As the leader of the Liberal Democrats, the main opposition party in Liverpool, you hardly expect me to be dispassionate about what is happening in our city. However, facts do speak for themselves.
What’s going on in Liverpool City Council?
- The government has imposed five commissioners on us; this is the only council in England that has ever had such a sizeable team imposed.
- The improvement programme and the costs of the commissioners, consultants, advisers etc. is estimated to be more than £2mn a year all of which comes from frontline services.
- The losses under the Anderson years were originally estimated at £135mn but since then we have had to pay an extra £20mn for the Lime Street and Strand redevelopments; only last week another potential £8mn of losses on Festival Gardens and Tunstall Street have been uncovered.
- The waste did not stop with Joe Anderson. Earlier this year, under Joanne Anderson, it was found that a failure to procure energy properly had cost the council, schools and the fire service more than £16mn.
- Apart from one set of developments near the University quarter and at Everton FC’s Bramley Moore Stadium, external investment in commerce and industry has plummeted.
- There are no fewer than 35 stalled residential developments in and around the city centre; Manchester has one.
- It is the only council in the country to have two major police investigations into staff, developers and politicians. The first of these, Operation Sheridan, will start to come to court in October. We hope that Operation Aloft will swiftly follow.
Liverpool as the centre of press attention
I do not think anyone would dispute fact that Liverpool City Council is the worst in England and that it will be a long-term job to rectify the manifest problems within the council.
To add to the bad publicity, we then got a spate of murders. In one day last week I got five phone calls from the national press. The first were variations on the theme, ‘Is Liverpool the murder Capital of the UK?’ The answer of course is that it isn’t although every single murder, especially of children is to be regretted. Then in the afternoon I got two calls asking about the council’s corruption cases after the Operation Sheridan charges had been made public. One of those reporters tried to link the council’s corruption to the murders, a link I found laughable.
Liverpool should be the best city in the UK
So how do we get out of what could be a dangerous downward spiral in what should be the best city in the UK, if not Europe?
Firstly, we need to sort out the council. Over a decade the basic programmes of the council were corrupted. Procedures designed to safeguard public assets and finances were ignored. Best Vale Inspector, Max Caller, found that of 50 delegated authority reports, 48 were not properly registered. These involved £millions. Unless we tackle problems like these, Liverpool Council will never be run efficiently which is why my colleagues and I have welcomed intervention by outside experts, although not by commissioners.
We need to ensure that decisions are made based on information and hard facts. We then need to ensure that the system delivers projects and programmes in a way that is properly scrutinised not only by councillors but also by the people of Liverpool because there is full transparency about our work.
Secondly, in the long term we need to create a coherent vision for our city. Currently, the council has no real plan for the future. We drift forwards and backwards on the tide rather than riding the tide. In any strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis we have continually looked at the weaknesses and threats and not the opportunities and strengths.
Become a Liverpool ambassador
Liverpool has so much to offer the world. Our fine buildings and waterfront; our four universities; our excellent maritime location; a great shopping area with good museums and other attractions; a thriving cultural offer, our willing and friendly workforce. These and so many more features, which are unique, should be at the forefront of our minds.
That is why I am challenging every resident, organisation and business in Liverpool to become ambassadors for our city. We cannot ignore the problems and threats but we can deal with them best by taking advantage of our strengths and opportunities.
In the first decade of this century, Liverpool was on the up. Some 16.75 million people visited our city when it was the European Capital of Culture of 2008. More than £2bn was spent on capital programmes in our city centre alone with £750,000 invested to upgrade our social housing. We had turned the corner on a path to a new future, but since then that corner turning has led us into a dark and forbidding back alley.
It does not have to be this way. If we all pull together, we can make the council the best council in the UK, in the best city in Europe. When you have thought about this let me know what you will do to help with this. I can contacted at [email protected].