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Government increases intervention in Liverpool after another critical report

The Government has announced it will extend its role in the running of Liverpool City Council (Peter Byrne/PA)
The Government has announced it will extend its role in the running of Liverpool City Council (Peter Byrne/PA)

Government intervention in Liverpool City Council is to be further expanded to include governance and financial decision-making.

But that move has been questioned by the Liverpool city mayor, who warned that further intervention would not solve the issues facing the council.

It comes following the publication of the latest critical report into the running of Liverpool City Council by four commissioners appointed last year to work with the council staff in key areas.

The commissioners were appointed to oversee parts of Liverpool City Council following an inspection report.

The report, published on Friday and addressed to Secretary of State for Communities Greg Clark, recommended further reform with certain services “failing” and in need of “urgent reform”.

It comes with a warning that poor performance in the areas of procurement, finance and auditing are limiting the “council’s ability to operate at a crucial time”.

The report also called for an added role of “finance commissioner”.

Mr Clark, in a letter to the commissioners, raises concerns about the financial situation facing the council.

“I am greatly concerned to learn you have found further evidence of best value failure at Liverpool City Council. You have been clear about the depth of this systemic and whole-council failure and that immediate action is required.

“I agree with your assessment that the council continues to fail in its best value duty and, therefore, I am minded to expand the intervention.”

One key reform is set to be the creation of a a Liverpool Strategic Futures Advisory Panel, chaired by the Mayor of Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram and including Baroness Judith Blake, the former leader of Leeds City Council, as well as Sir Howard Bernstein, the former chief executive of Manchester City Council.

Mayor of the City of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson, was critical of some of the recommendations and the plan for further intervention.

In a lengthy Twitter post, she warned: “Further government intervention will not solve the issues facing Liverpool City Council – these are common issues being experienced right across local government.

“Therefore, I accept the problems, but I question the solution.”

While she thanked the commissioners, as well as the Secretary of State, she said: “Whilst I recognise that there are gaps in our workforce capacity and capability, this is not unique to Liverpool.

“The UK is facing stark skills shortages, and it widely known that local councils are struggling to improve capacity in key areas, which is making us dependent on interim staff that cost more in the short-term.”

Mr Rotheram denied any suggestions that the panel had been created to run the council.

He was responding to criticism from Richard Kemp, the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council, who said that the panel would “take over control” of the local authority.

In a post on Twitter, he said: “The Panel is here to work with the Mayor and council not to run it. We are not taking control of day-to-day statutory services.

“We will advise and offer support in setting strategic longer-term plans and priorities.”

Mr Rotheram told the BBC that Liverpool “shouldn’t be in a position where commissioners are sitting over the shoulders of the directly-elected representatives”.

He added: “There is a real opportunity for us to pull together some expertise, some fresh perspectives of what is happening in Liverpool and to look to the future.

“This is a time for us really to put a line in the sand. The commissioners will deal with the legacy issues and we can look to the future.”