If nothing else, the Caller report on Liverpool City Council has shaken the worms out of the woodwork of the city. Settling down to some late evening television, I was dismayed to see that Echo “political editor” (a title I concede hesitantly) Liam Thorp pontificating on the daily headlines on Sky television. This man, who ignored all of the evidence of the corruption rife in LCC, coincidentally published an interview with academic Stuart Wilks-Heeg. He is yet another who has had nothing to do or say about Liverpool’s sickness these past ten years, along with another of Thorp’s “expert” academics, Michael Parkinson, remembered for his panegyrics to Joe on behalf of the Heseltine Institute. Talk about the three wise monkeys… The only local academic who has said anything sensible on our travails is Professor Jon Tonge.
Ah, well – they are not alone in belatedly seeing the blindingly obvious. I note that the city solicitor for these past ten years is to depart. I am sure that she will be cheered by the Law Society Gazette report, showering support for LCC’s legal beagles. What humbug to exonerate them from any culpability because of pressure. They must have seen what was happening, but they still signed off on a catalogue of dodgy deals. Refusal to sign, or resignation, was surely the proper (dare I say ethical?) course to follow.
The district auditors have not been left behind in issuing a “not me, guv” statement. Their spokesman, Mr Andrew Smith, claimed that there was no flagging up of issues prior to the arrival of chief executive, Tony Reeves. His actual reported words were “no red flags to us of these issues until … the arrests”. This is absolutely untrue. I went to meet with Grant Thornton at their waterfront offices, and highlighted what was happening in the city council. This was as LCC sold Millennium House about seven years ago!
Meanwhile, within the council’s political arm, I was intrigued to read that Cllr Leon Tootle – chair of the audit and governance committee – was leaving. Apparently, he did so with a heavy heart, but worn down by the abuse he has suffered. Is this the same Cllr Tootle who abused me for taking the council to task over the hugely wasteful – and empty – Parklands School in Speke? Good riddance, many will say.
Still, as Cllr Simon – acting mayor – still insists that she saw nothing untoward in her years alongside Mayor Anderson as his deputy, another councillor has shown his true colours. Cllr Kennedy is councillor for Kirkdale, and has been living in Spain for over a year. His term of office does not end until May 2022, and he fully intends to stay in his new home until then. He continues to draw his council allowances, and will do so until his term is up. What does that say to the people in his ward? It is bad enough that there is a war being waged between his fellow councillor, Joe Hanson, and residents. It does not augur well for future Labour prospects thereabouts.
The ex-wife of Cllr Kennedy is the infamously low profile Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner. Like her ex-consort, she too has an overseas home. Many believe that she spends far more time in France than on Merseyside. She was elected under the Labour banner, although she left Labour in accord with the trumped up charges of anti-Semitism in the local party. Nevertheless, her poor performance will reflect badly on Labour as she is still associated with Labour in the minds of the voters.
Finally, it has been announced that the job creation project for ex-councillor Frank Hont, known as Liverpool Foundation Homes, is to be wound up, with losses of over £700,000. I am sure that there is more to come. Meanwhile, the national Labour Party has appointed Deeside MP, David Hanson, and former Leeds City Council Leader, Dame Judith Blake, to carry out a root and branch reform of Liverpool Labour. Where will they begin? Do they understand what they are letting themselves in for?
Over three years ago, Lancashire Police handed their conclusions resulting from their long-running and expensive Operation Sheridan to the Crown Prosecution Service. This investigation, although Lancashire based, leads into the very heart of Liverpool City Council. To date, the CPS has launched no prosecutions. The moral of this legal saga is to wait and see what, if any, prosecutions eventuate from the murky chaos of the city council. Until there are prosecutions and convictions, nothing much will change.