Joe Anderson and Peter Kilfoyle at war over critical Liverpool Mayor City Deal report
Strong stuff today from Merseyside think tank ExUrbe, which claims the people of Liverpool were misled over the premise for having an elected mayor.
The think tank, set up by former Walton MP Peter Kilfoyle, pulls no punches in pulling apart the £130m City Deal that was linked to the creation of the mayor.
Tensions between Kilfoyle and Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson have now reached fever pitch.
Mayor Anderson said: "All I can say is ExUrbe will very soon find be extinct if they continue to produce unfounded, unqualified and unfair rubbish like this.
"It doesn't raise anything that we've not been over before. There's nothing like a politician scorned."
And Killer responded with: "How can he answer to what is said in black and white? If he has a rebuttal, then I think he ought to make it. The fact of the matter is, he can't.
"If that's the case, we've just got a guy who just slags off well-researched and well argued reports. He can't just go around trying to bluff everyone all the time."
ExUrbe's conclusions from A Big Deal?
1. The people of Liverpool were misled. They were 'sold' the City Deal on a largely false prospectus and 'bamboozled' into accepting arrangements which included the imposition of a mayoral executive. Developments occurred so quickly that neither elected councillors called upon to decide whether to accept or reject the option, nor the watching public, had sufficient time to reflect upon what was being proposed and what it actually entailed.
2. The City Deal was used by local actors to garner support for a change of governance that was neither required nor called for. Elected city mayors are a Government pet project that - as the referendums on 3 May subsequently proved - enjoys no popular support. All the evidence suggests that the Liverpool leadership sought a concentration of power and was determined to secure it through a change of local governance, irrespective of good democratic practice. The City Deal was used as a 'sweetener' to secure the acquiescence, if not the approval, of a misinformed public.
3. The people of Liverpool were excluded entirely from the City Deal process until it was publicly announced as a virtual fait accompli. The Coalition has spoken broadly of enhancing the power and involvement of local communities and businesses in local governance but there is no evidence that anyone other than a very small coterie of individuals were involved in brokering the City Deal. Disproportionate account seems to have been taken of the views of Lord Heseltine and Sir Terry Leahy - two unelected, self-styled 'champions' of Liverpool, both well-meaning but neither of whom lives in or near the city and neither of whom has a democratic mandate of any kind to determine or represent the interests of Liverpool residents.
4. Whether the Liverpool city councillors were 'sold a pup' when they were called upon to pass the City Deal remains to be seen. Following favourable coverage of the City Deal in the local press, they were formally briefed at very short notice, leaving no time for careful and considered examination of the proposals. The document prepared by the Chief Executive of Liverpool City Council - Unlocking Cities - Liverpool - was certainly more of a piece of promotional spin than an objective briefing. It contained a string of misrepresentations and inaccuracies and was clearly designed to persuade councillors to get behind the City Deal.
5. 'Background Papers' are listed at the end of the aforementioned report. Only four are listed, one of which reads: 17.4 Home Affairs Committee January 2012 Liverpool City Deal. No such paper exists. The Home Affairs Select Committee has never investigated or discussed the Liverpool City Deal and nor would it - such a matter does not fall within its remit. The Eleventh Delegated Legislation Committee discussed the Draft City of Liverpool (Mayoral Referendum) Order 2012 on 30 January but there was little focus on the Liverpool City Deal, no paper was produced and the contents of that discussion are nowhere obviously reflected in the Unlocking Cities document. This inaccuracy suggests a less than rigorous approach to a) the research underpinning the briefing paper and/or b) the truth. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the citation was added so as to lend some weight and credibility to the contents of the report.
6. A contrived sense of urgency helped to hasten events on, leaving no time for interested parties to analyse the changes afoot. There is no evidence to justify the speed with which the City Deal was hurried through - or to support the arguments made for the unseemly rush. This can only lead to the conclusion that it was indeed a 'deal' of a less edifying type, deliberately pushed through as quickly as possible so as to avoid any meddlesome scrutiny or bothersome adherence to democratic process.
