I have accused Liverpool’s Elected Mayor, Joanne Anderson of becoming the ‘Phantom of the Cunard’ after cancelling the Mayoral & Performance Select Committee on the grounds that it conflicts with the Fazakerley by-election.
In a letter to her I point out that this will mean a five-month gap with Councillors being unable to hold the ‘Leader of the Council’ to account and a 15-month gap in which the Council has failed to produce any Key Performance Indicators to enable it to measure itself against either the other Liverpool City Region Councils or the other English Core Cities.
The development of such ‘real time’ performance information will be at the heart of the ability of the Council to improve its performance. Max Caller, the Commissioners and I believe that unless such information is charted and used on a regular basis the Council will be unable to prioritise its work into the areas of the Council which need most attention.
I have also reminded the Mayor that she has stopped the process of holding regular Group Leader’s meetings with the Leaders of all the opposition parties and has failed to chair the last two Health & Wellbeing Boards which bring together one of the most vital partnerships of the Council between the Council and the NHS.
On an attempt to move things forward I have put forward two suggestions to regularise the situation. I think that the Mayor should either call the meeting a couple of days later or be prepared to face the questions of Councillors in a half hour session at the start of Councillor meetings in the way that the Prime Minister does at PMQs.
The way that councillors are being treated in Liverpool and the failure of the Mayor to take responsibility for the problems of the Council is an insult to both councillors and the people of Liverpool who elected them. If Mayor Anderson cannot face the music she should stand down and let someone else pick up the reins of power within the Council.
My letter is appended in full below.
Cllr Richard Kemp CBE
Liberal Democrat Office,
Liverpool City Council,
Liverpool L3 1AH
Liverpool City Council
21st June 2022
Cancellation of the Mayoral & Performance Select Committee
I am appalled to see that next week’s Mayoral & Performance Select Committee has been cancelled because it coincides with the Fazakerley by-election. By-elections are important but they affect all the Parties in the Council. They should not cause the cancellation of a meeting which is our only chance, on five occasions a year, to ask questions of you as our leading politician. In extremis they could be moved by a day or so either way and not just cancelled.
I note that in doing so you are, once again, effectively seeking to emulate your predecessor, Joe Anderson, who also wanted to avoid questioning and was honest enough to abolish the Committee altogether.
This Committee, which should be the highest level Select Committee within the Council has not met since 22nd March and its next meeting will be on 16th August. This means a gap of 5 months in being able to challenge you about the problems within the Council for which you have ultimate responsibility.
It will also mean that it will be at least 15.5 months since you assumed the Leadership of the Council and in which the Council has failed to develop a comprehensive suite of Key Performance Indicators which enable the Council to measure its own performance against its past and just as importantly to measure the council’s performance against others inside the Liverpool City Region or the other core cities which are the obvious comparators.
Liverpool Council will never improve unless we as councillors, and our officers have access to real time information about performance. I can only assume that the real reason for cancelling rather than postponing the Committee is that the Labour Party, and you, is trying to avoid the people of Liverpool knowing just how bad our performance is against our peer councillors.
Both Joe and Wendy Simon held regular Group Leaders Meeting to inform the opposition Groups, which now comprise one third of the Council, on what is happening and to try and build positive bridges between all councillors in which we could agree to work together when we could and only oppose the administration when we had to. Your failure to hold regular meetings such as this has weakened relationships within the Council and means that we must be more oppositional than we would like to be.
You are rapidly becoming the ‘Phantom of the Cunard’ with your cancellation of this Committee and your failure to chair the vitally important Health & Wellbeing Board on the last two occasions. It is also noted that you leave the coverage and questioning on vital issues such as the electricity and contract debacles either to other politicians such as Cllr Corbett or officers.
A democratic convention is that we as elected politicians, if we control Parliament or Council, take responsibility for what is happening within our institutions and if necessary ‘fall on our sword’ when things go wrong.
So, could I suggest two things to you to regularise the situation?
- Either call the Select Committee for the following week; or
- Allow half an hour at the start of the July Council meeting for us to question you about any issue in the style of Prime Minister’s Question Time.
People should be able to expect this openness and the opportunity for the Councillors that they elect to be able to hold you to account.
I look forward to receiving a positive response from you to either fo the two suggestions that I have made and to seeing that you appreciate that the Council is failing to effectively manage its own democratic affairs in a way that we can all take pride in.
Cllr Richard Kemp CBE,
Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats