The Government has asked Liverpool City Council to provide information on the steps it has taken and proposes to take to secure effective governance, in light of a Merseyside Police investigation which has resulted in the arrest and subsequent release on conditional bail of a number of people including the city’s mayor, Joe Anderson.
In a letter to the local authority’s chief executive Tony Reeves, the Director General – Local Government, Strategy and Analysis at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Catherine Frances, said the information provided should be with particular reference to the council’s planning, highways, regeneration and property management functions. The letter called for the provision of regular updates to the department on these steps.
It also invited the city council to provide “information about any proposals or plans for your authority to enter into any commitment to dispose of, or otherwise transfer to third parties, or relating to the development of, any real property other than existing domestic property for the purposes of residential accommodation. This information should include identifying the property, and indication of its value, and the current position and likely future timetable for the disposal, transfer, or commitment relating to the development of the property”.
Five people were arrested on 4 December 2020 in connection with offences of bribery and witness intimidation.
On 5 December Merseyside Police confirmed that the five people - arrested as part of an investigation into building and development contracts in Liverpool - had been released on condition bail, pending further inquiries.
The letter revealed that Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick met with Mr Reeves on 7 December, when Liverpool’s chief executive gave the minister a range of assurances about the steps he had taken “to improve governance in the council, to ensure that the council is now operating properly and in line with the [Best Value] duty” under the Local Government Act 1999.
The letter called for the requested information to be provided by 3 pm on 11 December 2020.
Ms Frances also asked Mr Reeves to keep her informed on a regular basis about the council’s ongoing response to the issues.
The letter ended: “As the Secretary of State said to you when you spoke yesterday, the department stands ready to provide the council with the support it needs to ensure that it is able to support the people and City of Liverpool as effectively as possible at this challenging time. I am copying this letter to your Authority’s Section 151 Officer, and to its Monitoring Officer.”
A Liverpool City Council spokesman said: "The council will be responding to the terms of the letter within the timescale requested."
Mayor Anderson has announced that he is stepping down until 31 December.
He said: “I have always done what I believe is best for the city, and I am taking the following action with those best intentions in mind....It is important that everyone in Liverpool knows that our leaders are focused on what is most important to the people: their livelihoods and, with a pandemic still in force, their lives.
“For this reason I believe it is important that the city, and government, are reassured that our city is indeed operating in the correct way. I am therefore stepping away from decision-making within the council through a period of unpaid leave, until the police make clear their intentions with the investigation on 31 December.”