Motion of ‘No Confidence’ in Liverpool Mayor and Cabinet blocked

The Mayor and Cabinet of Liverpool are nice people and infinitely preferable to the last Mayor and Cabinet but they do not have the skills or experience to take forward .solutions to the worst council in the United Kingdom

I am not surprised but I am saddened by the fact that my motion to move a ‘Vote of No Confidence’ in the Mayor and Cabinet has been blocked by the Lord Mayor. This is, course, an almost exact mirror image of the situation in Parliament where the Labour Party complained about their motion of no confidence being blocked.

The suggestion is that this matter could have been considered at a meeting two weeks ago. How I was supposed to guess that the Chief Executive would be resigning this Monday is beyond my understanding.

However, there is no doubt that the Council is in a crisis mode. Our Senior Management Team has only one permanent appointment who was here before Christmas and three other appointments since Christmas, Our key directorates of Regeneration and Neighbourhood Services are occupied by interim Directors.

We cannot recruit a new Head of Internal Audit and will have to employ, at more vast expense, an interim person until we can find one. Since Monday’s debacle a senior member of staff has presented their three-month resignation notice to the Council and more are considering doing the same.

The Chief Executive has effectively been sacked by the Commissioners and Government because he couldn’t do the job when Max Caller and the then Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, praised him for the work that he had done and was doing.

The Commissioners are beyond my reach so I cannot deal with their incompetence and inexperience. But in a democracy, we should be able to deal with incompetent and ineffective politicians. For the last 14 months they have used the “we’re not Joe Anderson” defence but that is no longer credible. The Labour Party is in turmoil with the old guard who want to take control of the Party and the Council again in full attack on the Mayor and her team. The position of the Labour Party as a whole lacks credibility but the responsibility lies with the Mayor and Cabinet.

Mayor Anderson and her Cabinet do not have the skills or knowledge base to take the worst council in the UK forward. They should either resign or immediately enter into negotiations with the other Parties to look at ways there can be greater cooperation between the Parties in the run up to the 2023 all-up elections.

If she is not prepared to resign, I can make another suggestion. At the moment, in Greg Clark, we have a Secretary of State who understands local government and is interested in it. That may not last for too long so we must take advantage of it. Will she agree to ask him to meet an all-Party delegation from Liverpool Council to discuss our problems and the best way forward and the role of the Commissioners?

If she does, I have the email address of his private secretary on my mobile and can get a meeting request out to him before the end of the council meeting.

But I strongly suspect that she will neither resign nor respond to the opportunity. On that basis the Liberal Democrats will need to consider whether or not we will try and call a special council meeting to consider a VONC motion. I will also seek to involve other Parties in such a call.

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Why I will be proposing that Jurgen Klopp becomes a Freeman of Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp is a credit to our City. He has brought honour to our City in troubled times and now it is our turn to honour him

At an extraordinary meeting of Liverpool City Council later today I will formally propose, on behalf of the Liverpool Liberal Democrats, that Jurgen Klopp be made a Freeman of our City. I will start in exactly the same way as I did when I proposed that Bob Paisley became a Freeman way back in 1983.

I started then by saying that I am not a football supporter and am not able judge his footballing abilities. What I can, therefore, judge dispassionately, is his behaviour as a man and as a leader of men.

When I see him talk on the television after a match, I am always struck by how well he speaks which creates credit for himself, his Club and ultimately the City of Liverpool as a whole.

He is widely regarded as one of the best managers in the world and his class and styles even reaches out to me as a none football fan although I am always proud of the way Liverpool performs.  What if Liverpool didn’t pick up all four trophies that could have been theirs in the last two three weeks of the season. What Club wouldn’t be delighted with two trophies and two such cruel near misses? I always please as well to see Everton stay in the Premier League.

I just want to say as an aside that the LFC fans are also a credit to the City and I am pleased that the slurs cast on them by the French Police and some of the French media have been soundly rebutted buy then official enquiries of the French authorities.

