I have written to the senior official responsible for local government in the UHLCG Ministry suggesting a way forward for dealing with the latest letter from the Commissioners in Liverpool to the Secretary of State who is no longer in office. In his letter to Catherine Frances, I point out there is now only one junior Minister left in the Commons and one in the Lords, He goes on to say that the ‘judgement’ on the future interventions would be in the hands of an entire Departmental ministerial team which has no experience and would need intensive briefing..
In these circumstances I suggest that there should be an urgent meeting of the Improvement Board where the Commissioners meet the senior managerial and political leadership of the Council which she should attend.
Such a meeting would agree a way forward and would avoid, “Liverpool and its people being left hanging in the wind in these circumstances”.
I pointed out that a series of decisions are now waiting for the publication of the Commissioners letter and the Government’s proposals, an impossibility when there is effectively no Government. It will take some time to assemble an informed Government and Liverpool needs to get on with huge changes especially in the appointment of senior staff and the development of a strong procurement function. We cannot let this vital set of issues drift because of gross political incompetence in London
“I believe that this is an intelligent and practical way forward given the farce which is taking place in Westminster. Frankly, it is now absolutely clear that whatever Government we still have is now as chaotic as Liverpool has been and has no moral authority to opine on Liverpool’s future”.
However, since sending the letter the situation has temporarily got worse with the resignation of the Prime Minister. A lame duck prime minster will be only to make temporary ministerial appointments and ministerial decisions in such cases will lack credibility. There will be no central ministerial influence on decisions until some weeks after a new Prime Minister is appointed through the lengthy Tory process. This emphasises the point that we cannot be left hanging in the wind by incompetent and in-fighting Tories. Liverpool council needs to make vital decisions which will affect vital service. The officials of the Department must take action to resolve this issue in the absence of Ministers to do the job.
The full letter to Catherine Frances is given below.
Cllr Richard Kemp CBE
16, Dovedale Road,
Liverpool L18 1DW
Head of Local Government
7th July 2022
Re: Interventions in Liverpool
Please forgive me for writing to you as the senior official in the Department with responsibility for local government with a letter that would normally be addressed to a Minister. However, as I understand it you have only one very junior Minister left in the Commons and presumably a Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Lords.
As I write I have no idea what will happen in the next few hours never mind the next few days. It is, however, absolutely clear whether or not there is a Prime Minister that there will be huge changes in Ministers within your department. They will need briefing and bringing up to speed on issues one of which is how to respond to the letter which you have received from the Commissioners in Liverpool.
I believe that it would be highly irresponsible for the Government to make peremptory announcements on a crucial issue for our City in these circumstances. An incoming Minister would need to consider carefully all their views on the drastic intervention which is proposed. It would be equally irresponsible not to address these issues so that Liverpool can move on with its improvement programme.
On that basis I am writing to suggest to you an alternative to merely publishing a way forward on the Government website which has no Ministerial legitimacy. I believe that we should immediately hold a meeting of the Improvement Board where the Commissioners meet the political and managerial leadership of the Council and I believe that you as the senior official should also attend it.
At that meeting we could agree a way forward which meets the needs of the officials and the strong desire of the managerial and political leadership of the Council.
I believe that this is an intelligent and practical way forward given the farce which is taking place in Westminster. Frankly, it is now absolutely clear that whatever Government we still have is now as chaotic as Liverpool has been and has no moral authority to opine on Liverpool’s future.
I will be making this letter public. I regret having to do this. It is against all my instincts and experience to involve an official in this way as the response should be from a politician. But, there are no politicians!!
I would be pleased to discuss this with you and colleagues.
Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats
CC: Mike Cunningham, Lead Commissioner, Liverpool
Joanne Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool
Tony Reeves, Chief Executive of Liverpool