Government officials are to take over the running of Liverpool City Council amid an ongoing corruption investigation by Merseyside Police, communities secretary Robert Jenrick is expected to announce today.
Sir Keir Starmer is preparing to back government moves to take over the running of Liverpool, one of his party’s key strongholds, after a property development scandal.
The Times reported that the Labour Leader will back the Whitehall take over of Liverpool city council offering no resistance to the takeover.
Labour supporters are outraged at Starmer’s capitulation to the Tories.
The communities secretary Jenrick will deliver a statement in Parliament that will have a profound impact on the future of Liverpool.
The report was ordered after Joe Anderson, 63, Liverpool’s mayor, was arrested in December on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation. He and Derek Hatton, 73, deputy leader of the council in the 1980s, were among 12 people detained.
Anderson is currently suspended from the Labour party on unpaid leave and no charges have been brought. The police had arrested 10 other people, including the city council’s head of regeneration Nick Kavanagh, in connection with Operation Aloft over the course of the previous 12 months.
Anderson has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged. He stood down as Liverpool Mayor.
Shortly after Anderson’s arrest, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government sent a letter to Liverpool City Council asking for evidence that the council “is now operating properly and in line with its duty…given the seriousness of the issues”.
The council was ordered to disclose by 11 December details of any of its upcoming property development or disposal plans, and its strategy to secure “effective governance” given the string of high-profile arrests.
Prof Jonathan Tonge said using such measures in a city the size of Liverpool would be “unprecedented”.
The government did not comment on reports but said it would soon set out the “next steps” in response to the inspectors’ findings.
Installing commissioners – an action taken just four times in the past 25 years in England – is among various options available to ministers.
Prof Tonge, from the University of Liverpool’s politics department, said commissioners had been brought in before but “there has been nothing on this scale”.
“You’re talking about a city of 500,000 people – about a city that has been dominated by the Labour Party in recent years,” he said.
Local and mayoral elections in May would still go ahead, he said, but would take place “in the shadow of commissioners potentially being appointed to run the city”.
“That would render the elected mayor and councillors powerless,” he said.
Some Liverpudlians might suggest the government put its “own house in order before you start interfering in our affairs,” Prof Tonge said, but ministers might insist they were forced to act in the face of a “damning report”.
It is rare for Whitehall to send in officials to take over the running of a local authority – though not unheard of. In 2014, then-communities secretary Eric Pickles ordered a team to go in and manage the finances and management of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets for a two-year period.
A Government-commissioned report by auditor PwC had identified a “worrying pattern of divisive community politics and alleged mismanagement of public money by the mayoral administration of Tower Hamlets”, and Pickles reportedly took action after failing to receive assurances from the council’s leadership that it would take steps to strengthen its governance.
Similar Whitehall intervention measures have been either put in place or threatened at the London Borough of Barnet and at Northampton Council in recent years, amid concern over local finances and leadership.