Both teams, but especially Liverpool, do three things for our City:

  • They spread the name of our city in a positive way
  • They bring visitors to our City
  • They bring investors to our City.

I know it is a whole team effort so in many ways this is a vote of thanks to the whole of LFC

 But every successful team has a successful Leader and that is so very clearly Jurgen Klopp

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Resignation of Tony Reeves

Tony Reeves had begun the task of stopping and then rooting out the bad practices within the Council. But in the end he was caught between inexperienced and incompetent Labour Councillors and incompetent and inexperienced Commissioners.

I am really saddened but not surprised at today’s announcement that our Chief Executive, Tony Reeves has resigned from the Council’s employment. He is carrying the can for 12 years of disgraceful Labour leadership at Liverpool City Council.

His actions stopped the Council losing many more millions through corrupt practices which were first exposed in an internal audit report that he commissioned; this led to the police investigation; this led to the Caller Report; this led to Commissioners being put in.

Mr Reeves was caught between an incompetent and inexperienced set of Politicians and an incompetent and inexperienced set of Commissioners. His position became intolerable, and I understand that for the sake of his health and his family he has decided to move on.

To remove a Chief Executive, especially one who would be able to fight hard at an Industrial Tribunal costs money. The bargaining has been done, I understand, by the Government and I was going to demand at a meeting with the Commissioners on Thursday what that pay off was and whether it will be the Council or the Government who will be paying it. However, they have cancelled the meeting which may take place the following week. The usually dillying and dallying from the Commissioners.

This move will damage morale within the staff who were just recovering from the Joe Anderson era. Who will want to come to work in Liverpool now is unclear? We could not fill advertised posts for Exec Director for Neighbourhoods or Head of Internal Audit. Who would want to try and make sense of this absolute mess?

The Mayor has sugegsted in her statement that the Senior Management Team at Liverpool Council can work corporately to take the City forward before an interim Chief Executive arrives. What nonsense. Of our Senior Management Team three have arrived since Christmas, two are themselves interim directors and only one, Steve, Reddy has a long-term knowledge of the Council and the City as a whole.

What was in the Commissioners mind when they made this happen? Perhaps £1,300 a day might be the best (but worst) possible answer!!

To my mind there is only one person capable of being the interim Chief Executive of Liverpool and that is a Chief Executive who has already helped with the improvement of a corrupted council with corrupted politicians.

The only people who will be pleased with this announcement today will be those whose actions in plundering our City were prevented by actions instigated by this decent, honest and competent official.

This is not currently on the agenda of the Council on Wednesday, but we are exploring ways which we can ensure that this is properly debated at the Council meeting.

This mess has been caused by Labour who will be trying to find all sorts of reasons to deflect blame onto the now absent figure of Tony Reeves. Let no one be under any illusion that this problem was nor caused by him. It was caused by Labour who created the worst council in the Country and then failed to lead the Council adequately in its hour of need.

How many days are left until the chance comes in May next year to remove the whole rotten lot of them from office? Too many!!

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Government Commissioners likened to Dads Army

Liverpool’s Council is a dysfunctional mess. We need people of experience and competence to help us get out of the mess. That’s not what we have with the Commissioners the Government have put in.

Today I have likened the role of the Government’s Commissioners in Liverpool to asking Dad’s Army to lead the assault on the Normandy beaches on D Day.

I have taken my concerns further in a letter to the new Secretary of State, Greg Clark, to outline my concerns not only about the process of appointing Commissioners generally but with specifics about the team they have forced upon Liverpool.

Without a doubt our Council is the worst in the Country. It has been appallingly led for most of the last decade, it has corrupted systems, two police investigations and has lost at least £135 million with some after shocks such as the failure to renegotiate the electricity contract leading to another £16 million of losses. There is no doubt that intervention was required, and external support needed to put this right. However, to use another World War 2 analogy used about the USA forces the Commissioners are ‘over paid and over here’.

They are a group of people who have no understanding of the way that Cities work. They are led by someone with no local government experience, they have little experience of working in major urban areas and do not understand the role of a core city like Liverpool in a conurbation like our City Region.

