When tenacious local campaigner, Audrey O’Keefe, prised from the reluctant council, the fact that Mayor Anderson’s private tribunal fees cost council taxpayers £89,000, I was shocked. All credit to Audrey for breaking through the mayoral policy of omerta. How could a private matter be underwritten in this way? The whole issue was to become even more serious when local blogger Inspector Digit did some excellent research.
Essentially, this research pinpoints repeated contradictions between submissions made to Mayor Anderson’s employment tribunal, and the published statements of the mayor, council officers, and even the government. Remember, that this tribunal focused on Mayor Anderson’s claims against his former employer, Chesterfield High School in Sefton.
Ultimately, the Mayor’s claims were thrown out. The substance of his dismissal was upheld by the tribunal – that is, that he was being paid for no work. The only caveat against his dismissal was about the procedure used, not the facts. A short resume of events prior to the tribunal is revealing:
May 2010 Anderson becomes leader of LCC
July 2010 Anderson seeks extra paid leave from his employer
November 2010 Anderson’s last involvement with the school
May 2011 Anderson expresses dissatisfaction with his pay and pension arrangements at Sefton
May 2012 Anderson becomes Mayor of Liverpool
July 2012 Anderson writes to his employer via the City Solicitor
September 2012 Anderson’s employment at the school is terminated
Subsequently, Mayor Anderson exercised his right to take his grievances to an employment tribunal. However, this raised two areas of particular concern. One is the involvement of council officers in a private matter. The other is the veracity, or otherwise, of the evidence presented to the tribunal.
As Judge Franey said at the tribunal:
“It is unclear to me why the legal department of Liverpool should have been acting on behalf of the claimant in his private capacity.”
This questioning view was underscored in the Law Society Gazette by John Gregory of accountants Grant Thornton (district auditors for Liverpool) who told the Gazette that
“he had not come across any instances of council solicitors acting for leading members or officers on personal issues” adding “The general principle that this shouldn’t happen is, I would think , very well established, and the lawyers of all people should be very clear about this.”
There is no evidence available to suggest that the issue before the tribunal was anything but a private matter. As Mayor Anderson himself has made repeatedly clear:
- Legal advice from the council was “legally privileged” and a private matter
- His losses within the Local Government Pension Fund (his key concern at the tribunal) were a private matter
- Letters to Chesterfield High School were a private matter
- His salary at Chesterfield was a private matter
Nevertheless, according to Mark Hale, a senior Sefton council officer, the then interim chief executive of LCC – David McElhinney – and the city solicitor were heavily involved in this private case, without any legitimate locus. Why have they not been held to account for this? Why has the district auditor done nothing?
The latter is particularly intriguing. In the mid-80s, the then district auditor ensured that 49 councillors were banned and surcharged over a notional loss to the city of £106,000. By what reasoning is this loss of £89,000 justifiable in current circumstances?
The second area of concern is the veracity of the statements made repeatedly to the tribunal, claiming to represent Mayor Anderson’s income over time, as leader of the Opposition, leader of the Council, and as mayor. There is also the question of Mayor Anderson’s stated intentions, in the tribunal and elsewhere, and the objective reality of his actions in relation to his income.
The tribunal heard that, as leader of the Opposition, Mayor Anderson received an allowance (common to all councillors) of £10,000, together with a special responsibility allowance (as Opposition leader) of £21,000. This was untrue. The latter figure was £12,193.
Next, the tribunal heard that Mayor Anderson “made clear that if he were appointed leader of the Council, he would not draw any additional money from Liverpool funds”. Clearly, this was not the case. On accession to the leadership, he immediately drew down an extra £25,500, giving him a gross income at that time of c. £52,200.
Quoting the city solicitor, the tribunal was further told that “in keeping with an election commitment [the Mayor] did not draw that full amount but only so much as was necessary to keep his gross income from the school and from his public duties, at £66,000”. Wrong – he was, at that stage, drawing £77,000.
His income before he became mayor was also misrepresented. It was suggested that he had received £66,000 per annum gross in 2011/12. The actual figure was c. £56,000.
Even at Mayor Anderson’s appeal hearing, the same fiddling of figures occurred –
“Leader of the Council, which was in effect a full-time post with an annual allowance of approximately £50,000.”
This was what he drew down, in direct contradiction of what he had told the initial tribunal hearing on the 7th November 2014. Why, you may ask, does all of this matter? Very simply, because what emerges is an obvious attempt to portray Mayor Anderson as a selfless public servant, foregoing his full entitlements in his various public roles. Although designed to influence the tribunal, it was patently untrue, and failed in its purpose.
Avarice and mendacity have no place in public life, nor in a tribunal. Nor should public officials involve themselves in money-grubbing exercises on behalf of their political masters. In any other walk of life, those involved in this profligate expenditure of £89,000 of taxpayers’ money, would be held to account. Since the Standards Board has been abolished by the government, and given the servile nature of the current council, it seems unlikely that there is any local instrument of redress for outraged local people.