Government’s commissioners go into Liverpool City Council

Mayor of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson

Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick has today (June 10) appointed independent commissioners to oversee improvements at Liverpool City Council.

It follows publication of the Max Caller report in March into how the council was being run following the arrest of five people, including the then elected mayor Joe Anderson, linked to Merseyside Police’s Operation Aloft investigations.

Mr Jenrick said the report outlined “multiple apparent failures” within the Labour-run authority which he said paints a “deeply concerning picture” with a “pervasive and rotten culture”.

Today he appointed three independent commissioners who will work with the council, headed by chief executive Tony Reeves, to improve its function.

Interventions of this kind are extremely rare and underline the severity of the failings at Liverpool City Council and the need ensure that the council can continue to deliver vital services for the people of Liverpool.

The council will continue to make most of the day-to-day decisions, however the commissioners will have the power to intervene if they are dissatisfied with the council’s improvement.

The commissioners, due to be in place until June 2024, will drive forward the council’s action plan, updating the Secretary of State every six months on progress.

They will be led by Mike Cunningham QPM, an experienced leader and former Chief Constable with a 30-year career in policing. He will be supported by an expert team with a proven record in local government, leadership and delivering cultural change.

The team comprises Joanna Killian, local government improvement commissioner, Neil Gibson, highways commissioner, and Deborah McLaughlin, regeneration commissioner.

Joanna Killian has more than 30 years of experience in the public sector delivering transformational change and service improvement. Since March 2018 she has been chief executive of Surrey County Council. Prior to this she worked at KPMG and was also chief executive of Essex County Council for nine years.

Neil Gibson is the former executive director of transport economy and environment for Buckinghamshire County Council, where he also acted for a time as interim chief executive. He is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation and former president of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport.

Deborah McLaughlin has extensive experience working in regeneration and housing for more than 30 years across public and private sectors, including as director of housing at Manchester City Council, regional director for the North West at Homes England and director of Capita’s real estate business. Deborah has also previously worked at the Audit Commission as a best value inspector and auditor.

Mr Jenrick has today also confirmed his intention that Liverpool City Council will move to all-out elections from 2023 onwards, providing stability to Liverpool’s local democracy during this period of significant change.

Going forward, the city mayoral and council elections will take place in the same year every four years, allowing the council to focus on longer term strategic change and providing a higher degree of accountability and scrutiny.

He also reaffirmed his commitment to work closely with the political, the business and the cultural leadership of the city and with the wider region, including with Steve Rotheram, the Mayor of the Liverpool City Region.

Mr Jenrick said:  “The decision to intervene is not one I have taken lightly, and it reflects the severity of the failings at Liverpool City Council.

“The people of Liverpool have been let down badly. They need that public funds are being managed properly.  A major change is required to give this great city the civic leadership it deserves and the credibility and respect required to attract investment.

“I am thankful to Tony Reeves for setting the council on the path to improvement. I am hopeful that, working alongside these commissioners, the council, led by Mayor Joanne Anderson, can continue to implement rapid and far-reaching changes.”

Mike Cunningham said: “As someone who grew up in the Liverpool area I am honoured to have been appointed by the Secretary of State as lead commissioner for the Government’s intervention at Liverpool City Council.

“I will be part of a wider commissioner team that will support the council as it continues its improvement journey to better serve the people of Liverpool.

“I am looking forward to starting this important work which will include providing regular updates on progress to the Secretary of State.”

Mayor of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson, said: “We are determined to deliver the changes required to deliver the best possible value for our residents.

“The entire organisation is committed to ensuring the improvements we have mapped out in response to the report are achieved.

“The commissioners will be here to support and guide us on our improvement journey and we are ready to work collaboratively with them, utilising their significant experience and skills.”