This has come to a head now because they have effectively blocked and open and transparent process for appointing a senior member of staff by insisting that the Council only interview one person. They had agreed a short list of 6 people so to then whittle that down to just one is absolutely unprecedented.

As it is I joined with the Labour members of the appointments committee by insisting that the position be readvertised, and that the Committee be given full details of the two appraisal panels that met to consider the short-listed candidates. I know that there were considerable differences between the two panels one with skilled and knowledgeable local people on it and one largely appointed by Commissioners.

I know that the Commissioners are also trying to force out a senior staff member who has given huge service to the City and its Council by exposing much of the corruption within our systems.

They are not supposed to be a quasi-senior management team but that is how they are behaving. They are blocking the appointment of good staff and trying to remove people who have begun the turnaround in Liverpool because their face does not fit.

All this is causing major problems within the council and is adding huge cost to council taxpayers. Every time there is a problem, they have failed to foresee it. Every time they think change needs to happen; they insist that we employ another legal team to give them the answer that they want although we have already received competent and external legal advice on those issues.

I believe that both of these employment actions leave the Council vulnerable to either paying huge legal and other fees at an industrial tribunal or making huge payments. The Commissioners make decisions which the Council is financially accountable and not them. We need support from people like Tony McArdle who was the C-Ex who led the turn around in Lincolnshire or Max Caller who already knows Liverpool well and who turned around Hackney in partnership with Jules Pipe.

Quite frankly the Commissioners foisted upon us are not up to the job that Liverpool desperately needs and are not the people who can assist Liverpool get out of the quagmire it is in.

That is why I have written to the Secretary of State. I know that there are already concerns within the Ministry and they are reviewing how Commissioners should be appointed, supported, and monitored. I have written to Greg Clark and the head of local government using the national experience I have of working in approximately sixty councils to suggest how it could be done better and have had to use examples of their Liverpool team as supporting evidence.

In the 13 months that the Commissioners have been here they have reported to three different Secretaries of State, and I suspect that after 5th September there will another one. So, we have a dysfunctional Government putting a dysfunctional group of Commissioners into a dysfunctional council. This is not a recipe for success. This is not a way forward for a City with so much potential which is being by such a poor council.

These Commissioners need replacing urgently by competent officers and a councillor experienced in running big cities. Dads Army is not good enough to get us out of the mess that we are in.

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Liberal Democrats welcome the RESET referendum campaign

It’s hardly surprising that there is a low turnout in many wards in Liverpool when the Labour Party treat the electors with contempt.

On behalf of Liverpool’s Liberal Democrat Group, I have welcomed the decision of RESET to change the wording of their citywide petition to include a straight run off between the two most different forms of governance.

The Mayoral model is the most extreme form of centralised power and control which holds power in a tight grip. This system is remarkably similar to the Cabinet/Leader system in that the voters put the power into the hands of one person. As we have seen in the era of Joe Anderson that concentration of power led to lick spittle subservience from many Labour members either because they were scared of that power or gave them rewards for financial enhancement for following obedience.

The committee system is the most decentralised way forward which gives power back to all councillors and their constituents. This removes many of the barriers by which a controlling party can hide decisions away from other councillors, the press, and the public. This is the option that the Liberal Democrats will move at the Council meeting next week.

Perhaps the most outrageous of Labour claims is that the Government Office have told them that they would not accept the Committee system as being fit for purpose given Liverpool’s problems. In my best Victor Meldrew voice I say, “I don’t believe it!”

The Government would need to alter the terms of the 2002 Local Government Act, as amended by the 2011 Localism Act, to intervene in this particular decision. The imposition of Commissioners has no relevance to the decisions on governance which will be taken either by the Council or by referendum. The directions given to the Council and Commissioners by the Secretary of State make no reference to this matter.”

Liberal Democrat concerns that the Council would run a poor consultation were raised at the time that the Council decided not to proceed with the referendum that the Mayor had promised. We told the council that what was proposed would not work but only the Liberal Democrats voted for our amendment to strengthen the running and oversight of the process. Labour, the Community Independents, so-called Liberals and Greens were complicit in allowing the consultation to happen in a way that almost guaranteed a low turnout.