7. Most of the plans contained in the Liverpool City Deal are reasonable and fairly pedestrian. They are not particularly innovative. None were - or are - solely dependent upon the City-Deal-with-Mayoralty arrangements.
8. Liverpool City Council was short-changed by the Government. The City Deal is full of conditions and caveats, carefully worded so as to minimise the Government's responsibilities and liabilities.
9. Subsequently, the Liverpool City Deal is little more than a statement of intent, lacking any guarantees or safeguards or any means of measuring progress. The Government merely 'approves' broad proposals put forward by Liverpool City Council, almost all of which might have been achieved without a City Deal. That there are no mechanisms in place to monitor progress is unsurprising - no tangible, measurable targets are spelt out, other than the Council's plan to build or rebuild twelve new schools (which supports the Government's school academy policy but which the private and voluntary sectors could actually initiate with little reference to the local authority).
10. The City Deal does not come with £130m of new (i.e. 'additional') money attached. Nor is there any convincing proof that it is 'worth' this amount. This figure is nowhere cited as part of the Deal itself and is based entirely upon extremely misleading council estimates of what the deal might represent in total.
11. The Liverpool City Deal was never contingent upon Liverpool changing its system of governance and this was widely expressed and widely known at the time key decisions were being made. But the government stipulation that City Deal 'gives' would depend upon strong local governance was harnessed by those keen to foist a mayoralty upon Liverpool. A mayoral system no more guarantees 'good' leadership than any other system. Indeed, a mayoral system is potentially more open to abuse, without the right levels of transparency and accountability and a rigorous system of checks and balances.
12. Politically, the Deal has served both the local Labour Council and the national Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition very well, albeit in different ways. In this respect, it has been a triumph of scheming and spin over democracy.
13. The Deal struck has ensured that Liverpool City Council has become a 'poster town' for some unpopular Government policies, which makes the leadership look rather naïve - particularly given it made exactly the same kind of mistake when it agreed to become a flagship authority for the Big Society project, only to withdraw later.
14. It is disconcerting that power has been concentrated into the hands of one individual in these unedifying circumstances - particularly when that individual played a lead role in achieving that self-same concentration of power. It is difficult not to conclude that the process has indeed been - as alleged in some quarters - a cynical power grab orchestrated by a small faction of individuals.
15. At the end of May 2012, a veteran local commentator provided a blunt, no-nonsense appraisal of the reality behind the City Deal:
ON February 6th a letter was sent to Liverpool City Council by Sir Bob Kerslake from the Department of Communities and Local Government regarding Liverpool's prospective £130 million City Deal. Joe Anderson used this as the lever to avoid a referendum and go straight to a mayoral election. Close examination of the contents reveals there are six elements to the City Deal relating to: a prospective Enterprise Zone; a proposed mayoral Investment board to oversee economic development and housing strategies; a Welfare/Youth Contract Pathfinder to move claimants into work and reduce benefit uptake/fraud; a secondary school investment plan to create at least six new academies with which the Council would have no locus at all; up to £75 million towards DCLG approved economic development projects over the next four years; encouragement for the city to have an elected mayor. No funding is actually committed and approval of funding is subject to various caveats. Funding still is not finally approved by the Treasury (unlike Manchester, which will not be having an elected mayor). Some elements would also need to be approved beforehand by the Local Enterprise Partnership. Despite encouraging adoption of an elected mayor, the letter is clear that having a City Deal approved is NOT dependent on having one. The freedom of action of the Mayor on these matters would seem to be quite limited.
Our research supports this pithy analysis.
16. Experience in the US, which has an established tradition of elected city mayors, has shown that the political devolution of powers without fiscal devolution makes no sense. The Liverpool City Deal provides only very minimally - and problematically - for additional local revenue raising, which means the new administration will have to rely disproportionately upon private sector investment to achieve its aims. Which, ideologues would point out, is exactly how a Conservative-led Government would have it.
17. The entire City Deal project has been a damaging undertaking, from the point of view of good governance. Democratic principles were flouted in the rush to engineer the desired outcomes and good things rarely come of undemocratic practice. Only time will tell whether the city ought to have sold its soul for (a debatable) £130 million.