IN FULL: Mark Dowd's 'I'm not resigning from Merseytravel' statement
Merseytravel chairman Mark Dowd has released a four page statement defending his record.
As revealed earlier this afternoon on Dale Street Associates, eight of the 16 Labour councillors on Merseytravel have demanded his resignation.
In his statement he rounds on his critics and defends his own record.
He doesn't actually say he is not resigning, but it is pretty clear from the tone of the statement.
Here it is in full:
I am setting the record straight after recent newspaper articles claiming that there is a crisis at Merseytravel.
These reports were based on a document, written by an anonymous member of my Labour group. The document was selective and its contents taken out of context.
Now that Councillor Joe Hanson has publicly claimed authorship of this document, l want to set out how it came to be in the public domain and how its contents have already faced independent public scrutiny by the District Auditor who is watchdog in these matters.
It is a document that used as its basis a 4 year old report from 2007 into a 7 year old project in 2005 to criticise and pillory Merseytravel's record.
It makes potentially libellous claims about individuals who were given no voice or right to reply to any of its content. It is a document that was written by Councillor Hanson who had already been charged by the politically controlled Integrated Transport Authority to conduct a review into the role of the professionally led Passenger Transport Executive (PTE) and report back to fellow Councillors in the first instance.
Unilaterally, Cllr Hanson saw fit to circumvent the normal structures of the ITA and the PTE and gave a copy to his district Leader. I also believe it was in the hands of the press before I knew of its existence. It has, since then, been systematically leaked across the region.
The district Leaders, after disclosing the "dossier" to me, asked that it face full independent scrutiny and they agreed, as did I, that it should be referred to the District Auditor.
I asked the interim Chief Executive of the PTE to seek an opinion from the District Auditor in relation to the claims made in the document.
The District Auditor's response was received within a matter of days. In short, the District Auditor stated that a large number of the claims made in the dossier were mostly without evidence. It is clear to an independent reader that it is largely based on speculation, hearsay and allegations.
The feedback from the District Auditor did highlight areas where improvements were needed, but as Councillor Hanson is aware, these changes were already in the process of being implemented due to his work as Chair of the Personnel, Organisational Development and Governance Evaluation Committee (PODG).
The ITA was already progressing work streams that predated the publication of the dossier, which amended the way in which purchasing of services are undertaken in Merseytravel; that put consultant recruitment on a firmer and more robust footing and looked at the shape of the professionally led PTE following the reorganisation of the politically led ITA in the summer of 2011. There are three primary areas that were considered.
1.A report, approved by the PODG committee on 10 April 2012 deals with the progress made since the Public Interest Report of the District Auditor of January 2008, showing the lessons that were learned from that report. For instance, Rolling Stock Project Governance arrangements were reported to Strategy and Finance Committee and which demonstrated clear evidence of a change in approach by the organisation since the Merseytram project of 2001.
2.Strategy and Finance Committee have agreed new arrangements for approving expenditure on consultants. For example, the PTE approved the tendering process of consultants in connection with Rolling Stock Procurement in line with European requirements, demonstrating to the District Auditor that we have taken his concerns seriously and put in place robust and transparent approaches to the appointment of consultants.
3.The ITA has requested a report outlining a re-constituted PTE with effect from 1 January 2013. In fact Councillor Hanson is taking the lead on this through his Committee and is therefore fully abreast of the process for change and is receiving the full co-operation of the whole organisation.
The ITA, through the correctly appointed committee, will discuss the outcome of the recommendations contained in the report in due course.
I welcome Councillor Hanson's public acknowledgement that he is the author of the dossier which removes any doubt as to who wrote the document. I can now demonstrate that it is he who has been selective in the extreme. For example, he has criticised the procurement of consultants in some areas, yet has completely ignored the use of consultants in areas such as Asset Management, Human Resources and Information Communication Technology.
He claims the organisation is resistant to change but evidently ignores the fact that between the publication of the District Auditor's public interest report of 2008 and his document, there was immense work undertaken in a massive project called "One Team, One Family" that improved the efficiencies of the organisation.
Through this process we reduced the workforce of the organisation by 15% and furthermore reduced our costs to the point that our wage bill is less than 9% of our overall budget. That process of change was fully supported and driven by all members of the ITA.
Apparently, Councillor Hanson has ignored the work we have done to turn Merseyrail into one of the Country's flagship railways. It is used by government as a benchmark for local control of a rail franchise and is consistently identified as one of the safest and best performing railways in the Country.
We have established fairer ticketing prices on Merseyside, with annual increases some 3% less than on the other networks. We established the first long term commitment to the Merseyrail system by agreeing an unprecedented 25 year franchise with fixed level fare increases for the life of the contract.
Cllr. Hanson needs to be reminded that it was Labour-led Merseytravel that was quick to introduce changes to the concessionary bus pass system by enabling those aged 60 and above to receive a concessionary pass. Moreover, we resisted the move to strip the bus pass from people aged between 60 and 65 which was happening in other parts of the Country.
I have been accused of resisting change. Where I do resist change is in my pledge to resolutely protect the poorest of our community in having access to free bus travel, rail travel and travel on the Mersey Ferries.
Alone, outside London, 60 year olds will continue to have full access to the public transport network out of peak hours.
Councillor Hanson ignores the work we did in introducing a tourism strategy that saved the world famous Mersey Ferries from being scrapped. We not only preserved their place in the hearts of the people of our great river faring region, but the Ferries and their associated attractions now contribute over £34m to the local economy each and every year. They also support more than 700 full time equivalent jobs in the private sector.
The recent Sea Odyssey event, supported to the tune of £200,000 by Merseytravel, is reported to have brought in £32 million to the local economy. Our tourism strategy brings in a figure greater than that this annually.
Lord Storey and Esther McVey MP call on Cllr. Hanson's dossier to be the subject of public scrutiny. I say it already has been by the District Auditor. If Esther McVey has questions about how Merseytravel is run, perhaps she should ask her own employee, Wirral Councillor Chris Blakeley, who served as a Chair on a major committee on the ITA prior to 2010.
There have been numerous Merseytravel achievements whilst I have been Chair of the Authority, such as becoming a truly world class learning organisation; the introduction of quality partnerships with the bus operators; the "double excellent" Local Transport Plans; the investment in infrastructure such as Liverpool South Parkway now handling around 40,000 passengers a week; the securing of £40million worth of investment in the underground stations and the £20million refurbishment of Liverpool Central Station (once listed as one of the ten worst stations in the Country) and the beginning of a project to replace the entire fleet of trains on the Merseyrail network.
In addition I am proud of the role we played in leading the "Beautiful North" project that covers Councillor Hanson's own Kirkdale ward and the work we have done supporting Liverpool John Lennon Airport.
As the Chair of the Local Government Association Special Interest Group, which represents 11 million people in the big city conurbations, I also make sure that we share the many award winning practices that Merseytravel have received with colleagues across the Country.
Unsurprisingly, none of these achievements gained by hard working Merseytravel staff, have made it into Councillor Hanson's dossier.
Finally, I would like to thank the newly elected Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, for his recent supportive comments and belief that there is no crisis at Merseytravel.