Uniquely the Liberal Democrats actually campaigned on the governance issue putting out 60,000 newspapers and including the issue in local newsletters as well as social media and emails. The Greens, the Community Independents, the so-called Liberals and Labour did absolutely nothing to engage people on the issues. That can be seen in the fact that the highest returns came from Liberal Democrat wards.

If Labour intends to totally ignore their own consultation, we will fight to make the Leader and the Cabinet as accountable to all councillors and to the people of Liverpool as possible with enhanced scrutiny of Cabinet decisions.

We will accompany this with proposals for a root and branch change in the ways that we work by moving more power to councillors and their communities by working on new community led governance models based on the small new wards.

This entire process shows that Labour holds the opinions of the people of Liverpool in absolute contempt. Just like their Tory mates in London they believe that they know best, and that governing is all about their perks and privileges. If they had a Chequers, they would have to be prised out of it just as Johnson has been.             

It is time for a change. Just as Messrs Yip and Fogarty are saying Liverpool needs resetting. Now we need a conversation with the people of Liverpool not just about governance of the council but the very direction that the City will go in for the coming decades. This is a consultation that the Liverpool Liberal Democrats intend to have with our citizens and unlike Labour we will listen to what they say.

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Can we now have a referendum in Liverpool?

This pathetic apology of a letter was Liverpool’s way of consulting about governance in the City. Now there are calls for a referendum but are they practical?

The recent disgraceful consultation run by Liverpool City Council has encouraged people to push for a legally binding petition to have a referendum. I welcome the fact that people like Stephen Yip and Liam Fogarty are wanting to engage in the debate but there are many problems with this approach.

The first is the need to have wording which conforms to the legal requirement. The law says that to trigger a referendum the petition must name two alternatives one of which must be the present method of governance, i.e., a Mayor. This is why we did not press for a referendum in January because Labour made it clear that they would support the two questions being Mayor or Leader and not the option of a committee system which was the preferred change option.

This would mean that RESET would need to decide which of the alternative options they would press for. There is a further complication.

It is likely that in July the Council will vote to change the system and move to a Cabinet model from May 2023. However. the law says that you need to present the current system as one of the choices. So, although the council will have voted to remove the Mayoralty the petition will still need to say Mayoral system or……!  I am not sure how easy that will be to explain to people to encourage them to sign the petition.

The next problem is that it is not just a question of what is on the petition but how the petition is collected. Getting 16,500 on a printed petition is not easy but there are further complications:

  • The person must be a Liverpool registered voter
  • The name on the form must match the name on the electoral register so that it can be verified. So, if my name were Richard James Kemp but I always called myself James and put my name down as James Kemp on the petition it would be invalid if the name on the register was Richard James Kemp.
  • I have collected information on petitions on many occasions. My experience is that at least 15% of them are illegible and unusable.
  • This is not a simple yes/no issue. In many cases people will need to have the options explained to them.

For all these reasons just putting a petition out and hoping people fill it in correctly is not enough. There needs to be, at minimum, explanation notes to go with it for the people who are canvassing for names.

Lastly, there is a question of timing. To come into effect for the May elections next year I give the approximate timetable below. If this timetable is not adhered to and, say the referendum called were to take place on election day next year or thereafter the new system would be in place until May 2027 even if the referendum moved for change.

  • The petition would need to be submitted to the Council by the end of October.
  • It will take 3 weeks to verify it. This takes us to the end of November
  • A Council needs to be called if the required names are successful. This means mid-November.
  • The council then needs to formally move a referendum which would probably take place in December or Mid-January.
  • The referendum would need to be held effectively by the end of February at the latest to allow the statutory notices to be put in place to call the elections in the right format.

This is doable but tight. In Bristol, which required a lot less names, it took a year.

