Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Liverpool City Council faces government probe amid Mayor’s involvement in bribery scandal

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Liverpool City Council faces a government investigation in the wake of the arrest of its mayor Joe Anderson.

Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick has appointed an inspector after several arrests and an ongoing police probe.

The investigation will be carried out by Max Caller CBE, who has investigated troubled authorities Northamptonshire County Council and Tower Hamlets.

Mr Caller will look at key departments and authority auditing and governance.

Mr Jenrick stopped short of sending a commissioner to run the council, but said: “It is clear that the council has taken significant steps to improve governance and assurances processes within the council, with respect to the authority’s planning, highways, regeneration and property management functions.”

He has met city council chief executive Tony Reeves to request the authority reveals its planned commercial property deals.

“Given the seriousness of the issues identified through the police investigation”, Mr Jenrick said he wanted “direct, independent assurance” that the council was compliant with all performance measures set by the government.

Mr Jenrick also said: “At this challenging time with respect to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is critical that Liverpool City Council continues to deliver public services and carry out its other statutory duties as effectively as possible, and I thank those working in the council for all they have done to date.”

Mr Caller was one of two commissioners sent to run parts of Labour-led Tower Hamlets Council in London from 2014-17.

‘No case to answer’

He was also sent to investigate Tory-controlled Northamptonshire County Council, which was twice forced to stop all non-essential spending in 2018.

Mr Anderson was arrested on suspicion of bribery and witness intimidation earlier this month.

Following his detention, he said “time would make it clear that I have no case to answer”.

Four others, including Derek Hatton, the ex-deputy leader of the council, have been held as part of an investigation into the awarding of building contracts in the city. Mr Hatton has yet to comment.

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