Steve Reed responds to Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government statement on Liverpool City Council
Steve Reed MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, responding to Robert Jenrick’s statement on Liverpool City Council, said:
I’m grateful to the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement and the report, and his openness throughout the process.
This report raises serious concerns about decision-making in key functions of Liverpool City Council. All councils are under a duty to meet their best-value obligations and to ensure value for money at all times. In these respects, Liverpool City Council has been found wanting.
Labour – both here and our leadership at the City Council – accept this report in full. We support the Secretary of State’s intention to appoint commissioners, not to run the Council, but to advise and support elected representatives in strengthening the Council’s systems. This is a measured and sensible approach.
I want to reassure people in Liverpool that this does not mean Government ministers are coming in to run their City. We would never support 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 recovery plan.
Investigations are currently under way into matters raised in this report, and I will not pre-empt them. I do, though, want to reiterate my Party’s absolute commitment to protecting the public interest at all times.
Given the concerns raised in this report, the General Secretary of the Labour Party intends to appoint a senior figure to lead a review and reassure the people of Liverpool that the Labour Party takes these concerns seriously and will act against anyone in our ranks who is involved in wrongdoing of any kind.
Our councillors in Liverpool have already met with senior Labour councillors from other parts of the country who will support them in strengthening the City Council’s defences against any risk of fraud.
Councillors and frontline staff will undoubtedly be concerned by what they read in this report. I want to reassure them that the institutional weaknesses identified here do not obscure the outstanding work they have all done together over many years. The Prime Minister was right to praise the Council’s impressive work in getting the City through the pandemic, and I want to add my thanks to everyone who continues to play a part in that.
In particular, the report praises the Council’s Chief Executive Mr Tony Reeves, and I offer my support to him and to the Acting Mayor Cllr Wendy Simon for the work they have already started to put things right. I would also like to put on record my thanks to Max Caller and his team for putting this important report together.
This is a moment for change, and I know everyone who cares about the great city of Liverpool and its wonderful people will accept this report and use it strengthen the Council for the future.