So, a referendum must clear three hurdles:

  1. What does the petition call for?
  2. How can this mass collection of correct names be organised?
  3. Can it be done in a relevant time scale given that you cannot really start doing this until July 21st and then you are right into the holiday period?

All of this ignores the stresses and strains within the Council when our relevant staff are trying to organise the change from 30 wards to approximately 70 with all sorts of details having to be statutorily pursued. Extra staff would need to eb brought in and that

Cllr Kris Brown and I have suggested a meeting with Liam Fogarty and Stephen Yip of RESET to discuss an alternative or a complementary way to channel the anger felt by many people at the way the Council is behaving. If and when we have had that discussion we can move forward.

The people of Liverpool are being short changed by a Labour-led Council who always think that they know best. RESET wants to change things and involve the people much more in thinking through the future of the City and so do I. So do many people. The question for RESET and me and all those others is, “how we create a partnership of the willing to provide a vision and to change our centralised and bureaucratic system?”

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“Government loses its moral authority to move forward in Liverpool”

Gove has gone. There is only one junior Minister left in the Communities & Local Government. Liverpool cannot be left hanging in a situation where decisions need to be made about our City’s future.

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.

ENDS:

The full letter to Catherine Frances is given below.

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE

16, Dovedale Road,

Liverpool L18 1DW

Richardkemp68@yahoo.co.uk

07885 626913

Catherine Frances,

Head of Local Government

UHCLG

Marsham Street

London SW1

By email

7th July 2022

Dear Catherine,

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.

Liverpool and its people cannot be left hanging in the wind in these circumstances.

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.

Yours sincerely,

Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

CC:        Mike Cunningham, Lead Commissioner, Liverpool

              Joanne Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool

              Tony Reeves, Chief Executive of Liverpool

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Waffling around the next steps post Liverpool Consultation

We have a great city which is being held back by its council. However, there are really some bonkers ideas being floated after the consultation debacle about the way forward.

I really am surprised at some of the nonsense that is being talked about the next steps that could be taken in the City following the Governance consultation debacle.

As I argued in my last blog, I warned that there was a likelihood of it going wrong when the council decided to consult and suggested a way of strengthening the process. Every member of the Council other than the Liberal Democrats voted down my suggestion. Now they seem surprised that it went so badly.

There are only two ways forward that make any sense:

  1. Persuade Labour that they should follow the directions of the people in the consultation and follow the most popular of the change alternatives. This the Liberal Democrats will try and do; or
  • Have another referendum for which there are two routes.
  1. Get the Council to agree this. Frankly given Labour’s intransigence it would be a total waste of time even trying to do this.
  2. Get a petition going with a view to holding a binding referendum.

The Lib Dems have looked at the possibility of getting the names on a petition for such a binding referendum and concluded that we could not do it. We could, if we did nothing else, but that just is not an option. We must work inside our wards and inside the Council so any action in this way would rely on people outside the political process.

We did a limited testing of this in 2015. Because of the restrictive nature of the petition and the need to link it to the electoral details of the signatory we found that at most we could get 10 signatures an hour. Don’t forget that we are skilled canvassers. That would mean that it would take at least 1,650 person hours, on the door, to get the numbers required.

On top of that would be the time spent in organising everything and making sure the electoral information is available. Also, there would be travelling time of moving everyone around and some elements of literature printing to let people know what was happening.

If anyone is up for that, we Liberal Democrats will morally and publicly support them providing that of the two options presented one of them is a move to the Committee System. But no-one should be unaware of the size of the task. 20 years ago, other people tried to do this and after a year of trying gave up.

Let’s face it one of the reasons for the appallingly low turnout was the lack of engagement by politicians in this process and the lack of debate. We Liberal Democrats put out 60,000 newspapers which led on the subject, continually tweeted and produced mini videos. I saw no action at all from the other Parties who are now complaining about the low turnout. They seem to forget that this is partly their fault.

I also cannot find any activities from Messrs Yip or Fogarty to publicly contribute to the public debate and then influence the turnout in an upwards direction.

