Government appoints commissioners to run parts of Liverpool City Council for three years

24 March 2021, 14:08 | Updated: 24 March 2021, 21:05

By Will Taylor

The government is to appoint commissioners to run parts of Liverpool City Council for the next three years amid a corruption investigation, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said today.

It comes after the arrest of five men including elected mayor Joe Anderson, who was held in December on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation. He denies any wrongdoing.

Mr Jenrick told MPs that commissioners will help councillors improve the troubled authority by taking on "limited functions" for at least three years.

Labour has insisted the plan does not constitute a "Tory takeover" in a city that has low support for the Conservatives.

Speaking to the House of Commons on Wednesday, Mr Jenrick said: "I am also proposing that the council will, under the oversight of the commissioners, prepare and implement an improvement plan."

He added: "As a whole, the report is unequivocal - that Liverpool City Council has failed in numerous respects to comply with its best value duty.

"It concludes that the council consistently failed to meet its statutory and managerial responsibilities and that the pervasive culture appeared to be rule avoidance.

"It further concludes that changes need to be radical, delivered at pace, and there was no confidence that the council itself would be able to implement these to any sensible timescale."

"There may also be further issues of which we are not yet aware, and the report is careful not to speak to matters that might compromise the ongoing police investigation."

The report was ordered after the five men were arrested.

Mr Anderson was arrested as part of Operation Aloft, Merseyside Police's investigation into building and development contracts in Liverpool.

Labour's Steve Reed, the shadow communities secretary, said the council's leadership accepted the report.

"I want to reassure people in Liverpool that this does not mean government ministers are coming in to run their city directly," he said.

"This is not at some would put it a Tory takeover. It’s about the Government appointing independent people of the highest professional standing to help the council improve as quickly as possible, and intervening directly only if the council’s elected leaders fail to implement their own improvement plan."