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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
David Humphreys

Panel to drag City Council out of trouble will do more than 'talk shop'

The outgoing chief executive of Liverpool Council said she expects the panel set up to drag the authority out of trouble to be more than a “talking shop.”

In August last year Greg Clark MP, the then Levelling Up Secretary, confirmed alongside further expansion of government oversight of the city council, a new panel would be set up to lead it out of the intervention. The panel is chaired by Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of Liverpool City Region, and former city councillor.

After months of delay, the group finally met at Mann Island on Monday. Mayor Joanne Anderson confirmed to a meeting of the council’s final mayoral and performance select committee last night that she was present alongside Sir Howard Bernstein former chief executive of Manchester Council, and Baroness Judith Blake, former leader of Leeds Council.

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Mayor Anderson confirmed alongside the Metro Mayor, representatives from both Liverpool Council and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority were also present at Monday’s landmark discussion. The panel’s first meeting included a presentation on underlying data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

The next steps for the panel will include a deep dive to engage with stakeholders to better understand the problems facing the city and the challenges it will need to overcome. Addressing the select committee at Liverpool Town Hall on Tuesday evening, Theresa Grant - who is leaving her role as interim chief executive in May - said a “clear terms of reference” had now been established for the group, adding: “I get the feeling progress will be swift.”

Ms Grant said she expected the panel to represent more than a “talking shop” and underlined the local government credentials of those appointed to help Liverpool out of the mire. She said: “They’re here to do business and do it quickly.”

Cllr Richard Kemp, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group, said he was concerned at learning details of the group’s business 24 hours after it had met as well as the fact it had convened. He said it wasn’t “evolving the way everyone said it would.”

Cllr Kemp confirmed to the ECHO he had written to the Metro Mayor asking for further details around the operations of the panel and called for its meetings to be held in public.

Speaking after the meeting on Monday, Metro Mayor Rotheram said: “The Caller Report was a watershed moment for Liverpool. Everyone recognised that there was an enormous amount of work to do to chart the city’s path back to stability and prosperity – and that’s why I agreed to establish the Liverpool Strategic Futures Advisory Panel.

“We want to put the council in a position that allows the commissioners to leave as soon as possible. This is not about quick fixes but mapping out the strategic vision of the city for decades to come.

“We’ve pulled together a team that boasts decades of hands-on experience at the helm of local government organisations and I would like to thank Sir Howard and Baroness Judith for stepping up to help us look at things afresh. We aren’t taking control of the council or the running of its day-to-day activities, but we will be working with the commissioners and the council itself to develop a long-term plan for success.

“I truly believe that with the right direction and strong leadership, some of Liverpool’s best days still lie ahead. I’m looking forward to working with our panel to map out a path to help build a better, stronger future for our entire city region – and the 1.6m people who call it home – where no one is left behind.”

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