It would appear, however, that an adviser to Mr Yip thinks that there is another alternative. This is what he said on Twitter in response to a comment about me.

“Of course, you can design a referendum with three options and a second preference. It would not be legally binding under the 2000 Act but would still be lawful and the Council could resolve to honour the outcome. It was misleading to claim this was not possible”.

Yes, I concede that it would be possible to do this but what would be the point? You can call it what you will, but a referendum that is not binding isn’t a referendum but another consultation. So, the proposal appears to be a suggestion that we spend another £600,000 on another consultation and I would suggest that the turnout would only be slightly more because of the larger amount of money spent but because it is none-binding the Labour Party would ignore it anyway. This really is fairy tale posturing on stilts about an issue that is important.

So, we Liberal Democrats will do what we can on 20th July to persuade the Labour Party to accept that they should back the change option with the most support.

But if and when that fails, we will just have to get in to the job of making a poor decision work as well as possible. The Council is looking at its constitution, its performance measures, its methods of scrutiny, its codes of conduct, its standing orders, and its culture. All this is vital work that we need to get on with if we are to get the Council running effectively and delivering the services that the people of Liverpool need.

Liberal Democrats understand how the Council works, we understand the legislation behind the practices within the Council and the legislation behind the referendum idea. We have ideals in which we would like to totally revolutionise the way that the Council works in ways that are even more important than the question about the Elected Mayoralty. We are constrained by an incompetent and unthinking Labour Party. That is why we are straining every sinew to take control of the council next year.

Let us all make May 4th 2022 Liverpool’s Independence Day and free ourselves for ever from the muddled and incompetent Labour Party who so badly run our City down.

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Starmer raises the white flag over Europe without a whimper

“When cowards flinch and traitors sneer” goes the Red Flag but when it comes to Europe Starmer’s flag is deepest white and he’s the coward in giving up Europe without a fight.

So, there we have it. Starmer gives up on Europe to follow the Tory line that we need to make Brexit work. Well, the evidence is that you cannot make it work because it is an inherently bad idea.

He is raising the white flag at a time when there is a clear majority of people who think that Brexit has not worked for us and an equally clear majority of people who want to seek closer links with Europe which remains our major market although a declining one. He raises it at a time when the stupidity about the Northern Ireland protocol which he negotiated is under pressure not for economic reasons but to appease a bunch of DUP morons.

Let us look at the Northern Ireland situation in more detail. Northern Ireland is, in economic terms, the most successful part of the UK in terms of an expanding economy. In fact, compared to England, Scotland and it is the only part of the UK with an expanding economy. It is in that luxurious position because it has remained part of the single market. The effects of the border which Johnson drew in the Irish Sea is largely negated by the opportunities of trading with the rest of the EU. This was an opportunity that the UK large threw away.

Starmer says that we cannot keep going over the arguments of the past. But this is an argument about the future. How will he pay for all the things that he believes, along with the Liberal Democrats, which need doing? Where is the money going to come from for better social care, or our hospitals or our crumbling schools and roads when our GDP is either declining or at best not keeping up with inflationary pressures? Who will stop our farmers or our fishermen going out of business when they cannot export their produce?

Our rate of inflation is approximately 10% of which 6% can be ascribed to Brexit. Our currency has been tanking with immediate effects on the price of fuel for our vehicles, gas, and electricity. We wait in long queues to go on holiday and our hauliers wait for even longer in queues which cost money and cause wasted products. Our local fruiterer cannot get nectarines or peaches from the Continent because of cost and wastage.

So, what is Starmer going to do now? Make Brexit work! Deal with things that can be negotiated with Europe. Try and deal with some of the self-imposed problems such as failing to deal with the increased bureaucracy properly. Of course, there can be marginal improvements, but they will never amount to more than that. Whilst we remain a small unattached country with few friends and a declining influence in the world the structural problems inside our Country will get worse.

