Sometimes, we cannot see the wood for the trees. Take the Merseyside Police. Too often, there are grumbles about what it does and does not do. Frankly, it cannot do everything which we expect of it, especially in times of austerity cuts. Their current priorities are to tackle drugs and gun crime. Fair enough, one might say.
Yet there are other areas which demand their attention which appear to rate a lower sense of urgency. Consider the situation with One Direct in Lancashire. There, the police have arrested four people in connection with charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and intimidation of witnesses. One of these is the Tory council leader in Lancashire, but the other three have strong Liverpool connections including Liverpool council’s current chief executive. Indeed, there is a parallel inquiry concerning the city council’s partnership with BT – Liverpool Direct.
Merseyside Police have waited for Lancashire Police to do their bit before stepping up their game. Wisely, perhaps, because one suspects that the Lancashire force’s legwork will be of great assistance and cost saving to the Merseyside force in these related investigations. A similar situation has arisen with Greater Manchester Police. Both of the north-west’s major cities have been used by scam artists selling off-the-plan apartments to Asian investors, who have been duped on an industrial scale. Again, Merseyside has side-stepped inquiries from Hong Kong, letting the Manchester Police take the lead.
It makes sense to an economy-conscious Merseyside Police. Not too long ago, it was the only force outside of the Metropolitan Police, which received a special, enhanced grant because of the city’s place in international and organised crime. That extra funding has long gone, with the general austerity cuts also having their effect on the extent of policing by our local force.
Meanwhile, there remains one “force” which appears not to see itself as over-extended and that is Mayor Anderson. We all recall that when Councillor Brant resigned as the Liverpool councillor responsible for finance (he is a commercial barrister by profession), Mayor Anderson took up the finance reins in his place. I was extremely doubtful about this then as now, as his only previous financial experience was running the Munro pub in Duke Street; and that ended in financial disaster.
I read now that the mayor is to take on a third role – as acting chief executive. I do not believe that the city can tolerate such a mismatch. Even in the private sector, for a business the size of the city of Liverpool, few organisations would permit a wholly unqualified individual to take on such a complex and onerous task as trying to run Liverpool council on a day-to-day basis, especially during these trying times.
The mayor has enough on his plate, as he fast approaches his predicted crunch year of 2018, when, he has told us, the city will go over a financial precipice. To add to his worries, he has now been given the public sector reform portfolio of the Combined Authority. This will require him to come up with innovative ways in which the six local authorities might work together. Now, I know that collaboration and collegiality are not Mayor Anderson’s particular qualities, but if he is to have anything but a negative influence on the Combined Authority, he will simply have to change his whole approach – if he can.
Perhaps, on the other hand, it is the right time for the mayor to ease the pain and finally step aside, allowing a newer, more progressive person to take his place.