The Beginning of the End?

No-one with any knowledge of Liverpool politics ought to express shock at the Caller Report on Liverpool Council, and the statement in the House of Commons yesterday by the Secretary of State. It has been obvious for years that there has been something radically wrong in the way in which the council (LCC) has been run. Indeed, those who express shock have either ignored the evidence of their own eyes and ears, turning a Nelsonian blind eye to the malpractice all around them; or they are completely politically inept.

Yesterday was a good day for the many good people and businesses of Liverpool. The report was the first step in fumigating the infection of LCC. Council tax payers have been the principal victims to date of the terrible abuses of power cited in the Caller Report. However, there are others of whom questions ought to be asked. Quite apart from the silent majority of councillors who have said and done nothing, we might well ask why the local media sought to shower praise on the council rather than the criticism it warranted. Its Trappist silence on council malfeasance has kept much of the local population in the dark about the reality of how the city has been run. What of the district auditors – Grant Thornton – who did not sign off the council’s accounts for the last five years, but did so in the previous five years when there were scams galore? Why did it take so long for Merseyside Police to involve themselves in what were very obviously criminal activities with the council at the centre? Why did the regional and national Labour parties fail to ensure that their Liverpool councillors observe the standards and Nolan Principles current everywhere else?

What we have now is a thorough and clinical report which sets out just how out of kilter Liverpool City Council has been in terms of best value and best practice. It deals (well) with the council’s processes and where it has failed to serve the interests of the city and its people. This is not a minor aberration but a systemic breakdown caused by a whole string of factors. There are many reasons for why this has happened within LCC; but, reading between the lines of the report, we can speculate that suspected malfeasance was a major issue. Nevertheless, the report is extremely circumspect in its conclusions. Mr Caller did not wish the ongoing police operation (Operation Aloft) to be either inhibited or subverted. The next stage for the people of Liverpool to see is the prosecution in the courts of those responsible for the loss to the city and its people of the many millions of pounds known to have been siphoned out of municipal funds. Hopefully, Merseyside Police and the Crown Prosecution Service will hasten the day of reckoning, and expedite the appearance of the malefactors in the dock.

The report did include some surprises. There is to be a long-overdue revision of local government representation in Liverpool. If I read things correctly, the number of councillors will be reduced by about two thirds, and there will be all-out elections once every four years. Each ward will have one councillor, removing the surplus councillors who seem to exist simply to collect their councillor’s allowance in a variation on Parkinson’s Law. Interestingly, the Shadow Secretary of State told the Commons that the Labour Party is to appoint a “senior” party member to look at Liverpool and see what is needed from a Labour Party political viewpoint.

For yours truly, looking at the longer term needs of LCC, the biggest issue highlighted was the need for cultural change. This will not be easy, but I have banged on for years about how vital are the twin civic virtues of transparency and accountability. That culture will not be changed if bodies like the Heseltine Institute continue to publish shallow puff pieces about the city and its politics, rather than engaging with the real issues. Nor does it help when the acting mayor – an Anderson appointee! – gives a job to ex-MEP Teresa Griffin without any recognisable recruitment process and at an unpublished salary. Nor is faith in locally elected officials improved when absentee landlord Police Commissioner – Jane Kennedy – hits council tax payers with a whopping 7% increase in the police precept.

There is a very long way to go indeed. Perhaps we should start next on looking at ways to remedy the democratic deficit at the Combined Authority… It might take another ten years!

10 thoughts on “The Beginning of the End?

  1. Thanks for all your tenacity in exposing the malfeasance that our so called local paper turned a blind eye to. I like many believed the cabal like all good Liverpool people i say if only we knew the truth!!

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  2. I had to laugh at the revelation of a ‘secret cabal’ running the council. It’s only a secret to anyone who’s deaf and blind!

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  3. Not one councillor or MP past or present on Merseyside has spoken truth when mere members of the public were speaking out. The former Mayor called me a liar at a public meeting.
    The Merseyside Labour MP’s and Councillors, all of them should resign. All of them.
    They knew and stayed silent or chose not to know and stayed silent.
    There is no shortage of people who could do a decent job.
    Again well done Peter.

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  4. Excellent Peter the real reason was Anderson was a mouth bully and why people where scared of a tub of lard i don’t know

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  5. Well done on relentlessly banging the drum for many years, Peter. It’s a great shame that we don’t have a publication worthy of the title “newspaper” in this city. Much of my ire is reserved for the Echo and their (lack of) political coverage. This kind of blatant wrongdoing can only happen for so long, in full sight of everyone, when the media are complicit by their silence.

    What chance is there for the checks and balances to work without robust and tenacious (and unbiased) investigstive reporting? The goings on at LCC have been a laughably open secret for many years, as you say. At the very least you’d hope that Anderson’s legal fee wrangles, the Operation Sheridan arrests and the endless development failures, bankruptcies and timely liquidations, might have piqued the curiosity of local reporters. They seemed to treat it as though they were isolated incidents and, if anything, they doubled down on their full throated support for the Anderson regime and our favoured clique of developers.

    It is strange to me that the Echo can so relentlessly and succesfully dig into the endless street scandals of the city yet barely lift a finger towards a story of this size. They are happy to wait outside court writing disproportionately detailed reports on all manner of petty and violent crime each and every eay. No offence is too minor so long as there are enough violent or lurid details to titillate and outrage the readership. From the drunks fighting in the street to the addict stealing from a shop all the way even down to the vandalism of children…every day they fill page after page on the “scum” of the city, feeding peoples fear and outrage, yet they are so strangely lackadaisical when it comes to investigating the biggest crime of all – the robbery of the city itself! For such a scandal, of unprecedented size, ignorance is no excuse. They *chose* not to hold to account the councillors, the developers and the powers that be. To prioritise maintaining good relationships with senior figures over questioning how the city was run. They effectively gave complete carte blanche approval to what was going on by failing to investigate, inform or criticise in any way whatsoever.

    The people of Liverpool deserve a proper newspaper that encourages transparency and debate – one that shows the good and the bad together, clearly, for what they are, and that represents the people of the city in an honest light. Is it any wonder that there is widespread disillusionment and apathy towards politicians and politics when The Echo is the medium through which many people interact with it day-to-day? I fear that any kind of change or reform will be short lived without a proper newspaper to facilitate political discourse and hold our representstives to account.

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  6. The caller report is a damning indictment. Massive lessons need to be learnt on scrutiny and transparency.
    The Labour Party has hit a new low in the way it has conducted the Mayoral selection and the low calibre of the two replacement candidates. I foresee problems ahead in May at the ballot box.

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  7. Councillor’s bullying and intimidating staff, Steve Munby inparticular ordered a member of staff, to break the law by awarding contracts for over £300 without tendering process and cut out the councils partner from the process Enterprise).
    The member of staff refused Munbys instructions and reported him.

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