Fortunately, for those that believe not only in the principle but the practice of Europe there is a Party which represents your view. The Liberal Democrats have reaffirmed that our goal is to return to the EU. There are three steps in that:

  1. Return to the Single Market. Arguments that we want to be law makers not law takers are bogus. Recently said that UK manufacturers and users will not need to adhere to an EU directive which standardises certain types of electrical connections. This is common sense not politics. How often have you ended up with the wrong lead for the wrong equipment? If UK manufacturers want to sell into Europe we will buy into their specifications. If we want to buy from your from Europe we will do so with their specifications. No one will increase costs to service a small market when there is a big market to be serviced.
  • Free movement of Labour. In many ways we have this. Whilst the Tories appeal to the fascist instincts of some of their voters with boats in the Channel and Rwanda restrictions have been eased on wide range of employment from medicine to health care from lorry drivers to farm workers. Free movement has returned but with lots of expensive bureaucracy.
  • Return to non-threatening institutions and partnerships. There is a range of partnerships for universities and their students such as joint research and the Erasmus programme which never harmed our sovereignty even in the minds of the most swivel eyed Brexiteer. Let us find ways to get back into them
  • Finally, back into the EU itself so we can share the decision machining process and its costs and benefits.

Now is a huge opportunity for the Lib Dems. We were a pro-European Party when I joined the Liberal Party 55 years ago. We are now the only mainstream Party who has established both a principle for re-joining Europe but also a road map which will take us there. Lib Dems are the only Party that speaks for the majority of the UK’s population in making the case. Ed Davey and our other Leaders need to be out there making the case for Europe and challenging the cowardice and backward-looking nature of Labour who are meekly following their Tory mates.

It is time for Lib Dems to be bold. There are millions of people who share our internationalist principles and believe that a return to Europe is the only way we can progress our other polices for vital public services. Let us not fail the people of the UK at this crucial time.

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Where does Liverpool go now after Council’s consultation debacle

At the Council meeting on 20th July I will be in full flow attacking Labour’s consultation incompetence. trying to put forward practical ideas to get us out of this mess.

So now we have it. Liverpool’s consultation on the Mayoralty was a farce. Poorly run, inadequately supervised, badly designed, and largely ignored. I always hate people who say, “I told you so but, in this case, “I TOLD YOU SO!” This is what I moved in the Council when we agreed a consultation process at the January full Council meeting:

“The Mayor be requested to establish a Governance Working Party comprising all group leaders to enable cross-party comment on the form and method of consultation, including supporting materials with each Group Leader to provide feedback from their respective groups, to give confidence to the residents of Liverpool that the consultation is full and meaningful. Details of the proposed full and meaningful consultation, including costings, will then be submitted to, and agreed by Cabinet.

Following the conclusion of the consultation process, a report to be presented to both the Electoral Committee and Audit Committees and thereafter Full Council, containing the results of the consultation which will be taken into consideration by council in deciding its future governance model.”

In moving the First Amendment, Councillor Richard Kemp CBE addressed Full Council advising that its purpose was to offer further reassurance on the process of consultation and to ensure that all three governance model options were explored”.

Only the Liberal Democrats voted for this amendment. Everyone else was prepared to let the Labour motion pass including the Liberals and those who are now in the Independent Party. Only the 2 Greens present moved that there should be a referendum with everyone else voting for consultation including all those that are now in the Independent Group.

It always seemed clear to me that Labour’s warped view on consultation would provide difficulties in implementation. I believe that they wanted the consultation to fail which is why they tried to keep control over the process.

Within the consultation only the Lib Dems campaigned on the issues and explained why we believed that the ‘committee system’ was the best option. I saw no leaflet, blog, or social messaging from the other Parties while we put out 60,000 newspapers and put out regular messages on social media. That effort is probably why those that want to move from a Mayoralty heavily favoured the committee system way forward.

My fears were confirmed when the process was taken away from our professional communications staff. The most money spent was on a letter in a brown envelope which looked like some sort of legal letter and which I suspect went straight in the bin! Farce followed farce and there was little regular messaging from the Council or debates held in the community and truly little media discussion. It was a consultation designed to fail.

