Government sends inspector in to Liverpool City Council

Liverpool Town Hall

Liverpool City Council will be the subject of a Government investigation following the arrest of its mayor, Joe Anderson.

And the role of elected mayor is now under review, with a full council meeting set to consider other alternatives.

Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick has appointed Max Caller as inspector to scrutinise the council’s dealings.

It follows the latest arrests linked to the ongoing Aloft Police inquiry focused on property dealings within the Liverpool City Council boundary.

Among the latest five arrests on December 4, was the city’s elected mayor, Joe Anderson. He and four other men were released on police bail after questioning.

Mr Anderson, who is administratively suspended by the Labour Party, stepped aside on December 10, while police inquiries continue, saying he would take a period of unpaid leave, “until the police make clear their intentions with the investigation on 31 December”.

No-one has been charged with any offences.

On December 9, it was announced that The Government was demanding details of all property plans from Liverpool City Council.

Now, the Government has confirmed that Mr Caller, who has investigated troubled authorities Northamptonshire County Council and Tower Hamlets, will look at key departments and authority auditing and governance.

Mr Jenrick said: “It is clear that the council has taken significant steps to improve governance and assurances processes within the council, with respect to the authority’s planning, highways, regeneration and property management functions.”

But he said “given the seriousness of the issues identified through the police investigation”, he wanted “direct, independent assurance” that the council was compliant with all performance measures set by the Government.

He added: “At this challenging time with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that Liverpool City Council continues to deliver public services and carry out its other statutory duties as effectively as possible, and I thank those working in the council for all they have done to date.”

Liverpool’s Acting Mayor, Cllr Wendy Simon, and council chief executive Tony Reeves, said: “We welcome the opportunity to work closely with government on this review.

“We are immensely proud of our staff and our work on growing the city’s economy and improving the life of all our residents.

“We look forward to working with government in a spirit of openness and collaboration.

“For the last 18 months, we have worked hard to strengthen our governance.

“We would like to reassure our residents that there will be no impact on the delivery of our services during this period.”

Meanwhile, a special council meeting is set for early in the new year to decide whether to continue with the current mayoral system.

Mr Anderson has held the position since it was created in 2012.

But opposition parties have insisted that Liverpool should consider a different style of governance, such as the previous leader and cabinet model, or a committee system.

When reported earlier this month that Cheshire East Council had voted to move to a committee system form of governance, replacing the current leader and cabinet model, Cllr Richard Kemp, leader of Liverpool Liberal Democrats, tweeted in response: “This is what Liverpool now needs to do”.

Click here to sign up to receive our new South West business news...