Yet another scandal has appeared inside Liverpool Council, they appear more frequently than Trans-Pennine Trains, involving the use of council resources for political purposes.
As we approach council elections on May 4th in which all councillors will be up for election another smaller but important scandal has emerged. This time it clearly involves a Liberal Councillor and a Labour Councillor but these may be just the tip of the iceberg.
In Waterfront North Ward the Labour candidate for the Ward has been using the council mailing system to give the impression that he is already the Councillor for a ward that does not yet exist and will not until May 4th. He has received a warning from the City Solicitor.
In Wavertree Village Ward the Liberal candidate (please note that he is nothing to do with the Liberal Democrats) has been using the council system to send letters to people in the ward he hopes to represent and not the ward that he does represent.
The ability of councillors to use the mail system to get out information to their community about local actions and things that the council is doing is a great tool for councillors who usually have to balance jobs and family life as well as council work. This clearly is something that could be abused and council officers are supposed to keep a check on this.
I occasionally use the mailing system myself specially to get information out to people about things like planning applications and council actions within the ward such as street closures. Of course, this is a supplement to the Liberal Democrat Focus and newsletters that we put out and are paid for by us and donations from members.
The key difference is that in our own leaflets we can choose to be political and can say what we consider to be right. In the case of council mailings, we are simply described as councillors and must give strictly accurate information and contact details. This split is clearly right.
I am outraged if this system has been abused for party political purposes. Taxpayers have paid enough for political excesses inside the Council, and they should not have to pay to subsidise political activity which should rightly be paid for by political parties.
I have written to the Head of Democratic Services, Mike Jones asking him to name and shame councillors who have abused the facility after his due investigation is completed.
I have also insisted on the Councillors concerned paying back the full cost of the abuse, including the staff costs. I doubt that a Liberal Democrat Councillor is involved here, and no name has been put forward of a Liberal Democrat committing and abuse of the system but if they were I would insist on a full repayment to the council and an apology. That should be insisted on by the Leaders of any of the Council political groups if their members are caught out.
This raises, in my mind, what level of service people should expect from their councillors. In Liberal Democrat Wards there is a regular stream of information in the form of our own leaflets, newsletters, newspapers, street letters, usually paid for by us, and occasional information leaflets. In Church Ward we also put out a weekly e-newsletter to 1,800 local residents although a few of these are outside our ward.
We supplement this by being readily available to people either through regular advice centres or, where this is not practical by visiting people or having them visit us. We spend a lot of time on the streets and within our communities just being available to talk. I have most of my casual conversations when out in the Penny Lane Ward which I hope to represent after May 4th when I am out litter picking and people pop out for a natter!
But I always saddened but not surprised when I go out on the streets in wards we hope to represent that this sort of service just does not exist. “We only see our Councillor when there is an election on” is a common comment. “We never know what is going on in the community or the Council because our Councillors are never in touch” is another comment we hear regularly.
This lack of involvement will get worse because of the 4 yearly election cycle that the Government has forced on us. At least lazy councillors are forced into action from January onwards in an annual election system. Now there will be many councillors who will disappear from 3 years and 8 months and only wake up and promise action and being visible from January to May every fourth year.
I would ask you to judge people on their record. If they are not out in the community listening to what local people say and then take that back to the Council Committees and Council Chamber then they are simply acting as politicians. If you ever come to the Council Chamber you will easily distinguish between councillors who see themselves as community champions and those who are merely Party automatons.
If you did not hear from them before January this year since the last election you can prepare to be abandoned for the next 3 years and 8 months!
I’ll try and sort out this latest scandal within the Council. Will you try and sort out the scandal of people who are your representatives in name only and replace them with people who do care and have a track record of consistent work within your community.
Funny I’ve never seen any of your councillors from Woolton at my end of the constituency……… ever.