Second commissioners report finds more failures from the council
Commissioners are set to take on all financial, governance and recruitment powers from Liverpool City Council, following the publication of a second damning report.
You have been clear about the depth of this systemic and whole-council failure and that immediate action is required.
Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Levelling up, Housing and Communities, said he was inclined to transfer more powers after “slow progress” made by the city council in the Commissioners’ latest report.
The Commissioners team, led by Mike Cunningham with colleagues Joanna Killian, Neil Gibson and Deborah McLaughlin, acknowledged that the council has achieved some important tactical milestones through the hard work of officers, but are recommending further intervention.
Mike Cunningham said, “We want to highlight that Commissioners submitted the report in June, so findings are now several weeks old. However, we stand by the key themes for improvement set out in the report.
“The report is clear that not enough progress has been made at Liverpool City Council over the past year.
“The developments currently happening at the core of the Council, such as changes in leadership, are necessary to Liverpool City Council’s improvement. They are a positive sign that the Council is now embarking on the right path for success.
We have asked for a widening of our powers as Commissioners.
“Liverpool City Council has been through a turbulent time recently. We know substantial events, such as the resignation of the Chief Executive and the publication of the audit report into the handling of the energy contract, will have been unsettling.
“However, we are clear that the Council has a strong, capable leadership team, and very many committed staff members who do good work on behalf of the people of Liverpool to meet these challenges, with the support and oversight of Commissioners.
“We have asked for a widening of our powers as Commissioners in the report, which is a recommendation now going through a consultation process. By implementing the recommendations set out in our report, we are confident that Liverpool City Council will make progress at pace.”
New chief exec
Liverpool City Council has continued to struggle since Max Caller delivered the Best Value inspection report in March 2021.
In July of this year it was revealed that Liverpool City Council failed to properly extend their energy contract, resulting in costs of an estimated £7.5 million.
Chief executive Tony Reeves and Mel Creighton, director of finance and deputy chief executive, have both recently resigned from their posts.
Today (Friday, 19 August) Liverpool City Council announced the appointment of a new interim Chief Executive, Theresa Grant OBE. The working arrangements are still being finalised but it is expected Theresa will start in Liverpool towards the end of September.
Responding to the second report from Commissioners, Greg Clark said that he was greatly concerned to learn of further evidence of best value failure at Liverpool City Council.
In a letter to the Commissioners he wrote, “You have been clear about the depth of this systemic and whole-council failure and that immediate action is required.
"I am particularly concerned with the Council’s financial situation and the estimated budget gap of £98.2 million over the next four years; the structural weaknesses in the system that supports the management of public money, as the recent energy contract issue has shown; and the Council’s approach to risk management.
“I am minded to appoint a commissioner to oversee the financial functions of the Council, for you to be given executive powers on recruitment and for functions associated with governance and financial decision making to be transferred to you. My officials have today written to the Council, inviting them to make representations on my proposals by 2 September.”
The Secretary of State also announced the introduction of a “Liverpool Strategic Futures Advisory Panel” chaired by Mayor Steve Rotheram with Baroness Blake of Leeds CBE and Sir Howard Bernstein.
“I will ask them to meet regularly with the City Mayor, Joanne Anderson, and her cabinet, and with you,” said Clark.
“I expect their work to be complementary to yours, and for you to work closely together to help the Council make the right decisions and give the people of Liverpool the local council they deserve.”
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