So today we heard the results of the Industrial Tribunal appeal from Nick Kavanagh against his summary dismissal by the Council. The council has been clearly and completely been vindicated by the proceedings.
This is a very significant moment for the Council in its fight to bring back the Council into realms of normality. I didn’t doubt for a moment that the Council would win its case, but you can never be sure. That element of uncertainty has hung over the Council since the case was concluded in council terms in March last year.
I was a member of the disciplinary panel that looked at the case internally. That panel was absolutely comprehensive in its work. Originally booked for 3 full days, the dates were changed twice to accommodate Kavanagh and his supporter who lives in and beamed in from Spain. In fact, we met for 6 full days, interviewed about 30 witnesses against a background of a dossier of more than 800 pages. The proceedings were expertly run by Chris Walsh and his team from Democratic Services and chaired by Cllr Wendy Simon. Witnesses included people from inside the Council and outside partners and agencies.
At the conclusion of the case, we found 5 reasons for the immediate dismissal and two which taken alone would have led to final written warnings. So, I feel vindicated as I am sure does the panel as, with one exception, the decisions were unanimous.
I still cannot go into some details of the case because they may still be being looked at as part of ‘Operation Aloft’ the police investigation into a wide range of circumstances inside and outside the Council. But some things became clear during the hearings and so are public, but so much more is now obvious from what has happened over the past three years.
During the hearing Kavanagh, supported unbelievably by his witness, Joe Anderson claimed that his legacy was £billions of growth, and an improved City. Talk about rewriting history!! The legacy of Kavanagh and Anderson is the worst and most corrupted council in England ever. 35 sites that will probably never be developed, appalling planning and land sale decisions. Most of the £135 million of ‘Joe’ era waste occurred with the regeneration department. Investors have been shafted and anything between £250 and £500 million of investors cash has been lost.
Note that in the preceding paragraph I talk about a corrupted Council. I don’t know whether or not there was criminal corruption. That will be decided by the police, the CPS and possibly by a Jury. What has been corrupted is the concept of due process within the Council. Proper decision-making and recording were avoided. Proper procurement processes were ignored. Dodgy deals were made with people with no track record of development on spurious grounds.
There was a culture of bullying within the Council, especially of a misogynistic nature. Real complaints and concerns were ignored. Staff and others were cowed. The Council meetings were an intimidating place and the attacks on me in particular followed by those on Tom Crone were nasty and vicious. Other Labour members thought that this behaviour was the way to do things and similarly intimated politicians and staff. The Council was a cess pit.
Ongoing costs include the remediation of these sites, the untangling of the over-run traffic schemes at the Strand and Lime Street and a decade in which good investors shunned the City and most of those who did develop came in because of ‘mates rates’ or ‘mates advantages’. And, of course, every year we will be spending more than £2 million on commissioners, consultants and our ‘improvement journey’.
I think we can now proceed on more fronts and people within the Council will have more confidence in working positively now that the spectre of the possible return to work of Kavanagh has been removed for good,
Next week we will get the results of the Commissioners latest report to Gove. It won’t be pretty!! I met several officials whilst I was at the LGA Conference and impressed on them just how bad the Council had been and the time required to sort it out. The problem is that no other Council ever has been as bad as Liverpool has been over the past decade. The people trying to help us just don’t have the experience to provide appropriate help. No-one has that experience with the possible exception of Tony McArdle the former Chief Executive of North Lincolnshire Council and Max Caller who was Chief Exec at Hackney Council.
Both these officials have the experience and capacity to support the Council. Regrettably the people overseeing us now just don’t. The only way forward for the Council is to bring a good team of professionals in to support the Chief Exec, Tony Reeves. I found it interesting to see former Cabinet members lobbing metaphorical missiles at Mr Reeves recently.
Well, they would, wouldn’t they! Everyone who was in a Cabinet during the Joe years should be trembling at the thought of what is still to come. That breakdown of due process and the consequences that flowed from it arose because they either refused to stand up to Anderson or just had no idea what went on. Neither of those positions is a satisfactory statement.
I know that within weeks of become the C-Exec Tony stopped a potential sale of property which saved the Council £10 million+. He brought in the internal auditor’s report, which brought in the police, which brought in Max Caller which brought in the Commissioners. No wonder parts of the Labour Party hate him. He exposed them, their ways and their mates.
Tomorrow, we will know the results of the Mayoral Consultation. The Lib Dems have agreed to accept the results of the consultation even if we don’t like it. At the 20th July meeting that will be reported along with proposals to change our constitution and the way we scrutinise the way that the council works. It may be that we can than reform our internal democratic processes and drag them towards normality.
The big way of doing that will be next year though. Every single councillor will be up for election. Let’s hope that there will be the big changes that we need and, as we say at New Year, we will be truly able to, “ring out the old and ring in the new”.