels made no attempt to enquire about what was happening and whether or not there were any concerns that might need to be addressed.

Of course, the principal responsibility for such questioning should have started with the Mayor and Cabinet Member for Resources. They adopted the ostrich way forward and made no attempt to try and find out if there were any difficulties for the Council. That does not mean to say that there is not officer culpability, but they are not solely responsible for what happened. I look forward with interest to the report that is being prepared by Mazars. There will be a lot to think about then and lessons to be learned

But the responsibility for the ostrich approach also goes to the members of the Resources Select Committee and in particular its Chair Barry Kushner. In the House of Commons, no less than 5 Select Committees have done work around the energy crisis as the problems began to unfold. They range from the Business Select Committee, through to the Treasury Select Committee thorough to the climate change committee. All looking at relevant problems associated with the price increases.

In Liverpool nothing happened at all. Not one idea about checking the Council’s position and how this would play out to the Council, it’s partners and the people of the City. Instead, we had a post event Select Committee which had little point before the report, which is going to cost taxpayers up to £80,000 or more was prepare. It will then go to the Audit Committee for proper review.

What was the Select Committee for? It appeared to everyone outside the Labour to do just two things. Firstly, it enabled the factions in the Labour Party, and those that have left Labour, to fight things out in public and jostle for position ahead of the big tussle for control of the Group next year. Secondly, it began to lay the blame on the officers so that the politicians could say, “Not our fault Guv!”

Officers must take their share of the blame but this afternoon at the Annual Meeting of the Council I will move on behalf of the Lib Dems a motion to reduce the salaries of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Chair of the Resources Select Committee by 25%. They will cost the Council and other various public sector services such as schools at least £10 million and anything up to £16 million.

There is a price to be paid for this incompetence and in a democracy, it is the elected representatives who must pay it.

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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