Liverpool aerial view of Liver Building

Liverpool City Council responds to first Commissioners’ report

The first report into Liverpool City Council’s improvement journey, written by Government-appointed Commissioners, has been published.

Liverpool’s Mayor Joanne Anderson and the city’s Chief Executive Tony Reeves have issued a joint statement in response to the report’s publication.

The pair confirm that an ‘immense amount of work is underway’ within the council to bring in changes and that ‘the culture of bullying and intimidation’ that had existed in parts of the organisation is also being tackled.

The lengthy statement – which is published in full below – also outlines the city council’s commitment to working with the Commissioners to ensure ‘improved services for taxpayers’ is delivered.

The Commissioners’ report, which can be found on the website for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, gives its first assessment of the Regeneration, Highways, Procurement, and Governance and Audit functions of the city council.

It sets out a series of observations and recommendations which are designed to track progress and help the council deliver best value in the services it provides to the city’s residents and businesses.

The key recommendations in this Commissioners’ report focus on governance and the need for the council to rewrite its constitution to enable the public – as well as officers and councillors – to understand more clearly what the council’s aims and objectives are.

This report follows the ‘Best Value’ Inspection report in March, which recommended the appointment of the Commissioners.

Since March, Liverpool City Council has made many changes to ensure that all taxpayers and staff will benefit from the improvements:

• A Strategic Improvement Plan – with a focus on addressing accountability and transparency – has been produced.
• A new whistle-blowing process has been introduced, to tackle claims of bullying and intimidation, within parts of the organisation.
• A major restructure of the senior management team is underway. Recent appointments include: a new Chief Operating Officer, a new Director for Adult Services, a new City Solicitor and Monitoring Officer and an interim Chief Highways Officer.
• A new consultation and engagement process has been introduced to encourage greater transparency and dialogue with residents.
• A new call-centre system is being procured to ensure a smoother and speedier response to residents’ complaints; it will also provide an intelligence-led response service to problems.
• The council has created a new Audit Select Committee and has appointed two independent advisers to strengthen the scrutiny of its auditing and governance procedures.
• The council has established an Ethics and Standards Select Committee and is currently recruiting an independent chair to oversee its business.

The Commissioner Team, led by the former Chief Executive of the College of Policing Mike Cunningham, is supported by a team of three others: the current Chief Executive of Surrey Council, Joanna Killian (Local Government Commissioner); Neil Gibson (Highways Commissioner) and Deborah McLaughlin (Regeneration Commissioner).
The next Commissioners’ report is due to be published in the spring of 2022.

Mayor Joanne Anderson and Chief Executive Tony Reeves have issued a joint response: “A huge amount of work is underway to develop the Council Plan and the Strategic Improvement Plan which will go a long way to addressing many of the concerns raised both within the ‘Best Value’ report and this first report from the Commissioners.

“Many changes have taken place at the council since the ‘Best Value’ report and we acknowledge that there is still a lot do. This is a complex journey and the council needs to find the right balance between implementing improvements and building capacity, whilst managing a very difficult budget.

“The well-publicised issues within the Highways and Regeneration teams are being tackled head on. These teams both have a new head of service to instigate the necessary changes to drive up standards, including a new business plan for the Highways department.

“Where the council has failed in the past to address a culture of bullying and intimidation, that is now being tackled through an intensive programme to make the workplace more inclusive and caring. We have clear processes for staff to raise concerns and these are acted on and dealt with in a consistent way. These behaviours have no place in our organisation.

“The council has a huge number of dedicated, professional and talented staff who care deeply about the service they provide and it is our job to ensure they have the right support to deliver best value.

“Training programmes are being delivered to support staff and councillors, a new customer feedback process is being implemented and a new process of consultation and engagement has been launched.

“A restructure of the senior management team is underway, with key posts such as the Monitoring Officer and Chief Operations Officer being filled.

“The scrutiny process has been strengthened with independent professionals being appointed to the Audit and the Standards and Ethics Committee. Work is underway to meet all of the Directions which the Secretary of State placed on the council including a review of the constitution and scrutiny arrangements of the council and the development of a submission to the Boundary Commission on a revised pattern of wards for the city.

“Our commitment to working with the Commissioners, to supporting our staff, and to delivering an improved service for tax payers is unwavering.

“We care immensely for our city and its people and we are determined to provide the best opportunities for all.”

Liverpool Waterfront