Liverpool City Council response to Commissioners’ second report

Liverpool City Council has formally set out its response to the Commissioners’ second report.

The city council was invited by the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Greg Clark MP, to respond to the report and proposed additional Directions announced on Friday 19 August.

In the letter, from Mayor Joanne Anderson and Interim Head of Paid Service, Anne Marie Lubanski, they acknowledge that the pace and impact of improvement at Liverpool City Council has not met the commissioners’ requirements, or the expectations of residents.

The local authority recognises the scale of the challenge facing it and is confident that the reset of the intervention provides an opportunity to build on the positive and collaborative working relationship that now exists with commissioners, enabling it to move forward and address their recommendations at pace.

They outline the significant further progress that has taken place since the report was submitted in June, which has put the council in a stronger position.

This includes:

  • Further steps in the delivery of the council’s Strategic Improvement Plan
  • Improving governance, strengthening corporate capacity through appointments to key posts in property, finance, procurement and audit
  • The appointment of an interim chief executive, Theresa Grant, who has a strong track record on improvement

They also note that commissioners have not been called upon to use the existing powers they have, and that the council will work hard to ensure this is the case for any new powers they may be granted.

The council is making representations to the Secretary of State on his proposed response which it believes will enhance the effectiveness and speed of improvement.

The key requests are:

Strategic Futures Panel
For the panel’s terms of reference to be co-designed with Mayor Anderson and that the panel embeds ongoing engagement with the City Mayor, cabinet, and the council’s leadership into the terms of reference and its work. This will ensure clarity on the panel’s focus and responsibility compared to that of commissioners and the council.

Further powers for commissioners
The council is requesting a collaborative exercise to clarify the scope of the new powers, for example through the agreement of a protocol or other arrangement.

Finance
The council understands the decision to appoint an additional commissioner for finance, together with the requisite powers to intervene if required. However it is requesting that this decision be reviewed at the earliest opportunity and when an experienced s151 officer and is appointed and a balanced three-year budget is set, to the satisfaction of commissioners.

Governance and scrutiny
The council is requesting that clear boundaries are set, especially on the meaning of “governance”, “scrutiny” and “strategic decision making” and that, in practice, these powers continue to be exercised by members and officers where at all possible. Clarification is sought through the agreement of a protocol or other arrangements.

Human resources
A request that the council is directed only to agree a protocol for senior appointments with commissioners including their active involvement in agreeing the senior structure and making senior appointments, or that if further powers are included, the proposal is modified to provide greater specification on the non-executive powers covered by the direction with a focus on strategic policies (to be agreed and defined). The council is also asking that these powers are reviewed with a view to removal following the conclusion of the senior restructure of the council.

The council is also asking for a short period to review and agree any amendments to a series of detailed recommendations and their implementation timescales with commissioners, due to concerns over meeting deadlines due to the delay in publishing their commissioners second report.

The letter concludes: “We have held a number of positive joint planning sessions with the commissioners designed to agree council priorities over the next 12 months. Those priorities reflect the commissioners’ recommendations to the council, and we are confident of making good progress over the course of the next reporting period.

“Thank you for giving the council the opportunity to make representations on your proposals. We accept the need for further improvement at a greater pace. Our intention in our representations is to seek greater clarity and definition to enable the commissioners and council to continue to work collaboratively and improve the council at pace.

“For the avoidance of any doubt, we can assure you that Liverpool City Council is a resilient organisation with committed, hardworking and dedicated staff and elected members and we will deliver the Directions you consider necessary. With cabinet, the new Chief Executive and the officer leadership team, we will turn this council around so that it delivers best value for the residents of Liverpool and the social value commitments made by the administration.”

The full letter can be read below.

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