It is one rule for Labour Councillors and one rule for the rest of us mugs in Liverpool. The guilty 14 should pay their whack and pay their fines.
The fact that it has taken the Council 16 months to respond to a Freedom of Information request from the Liverpool Echo blows a huge hole in the claims from the current Mayor of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson, that she would introduce a regime and culture into the Council of openness, honesty, and transparency. In fact she seems to be only a little better than her predecessor, Joe Anderson. This is particularly true when one realises that most of the information that the Liverpool Echo has uncovered was actually included in a confidential report produced in 2021.
What we see in the behaviour of 14 Labour councillors in not paying 51 parking tickets is a breath-taking disregard for the rules and regulations that they themselves put in place. In this they copy the arrogant behaviour of the Tories in Westminster with a similar sense of superiority and entitlement. Two of these councillors have gone on to join the Liverpool Community Independents. No Liberal Democrat was in included on this list of shame.
We should also remember that some senior officers similarly swerved the system and indeed some former officers got tickets for their family quashed.
The councillors have claimed that it is custom and practice for parking tickets to be voided if councillors were carrying out official duties. This is quite simply untrue. As the longest serving councillor in Liverpool I would know if this was the case. However, during the period being investigated I properly, but unsuccessfully, appealed against a parking fine using the correct procedure. It is significant that the only people who tried avoided the process are all Labour councillors.
Every councillor has a right to appeal against a parking fine, but they should have been treated exactly the same as every other person and their appeal should have gone into the recognised appeal system that we all use and which I have used once successfully and once unsuccessfully. Instead, they swerved the system and got a council officer to get the ticket dropped.
I have tried to get disciplinary action taken against five of the named councillors but was told that they could not proceed because the officer concerned had left the Council. This despite the fact that some of the information came to light as a result of police action. The Council in this FOI response is making it clear that these have been an illicit attempt to get round the system. Disciplinary action is now a must.
I will now raise the matter with the new City Solicitor based on this FOI report and ask for disciplinary action against those people still on the council who chose to ignore the systems that all the rest of us have to follow.
I will also ask the City Solicitor if there has been any correspondence between the Council and solicitors acting for the Labour Party who are rumoured to have tried to block the FOI response. Perhaps that is one of the reasons it has taken so long to deal with. If this is the case then perhaps this attempt at a cover up is even worse than the original crimes! Attempts to interfere with the FOI process show just how serious Labour know this problem is serious for them. Every person who has paid up, and there are thousands of them a year, will resent the fact that not only have Labour Councillors not paid up but they then try to suppress the publication of information about their wrongdoing.
Its now up to the Labour Party to decide whether they have any moral scruples. To my mind anyone who tries to get round laws and regulations is not a fit person to stand for the Council and Labour should look again at the eight councillors named in the FOI who are standing as Labour councillors to see whether they should stand at the May elections. I won’t hold my breath as Labour do appear to have used every legal trick in the book to get this information suppressed.
A quick calculation shows that these actions have cost the council £1,530 in lost fines and far, far more in officer’s time. This does not sound much when compared to the £73 million that we are having to find but as the supermarket advertisement accurately says, “Every little helps!” Perhaps you will ask them to cough up if you happen to see them around.