So where are we going now that Labour have basically condemned their own £140,000 farce and will push through the least popular option at the July Council meeting. This is what they always wanted to do and will leave us with a Leader Cabinet model. This is better than a Mayoral model but has many of its inbuilt disadvantages.

There are some calls from defeated mayoral candidates and the so-called Liberals to push for a referendum. But they either ignore or do not know the practicalities of this or the process by which change would be affected.

Firstly, they could try and get the Labour Party to change their mind and vote to hold a referendum. That vote would fail but even if it was successful my understanding of the process would mean that the earliest that a referendum could take place would be the late autumn.

But the implementation process post referendum is complicated. Holding a referendum needs several practical and legal steps and then there is a procedural delay afterwards. For example, in Bristol there will be no change until 2024 because change is always linked to the next election in the cycle.

The other option would be for people to raise the 16,500 names needed on a petition to force a referendum. That can be done but is exceedingly difficult. It has been tried before. Jon Egan, now apparently an adviser to Mr Yip, spent a year working for some sort of constitutional convention in which Lord Alton played a role. It failed to get the names.

All the names have to be on a paper-based petition. The questions must be in a particular format. The names must be accompanied by the electoral register details of the person concerned who must therefore be a Liverpool citizen. You cannot just stand in Church Street getting names from people stopped at random. This process is hugely time consuming. Political parties cannot do it most of whose leading members are councillors and need to get on with all the tasks inherent in that position.

I consider it highly unlikely that a referendum could be held before the local elections scheduled for May 2023. If a referendum were held on that day and the binding vote was for change it would not take place until the end of that electoral cycle in 2027. But a referendum held just before or after Christmas would probably not be able to be implemented before the local election result with the same long implementation delay.

We also have a range of practical and financial problems. Let us start with money. It has been quoted that a free-standing referendum would cost £500,000 and a referendum which coincided with a local election would cost £250,000. In these circumstances they would cost a lot more because our legal and democratic services team are already fully stretched preparing for an entire revision of ward boundaries and going up from the established thirty wards to just under seventy. This means a huge effort in developing everything from new polling stations to revised electoral registers. We would have to buy in help for this. This would, I guesstimate, cost at least £100,000 of extra staff costs for both options.

The council itself is in the process of huge change. Staff and some councillors who are prepared to engage are heavily involved in this work. There is so much to do to move the council from its appalling methodologies and structures to a place where the people of Liverpool can be sure they are getting value for money, and the services they need. I cannot see the capacity within the Council for doing anything now but concentrating on what the people of Liverpool and the Commissioners will be demanding from us in these respects.

We should not forget the eagle eyes of the commissioners being upon us now. As soon as next week we expect to see their latest report publicly presented to Parliament and it will be dreadful. All responsible politicians must carefully consider the effects of everything that we do and the way it will be perceived. There will be at least one more Commissioner and a further erosion of the council’s freedoms announced. It is not good news! The buggers cost a lot of money!!

My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I will meet on 11th July to consider what we will do on 20th July. My recommendation will be threefold to them:

  1. Move to introduce the committee system which is the favoured choice of those who advocated change. If that fails:
  2. Start to work on proposals with the Cabinet Leader model to increase scrutiny of decisions and involve all councillors in decision making and policy development which is more possible under a Leader system than a Mayoral one. Whether that fails or not:
  3. Consider over the next four years when the appropriate time would be to try and move to a referendum in good time for the 2027 elections.

Of course, there is something that we intend to do that the people of Liverpool could help us with. We intend to put up one hell of a fight to try and stop Labour getting re-elected. Every Liberal Democrat Councillor elected next year will be a person who will vote for good political and managerial systems. They will vote for good services and value for money. They will involve the people of Liverpool in the running of Liverpool.

Will you help us? Only the Lib Dems can take Labour on across the City. We can do even more with your help. Do not just wring your hands from the side-lines in your anguish over the way Labour behave in our City. Contact me at richardkemp68@yahoo.co.uk or sign up to the Lib Dems at www.liverlibdems.org.uk and help us bring good government to the City of Liverpool.

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