An investigation by Merseyside Police into Labour-run Liverpool City Council led to arrests on suspicion of fraud, bribery, corruption, misconduct in public office and witness intimidation.
On 17 December, it was then revealed that additional evidence had come to light regarding the Council’s planning, highways, regeneration, property management functions and associated audit and governance arrangements.
To protect Liverpool taxpayers from it's own council, the Government commissioned an inspection of the council. That inspection paints a deeply concerning picture of mismanagement, the breakdown of scrutiny and accountability, a dysfunctional culture putting the spending of public funds at risk and undermining the city’s economic development.
The Report identifies multiple apparent failures by Labour in complying with its duties.
- A failure of proper and due process across planning and regeneration, including worrying lack of proper record keeping. Indeed, documentation had sometimes been created retrospectively, discarded in skips, or even destroyed.
- A lack of scrutiny and oversight across highways, including dysfunctional management practices, no coherent business plan, and the awarding of dubious contracts.
- A failure of proper process relating to property management, including compliance with the Council’s own standing orders, leading to a continued failure to correctly value land and assets, meaning tax payers frequently lost out. When selling land, the Report states that securing Liverpool City Council’s best interests were not on the agenda.
- Poor governance arrangements for Council-operated companies.
- An overall environment of intimidation, described as one in which 'the only way to survive was to do what was requested without asking too many questions or applying normal professional standards.'
- The review finds there was a fundamental failure by councillors to understand and appreciate the basic standards governing those in public service and – with no regular ethics or standards committee and no means of monitoring complaints effectively – there was no established way to hold those falling below those acceptable standards to account.
As a whole, the report is unequivocal that Liverpool's Labour Council has failed in numerous respects to comply with its duties.
It concludes that the Council consistently failed to meet its statutory and managerial responsibilities and that the pervasive culture “appeared to be rule avoidance".
Read the full statement given to Parliament by the Secretary of State Robert Jenrick here