The whole world remains focussed on the coronavirus pandemic; and with good cause. Every aspect of what has been seen as normal human activity in a modern society is feeling its dire effects. Like many with too much time on their hands, I have watched too much television on the subject, especially the televised news conferences of the governments of the United States and of the United Kingdom. The performances of Trump would have been pure comedy if the consequences of the pandemic had not been so grim for so many people. As for our home grown version, it is little wonder that, with every passing day, more questions about the government’s mishandling of the pandemic have been raised than answers supplied.
Perhaps Her Majesty’s Government will now be held to account with a functioning Opposition front bench now in position. We shall see. However, one can only wonder whether what passes for local government democracy in our own city-region will also resurrect those two staples of good governance – transparency and accountability. In the current crisis situation, I really cannot see how it is possible. What was known as glasnost at the fall of the old Soviet Union, transparency has never been an outstanding feature of local government hereabouts, given that councillors are currently told to cancel surgeries and meetings, and any council meetings which are held (if at all), are held on line, accountability has been kicked into touch. Even the ultimate test of accountability – elections – have been postponed for a year.
Presumably, a handful of senior councillors and council officers are making all decisions within local civic bodies. For example, the LCR Combined Authority has decided to commission the Liverpool University Heseltine Institute to investigate the economic outcomes of the present crisis. Rather presumptuous, you might think, since we have no idea when or how this pandemic will be over. One wonders who was behind this no doubt hefty expenditure and who was consulted about it. It has all the hallmarks of a previous £100,000 commission of Tory Philip Blond to report the blindingly obvious on the HS2 rail by-pass of Liverpool.
The waste disposal authority decided to close all tips, just as Liverpool council (and elsewhere, for all I know) cancelled its green bin collection service. Is it any surprise that there has been a surge in fly tipping? The Police and Crime Commissioner has done her bit to add to a growing confusion about governance in the city-region. She appointed former Wirral council leader Phil Davies to be her deputy (her fourth in a row) apparently without clearing it with him or anyone else.
No one would dispute the need under current circumstances for councils and other representative bodies to follow the regime of lock down and social distancing just like everyone else. However, great care is required in both what is done and how it is done. Our national government has taken to hiding behind distractions like their soul mate in the White House, in order to cover their tardiness in tackling the virus. Locally, we have no need for comments on hairdressers, pointless petitions or promises of VE-day style street parties. Far better to have clear explanations of what is being done and why.
Even in these perilous times, there remain important local issues to be addressed. Despite the restrictions placed on much economic activity, for example, building was exempted. It is ironic, therefore, to see the difficulties now apparent to all, faced by the long-standing friends of Mayor Anderson. Elliot Lawless, having been arrested, can only watch his “developments” grind to a halt. Lawrence Kenwright wrings his hands as his iconic Shankly Hotel goes into administration. Peel tries to bleed as much cash from the Irish ferries as they can as they struggle to stay afloat.
These developers have had a favoured position in the economic life of the city-region, most particularly Liverpool. It would be of profound interest to so many in the region to hear an honest appraisal of them – and their contributions to the local economy – by local political leaders. I do not want to see any further encomiums of praise from the Echo, the Heseltine Institute or anyone else. We have had enough of that in the past. Just give us the truth.