One or two councillors who regularly read my blog have asked me to send the blog to their private email address. They mistakenly believe (I think!!) that their council emails are being compromised in some way. I know that this has happened in the past due to technical difficulties, but I do not believe it is the case currently. Rather, the reality is that my blogs have become sporadic through choice on my part. The reason for that is simple: nothing seems to be changing for the better yet. The recent revelation that a host of complaints against some Liverpool councillors have been chucked out without investigation, underlines the scepticism that many have about the much-trumpeted clean-up of the city council.
However, this does not mean that things are either better or worse than they have been in that benighted local authority. If you need a victim’s view of the reality on the ground, check out the cri-de coeur of Cormac Murphy in response to my blog “The Same Old Story”. He gives a very personal perspective of how he and countless others have been ripped off. The perpetrators, and those who facilitated their criminal activities, appear to have acted with impunity. In most cases, these crooks are still at it now.
Only recently, another company – registered at a terraced house in Snowdrop Street in Kirkdale – went bust, owing over £41 million to investors. Another went bust with new-build properties on “Millionaires’ Row” in Formby. Of course, when there is a loser, there is also a winner. In this case of the latter, it was the ubiquitous Terry Riley of the Ascot Group who was the ultimate winner. An interesting character, Mr Riley has a very colourful history. At various stages, he has been a champion ABA boxing champ, a pub owner, and a property speculator. Apart from trying to buy Leeds United football club, he entered the public eye in what I can only describe as a feud with the drug-dealing Clarke brothers, now happily serving long stretches at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. As the French are likely to say, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”.
Incidentally, it appears that the council officer who has been adjudicating complaints against Liverpool councillors (and throwing over half of them out) is none other than Jeanette McLaughlin. This is the woman who was both City Solicitor and Monitoring Officer during Joe Anderson’s heyday as Mayor. If nothing else could be more likely to heighten people’s cynicism about change in the city council, surely this does the trick.
Meanwhile, official Opposition leader on the council, Cllr Kemp, is calling for the new Secretary of State for Communities to pull back on the proposed changes which his predecessor had outlined for the future shape of the city council. I could not disagree more. I do not believe that there is either a need or a demand for three councillors for every ward. Nor do we need as many wards. For a start, idle hands on a council can easily make mischief in a variety of ways – sometimes out of boredom, sometimes out of malice, sometimes out of greed. In my view, that has been the case for the last fifty years or so, since the last great overhaul of local government in the wake of the Redcliffe-Maud review.
If councillors are to be paid a proper salary, then they should do a proper job. In my experience, there have been too many jobsworths and party hacks on councils, far more interested in picking up extra income via superfluous outside bodies rather than in looking after the interests of their constituents and of the city. I am well aware that there are, and always have been, dedicated public servants on councils who do work hard for their constituents. However, there are far too many – as in Parliament – seeking to feather their own nest rather than looking after the interests of their hard-pressed constituents.