Former Labour Minister David Hanson and Judith Blake, former Leader of Leeds City Council, were asked to review the findings of Max Caller’s report on failings in Liverpool City Council, and make recommendations. Roy Kennedy, Baron Kennedy of Southwark, also joined the panel.
Their remit was to investigate: the reasons behind the Caller Report; how the Party can make a lasting change in preventing a similar situation happening again; and how to restore trust and integrity with the people of Liverpool.
The panel received 77 written submissions, interviewed 60 people and met the Labour Group of Liverpool City Council with key members from the Local Government Association and Labour’s regional office.
The report makes 32 recommendations – 12 of which are matters for the Labour Party nationally, regionally and locally to address, and 20 are matters for the city council. The recommendations are published below.
1) We recommend that the Labour Party offers full support to the Liverpool City councils improvement plan and agrees it will discuss any support required with the Labour Mayor and Councillors in delivery of that plan.
2) We recommend that the Labour Party notes the decision by HM Government to postpone the 2022 elections and to instigate an all out election in 2023, and to revise the term of the current Mayor. We also note the Secretary of State has also indicated that the Commissioners will have specific regard to the Council governance referendum.
3) We recommend that the Labour Party support the Liverpool City Council Labour Group in working with the appointed Commissioners, to implement the agreed improvement plan approved by the Council.
4) We recommend that the Labour Party accept that the 2023 elections should be prefaced by a referendum on the future of the mayoral model for the City. This is in line with the agreed policy of the City Council Labour Group to establish if the City wishes to proceed with a Mayoral election. We further recommend that in the event the referendum determines that the mayoral model is ended that the Council reverts to a leader and cabinet model, after the election in 2023.
5) We note the decision of the Secretary of State to commence the Boundary Commission review to reduce the number of Councillors and revise wards. We recommend that the national Labour Party will make a submission to the Boundary Commission on the local government boundaries for the City of Liverpool, ensuring there is one collective position made, to ensure that the Council retains the maximum number of Councillors possible. And further note that the decision of the Boundary Commission will also depend on the results of an equality impact assessment.
6) We recommend that in advance of the 2023 election the Labour Party nationally takes action to oversee recruitment of potential candidates for the 2023 election, to include support for increasing diversity in candidates, encouraging via training and support a wider pool of community based candidates, and that the Labour Party nationally for the 2023 election determine the panel of candidates from which local Labour Parties in the City can choose. Further we recommend, the Labour Party consider drawing on a wider pool of community candidates, and encouraging newer members to stand to ensure more diversity.
7) We therefore recommend that the newly formed Local Government Committee (LGC) have removed from its role the power to determine the panel for a period up to June 2026, and that this power be vested in the NEC to this period.
8) We recommend that the LGC be asked to prepare a campaign plan for the 2023 elections, to include target wards, overall campaign themes, finance for election, and city wide liaison with Labour Party’s to produce a campaign plan by June 2022. This to include a focus on organisational training and upskilling of organisational planning, and to highlight the achievements of the Labour Party in Liverpool, in delivering the manifesto on which the Mayor and Councillors were elected in 2021, this to be done in conjunction with the regional Labour Office.
9) We recommend that the Labour Party allocate one full time officer (the appointed officer) for the period 2021-2024 to support the City Labour Party in the above tasks. The officer shall report to the NEC on progress on the recommendations agreed, and have power to refer matters to the NEC in conjunction with the regional Labour Party. The appointed officer shall have further duties under section 2 of these recommendations.
10) We recommend that in parallel with the Liverpool City Council Improvement Plan the national Labour Party will as a matter of urgency by November 30th 2021, agree the following for implementation in Liverpool. This would be in addition and parallel to the Liverpool City Council code of conduct.
A) A register of interests for Councillors to include all pecuniary and financial interest.
B) A code of conduct relating to expected behaviour standards to include conduct within Party, Council and public facing meetings.
And that a declaration by existing Councillors or prospective council panel members to adhere to a) and b) be signed. Failure to do so would mean the panel application could not progress. Future non compliance would lead to removal of panel status. Once the codes are compiled by the Labour Party and agreed as signed, a breach of the code would be reported to the Whip and investigated as potential grounds for disciplinary action. A formal complaints procedure for breaches of the codes and individual complaints to the Whip should be established, and that the appointed officer have shared responsibility in determining any action.
That the above includes a stronger Councillors code of conduct developed by the national Party that sets out compulsory campaign activity, group discipline, payment of membership subs and ALC subs by direct debit and at the correct rate. Failure to comply will result in being unable to apply for the panel of candidates or removal if already on the panel and exclusion from the Labour Group.
11) We recommend that if approved the items agreed in point 10 be subject to monitoring by the Chief Whip of the City Labour Group and the appointed officer of the Labour Party for Liverpool.
