Government Commissioners to hand back power to Liverpool City Council

The Cunard Building

Liverpool City Council is now “a well-governed, improving organisation, with ambitious leaders who are committed to long term change”.

That’s according to the Government Commisioners who took control of the authority in June 2021, following publication of the Max Caller report in March that year into how the council was being run after the arrest of five people, including the then elected mayor Joe Anderson, linked to Merseyside Police’s Operation Aloft investigations.

Today (May 8), however, the Commissioners announced that they will end their intervention and restore all powers to councillors next month.

They have written to the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, saying: “If LCC continues on this path, it will soon be a Council that can achieve the value for money, good quality services the people of Liverpool have a right to expect for many years to come.”

The council had already taken back responsibility for Finance, Highways and Transport in March, and the majority of senior appointments in January.

The Cunard Building-based council and the Commissioners have agreed that a Statutory Assurance and Improvement Board will be set up until March 2025, to provide oversight of the ongoing changes.

Lead Commissioner, Mike Cunningham, said: “The improvements we have seen in the Council since the start of the intervention have been substantial.

“We know it is now a much better led, resourced, and resilient organisation. Because of this, we feel confident recommending a hand back of our remaining powers and an end of the Commissioner-led intervention from June.

“This is a big, positive step forwards for the Council. We are confident in its capacity to continue to make progress with the support of a Statutory Assurance and Improvement Board.”

Council leader, Cllr Liam Robinson, said: “I would like to pay tribute to the incredibly hard work of officers, the Cabinet and Councillors in ending the intervention in the period originally set out.

“It has been a truly herculean effort, particularly over the last 12 months, to get us to this position and I am incredibly proud of everyone for their dedication and commitment.

“We are now a mature and focused organisation which knows its strengths and weaknesses, and we have a clear vision and plan to deliver well run, value for money services.”

He added: “We know we still have a long way to go to prove to the people of Liverpool that we are a changed organisation, which is why we have jointly agreed with the Commissioners that there is a need for an Improvement Panel to provide a check on how we are transforming our services.

“When combined with the Futures’ Panel work around regenerating Liverpool, I believe this marks a new dawn for our city.”

Liverpool City Council Chief Executive, Andrew Lewis, said: “I have seen a tremendous amount of change in the 12 months that I have been with the organisation, and I am proud of the passion and determination from both staff and Councillors.

“There is an absolute commitment from Liverpool City Council to deliver services that make a real difference to the lives of our residents. Today marks a real milestone and a new beginning for our organisation.”

Lead Commissioner, Mike Cunningham, said: “We are pleased to be able to recommend a Statutory Assurance and Improvement Board from June.

“It is a real testament to the hard work of members and officers that we have been able to recommend taking this step to a Board, instead of continuing with Commissioners.

“With the oversight and support the Board will provide, I am confident Liverpool City Council will successfully implement the programme of improvement and ultimately, provide stronger services for the people of Liverpool.”

Robert Jenrick, the then Local Government Secretary, ordered three Commissioners to oversee Liverpool City Council in the wake of the Caller Report, which he said outlined “multiple apparent failures” within the Labour-run authority that paints a “deeply concerning picture” with a “pervasive and rotten culture”.

He said at the time:  “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.”

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