Exorbitant costs to taxpayers of investigating and fixing Liverpool Council’s problems
The taxpayers of Liverpool are shelling out huge sums of money to help the City Council identify and correct its own mistakes.
Liverpool Council is currently the subject of significant government intervention. Following last year’s damning inspection report, a team of four Whitehall commissioners have been appointed to oversee the work and decisions made in the council’s regeneration, highways and property management departments, which had been heavily criticized in Max Caller’s report.
The inspection came amid a police investigation that led to a number of council-related arrests, including former mayor Joe Anderson and former regeneration boss Nick Kavanagh. Neither has been charged and both deny wrongdoing.
READ MORE: Deputy mayor stripped of financial role after council energy bill ‘disaster’
This government intervention is paid for by the council, which is funded by the city’s taxpayers, but it’s not the only costly step taken to try to investigate and resolve Cunard authority issues. Here we look at the various steps taken to address the council’s problems and mistakes and what it’s costing the townspeople.
Last June, following a historically poor government inspection report, a team of four commissioners were sent by the government to be installed at Liverpool Council for a period of at least three years. The team, led by former police chief Mike Cunningham, was tasked with overseeing the regeneration, highways and property management departments that came under such harsh criticism in the report. last year.
This report also provided recommendations for a series of major changes and reforms within the Board as part of its improvement journey. These include a major reorganization of the city’s electoral districts, a move to all elections every four years, and consultation on governance models for the city – all of which cost money. .
A council report last year suggested the series of reforms and the commissioners’ work to transform the council would cost the city nearly £12million. This would include the costs of commissioners and broader board recruitment and spending to support “strong and robust governance”.
However, those costs are likely to be higher after the four commissioners won a highly controversial and backdated pay rise earlier this year. ECHO has revealed the four-person team will be given a 50 per cent pay rise on their already substantial costs, with the city again being asked to foot the bill.
Chief Commissioner Mr Cunningham is now paid a daily rate of £1,200, while his team are paid £1,100 each for a day’s work. This equates to £180,000 and £165,000 respectively each year if commissioners meet their 150-day limit. ECHO also revealed the team were claiming thousands of pounds in expenses, again paid for by the council. During their first six months in Liverpool, from June to November last year, the four government workers claimed almost £6,500 for travel, hotels and meals.
And we can expect these costs to continue. In a recent interview with ECHO, Mr Cunningham said he had seen nothing in his first year at Liverpool to suggest he and his team would not be in place at Liverpool for at least another two years.
Energy contract crisis
Liverpool Council’s supposed improvement journey has suffered quite a setback in recent weeks. As first reported in ECHO, a series of calamitous mistakes by council officials over the authority’s power contract are set to cost the city up to £16m.
The litany of mistakes, which included officers failing to tell bosses and politicians that their energy supplier was pulling out of the commercial market before a major new deal was done, will see the council lose around 4.5million pounds, while city schools and fire departments are likely to face spiraling costs too.
Deputy Mayor Jane Corbett has already had her financial record deleted as Mayor Joanne Anderson demands ‘full accountability’ for serious errors. But this responsibility will also come at a cost to the council and its residents.
The council and commissioners have commissioned international accounting firm Mazars to carry out a full independent audit of the situation, which is expected to report its findings by the end of the month. ECHO understands that this probe will cost the council around £80,000. Mayor Anderson also said she will now appoint an outside political adviser to help with budget matters, it is unclear at this stage how this role will be funded.
Another investigation is underway into problems at Liverpool Council, with yet more taxpayers’ money to fund it. This concerns an outside body that will be appointed to investigate the historical practices of the troubled authority. Arrests and the ongoing police investigation linked to the council prevented its auditors Grant Thornton from signing the council’s accounts for the 2019/20 financial year.
Grant Thornton has since called for an audit, saying he cannot complete the local authority’s books until an investigation has taken place to determine whether the issues that hampered the authority were limited to “a particular area of counseling or if the problems are more widespread”.
The scope of this investigation has now been finalized, with an announcement expected soon on who will lead the investigation. ECHO understands this investigation is expected to cost the council around £180,000.
Other problems ?
As you can see from the points listed above, Liverpool Council have their fair share of problems and are shelling out big bucks trying to fix them. But this list may not be the end of everything.
Commissioners installed on the council were due to provide their final update on progress in April, but asked for a delay. They will now report to the government on June 10.
It is likely that the energy contract disaster was a key factor in the delay, with the stewards reporting “other issues have arisen” and there will now be real fears that further interventions may be ordered. A statement from the Leveling Up department describing the situation as “unacceptable” did nothing to alleviate those fears.