From EU Capital of Culture to UK Capital of Corruption

If I tried to write a fictional story about what has happened in Liverpool, it would be condemned as being impossible and a huge exaggeration. For years we have tried to break into the system but were stonewalled by both politicians and officers who either held information close to their chest or blatantly lied.

16 arrests have been made by the Police of people in or around the Council including the former Elected Mayor, Joe Anderson. Now an inspection team led by an independent former Council Chief Executive, Max Caller, has officially exposed the grotesque practices of Liverpool Council over the past decade.

We continually warned about land transactions, tendering and other areas where there was a clear lack of due process. We continually warned about the lack of proper governance and the failure of the scrutiny process of the Cabinet and Officers. The Caller Report, produced in March vindicated our continued and continuing objections to bad practice and malpractice within the Council.

There can be no doubt where the blame lies for the damage that has been done to Liverpool’s reputation. Liverpool Council still has a Labour Mayor with a cabinet of seven members, all Labour. Liverpool Labour have controlled the Council since 2010 and still have seventy of the eighty Councillors despite us making three gains in May.

No other Council in living memory has seen sixteen arrests and a senior officer being summarily dismissed. Caller and his team found that

  • There has been inappropriate behaviour from Council officers and from Labour councillors leading to many of the problems that the Inspection Team have reported on.
  • There has been huge waste within the Council and a squandering of Council taxpayer’s money, and a failure to collect £millions that should have been due to the council from Developers. This has cost each household in Liverpool an average of £950.
  • There has been poor recording and scrutiny of all council decisions with an open culture which welcomes criticism and accountability. 
  • Councillors and Officers have accepted hospitality from developers which placed them in a position to be compromised.

It is right then that the Government should insist on some level of intervention. That intervention needs to be achieved in a way that strengthens the Council by increasing the capacity of officers and members. It is welcomed then that the intervention will only be imposed on the wider regeneration functions of the Council. It will not run the Council as was first feared but will supervise certain functions of the Council.

We now have 4 Commissioners appointed by the Government to oversee our regeneration and legal work. I am working closely with them and have agreed to serve on an Improvement Board. They have a huge experience of local government and have not been put in place to push Tory policies. I see them as ‘cheap’ consultants whose presence can be of great benefit to us all.

Just as happened after the Militant and Hatton era it will take many years to overcome the damage done to the finances and reputation of our City. Just as we did then the Liberal Democrats have positively committed to being a constructive opposition and will work with Labour and the people of Liverpool to bring the City through this crisis.


* Cllr Richard Kemp CBE is the Leader of the Liverpool Liberal Democrats.

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  • Mark Morris 2nd Aug '21 - 6:24pm

    Great article, but surely a small typo on bullet 3? Is it not without, not with?

  • Helen Dudden 3rd Aug '21 - 4:50pm

    There needs to be more transparency in politics. If this does not happen soon, it will cause further public distrust.
    Because of the mistrust of Labour and it’s policies, things swung to the Tory Party. What would be the outcome of an election now?

  • It has of course to be pointed out that PR/Preference elections for local councils would mean that “one party states” at local government level would be uncommon and it would be very unlikely that there wouldn’t be at least a reasonable number of opposition councillors to keep an eye on things.

    And often Conservative “one party states” in the shires are as bad as Labour doing very little for the poorer sections of society and often slashing services.

    A lot of credit is due to Richard Kemp and Lib Dems in Liverpool who have managed to keep at least some Lib Dem councillors during the most difficult days for (very) non-Tory areas in the coalition years and immediately afterwards. The way they dug in, in the 2010s is a great tribute to them.

    And (hopefully!) leaving aside the arguments over a “progressive alliance” which have probably been done to death for a while on LDV it shows the value of strong Lib Dem parties and council groups in Labour areas. And very sadly – especially as the often are the poorest areas of Britain – too often Labour is a complete and utter let down in the way it runs councils.

    Let’s hope that the Lib Dems in Liverpool at least get the council back to No Overall Control and hopefully back to Lib Dem control.

    And as Winston Churchill said – it shows once again that Democracy is worst way of running things …. until you consider all the others!

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