Not for the first time the local elections in Liverpool stand out from the contests across the country. While Sir Keir Starmer is challenging thirteen years of Tory rule nationally, his local representatives have to defend their record over the same thirteen years. As the ex-elected mayor Joe Anderson claims those years included development successes, but these have been overshadowed by officer and political incompetence and infighting on a huge scale.
Let’s acknowledge at the outset that the council has had to grapple with severe cuts in central government funding and that there are parts of the city with long standing issues of deprivation. But that is true of many other northern councils, and they haven’t seen the appointment of commissioners and outside advisers to run the place.
The Caller Report two years ago exposed a toxic culture at the Town Hall which led to bad decisions, the waste of millions of pounds and political infighting which continues. Anderson remains bitter about the report and former Chief Executive Tony Reeves who, himself, recently left after calls for his resignation over an energy contract.
It is all so sad. I love Liverpool and its people. It had to work so hard to regain its reputation after the Militant Years. This just gives ammunition to those who always want to run it down. One more thing, whatever you think of the councillors and officers still under police investigation, the enquiries are taking an intolerably long time. It is unfair to those involved to have justice delayed and denied.
All this has had major consequences for the local elections that will be contested next week. The elected mayor position has been abolished. The city will move to all out elections every four years. There used to be thirty wards with three councillors each. Now there will be sixty four mostly represented by one councillor. In total there will be eighty five councillors with forty three needed for a majority. Will Labour win?
It depends on whether people feel more strongly about the local scandals or the national picture where Labour is performing strongly. The Deputy Leader, Angela Rayner clearly acknowledges that damage has been done. She said recently “due diligence” had been applied to the selection of candidates and she expected a 100% commitment to being a public servant. Liam Robinson would lead the new council and is a considerable improvement on the outgoing elected mayor Joanne Anderson.
However, Robinson faces a tough battle. A number of political parties are hoping to benefit from the single member wards where local recognition could benefit independents. The Liverpool Community Independents, who split from Labour over budget cuts and the scandals are fielding nine candidates whilst controversial hotelier Lawrence Kenwright heads a slate of Liberate Liverpool independents.
Turning to parties with established records of electoral success, first up are the Liberal Democrats. In control of the city until 2010, they have former leader Mike Storey standing again. Emerging from the damage done by being in coalition with the Tories nationally (damage warned about on the very day it was done by former leader Warren Bradley) they could get twenty seats.
The Liberals, true successors to Gladstone and Lloyd George rather than the newbie Lib Dems as they would put it, are likely to continue to flourish in Tuebrook whilst the Greens hope to break out from Greenbank and take on Labour in the new Festival Gardens ward.
Straight after polling day comes the Eurovision Song Contest showing the city at its best, after that the hard work of removing the need for commissioners and restoring Liverpool’s reputation for good governance.