12) We recommend that the appointed officer of the Labour Party be appointed for the period of the improvement plan to the Labour Group as an ex-officio member. We further recommend that the Labour Party reviews the standing orders on how Chief Whips are appointed to agree a standard mechanism across local government.
13) We recommend that the Labour Party establish via the appointed officer an induction and training programme for those appointed to the panel to include modules on role of Councillor, role of Officers, scrutiny, community roles and declarations of interest. All current serving Councillors will also be required to complete the relevant module.
14) We recommend the Labour Party specifically establish guidance for Councillors on the use of neighbourhood funds in Liverpool. Furthermore, we recommend clear guidance on contact with external bodies and individuals to avoid conflicts of interest, when discussing sensitive matters of direct relevance to Council business. To ensure further transparency and decision making, this will include clear guidance on conduct of meetings with external partners, to establish when it is a requirement to include Officers of the Council in such meetings. The City Council will ensure standing orders also reflect this.
15) We recommend that the Labour Party work with the City Council Labour Group to establish models of good practice for support for constituency work by all local Councillors with a view to improving levels of member support in the City. The Labour Group should ensure that the development of a stronger member support mechanism, for all members of Liverpool City Council, is fully resourced by the City Council.
16) We recommend that the Labour Party in Liverpool, and nationally welcomes continued support to the City by the Local Government Association (LGA). The Labour Party should continue to engage with the LGA and agrees to work with the Labour members of the Association to establish urgently support mechanisms for deployment.
17) We recommend the Labour Group support the proposal that in the event of any interview taking place between a member of the authority and the police either as a witness or in relation to alleged activity, that this contact be reported immediately to the responsible officer and group Chief Whip.
18) We recommend that the potential for closer cooperation between the City region Metro Mayor and the City Council is to be welcomed.
19) We recommend compulsory antisemitism training for all elected representatives, CLP and branch officers delivered by the Jewish Labour Movement or other stakeholders. Failure to undertake the training will result in a referral to the General Secretary for investigation and possible disciplinary action. This to become a requirement for all seeking elected public office or office in the Party in the future. The Labour Party to make requisite rule changes at conference.
1 To note overall that the Labour Party supports the Council’s summary improvement plan.
20) We recommend that the Labour Party fast track current outstanding complaints against individuals or Party units in the Liverpool City region, and complete adjudication of those complaints within 6 months of this report.
21) We recommend that the Labour Party review its complaints procedure to ensure that clear information on how complaints are to be considered to include:
b) progress reports.
c) information on process for complainants, and those complained against.
22) We recommend that the NEC ensures that the constituencies in Liverpool be reconstituted within six months on a ward and constituency delegate basis. The Labour Party retains the right to consider further action in support of this recommendation.
23) We recommend that the current practice of Liverpool LGC members supporting other Councils as full panel members to other campaign forums cease with immediate effect. We recommend that the good practice issues identified in this report be adopted across the wider City region.
24) We recommend that the Labour Party urgently review external affiliations to CLPs in Liverpool, to ensure that all branches affiliated, are affiliated according to membership rules.
25) We recommend the Labour Party restates clearly that membership of other political parties other than those with which Labour has an electoral arrangement, e.g. Co-Operative Party, are grounds for expulsion.
26) We recommend that the Labour Party establish a whistle blowing contact point for all Councillors and consider extending to all those who hold elected office.
27) We recommend that the appointed officer under section 1 be appointed to have responsibility for progressing agreed recommendations under section 2.
28) We recommend that Labour Party individual member suspension rules are enforced so that suspension by the General Secretary while an internal investigation is taking place or by other authorities including the police, means that the person under suspension is unable to attend their branch meeting. This recommendation should be monitored by the responsible Officer. Those that are administratively suspended should be removed as Labour members from the Council webite. These are current Labour Party rules, but Regional Directors and the appointed officer should enforce and monitor.
29) We recommend that the North West Regional Labour Party take and maintain an active and leading role in local government issues in the region as the importance of local government means it can have a positive or negative impact on the reputation of the wider Labour Party in the region. We recommend that regional officers should be regularly briefed on the work of the Labour LGA members, and what they can contribute in regards to the training/mentoring/support.
30) We recommend that the Labour Party examines the current resource between the national Labour Party, the LGA and Council Labour Groups to examine if further support is required.
31) We recommend that in future all Parliamentary candidates must sign a pledge that on election to the House of Commons they will agree a date with the Commons Chief Whip and the General Secretary when they are going to resign their Council seat. The date agreed will take account the local circumstances. Those that currently hold a Parliamentary seat and Council seat in Liverpool with dual mandate should abide by this recommendation.
32) We recommend that a complete membership check is undertaken of the entire membership to ensure the correct rate of membership fee is being paid and that all members are registered to vote as per the requirements of the rule book.