Liverpool City Council handed back some powers three years after damning report

The council’s offices in the Cunard Building on Liverpool’s Pier Head has been hosting a team of commissioners for nearly three years. Credit: PA

A local authority, once branded “dysfunctional” by government inspectors, is to have a number of powers returned to local officials.

The government intervened in the running of Liverpool after a damning inspection report into the Labour-run city council.

It found "multiple failures” at the authority, including bullying, intimidation, “dubious” deals and “jobs for the boys”.

In March 2021, it was announced that a team of commissioners would be appointed to take over some functions from councillors and officers for three years as part of an “improvement plan".

They will hand back powers for several functions over the coming weeks.

The council said this is earlier than had been planned.

Council leader Cllr Liam Robinson, part of a new leadership team at the helm of the authority, said: “I am really pleased that the government has accepted the recommendations of the commissioners and confirmed the handing back of some powers to the council ahead of schedule.

“It is recognition of the fact that we have made significant progress over the last nine months or so, although we know that we have much more to do."

Max Caller found in 2021 that council staff were scared to speak out because of a culture of bullying and intimidation Credit: ITV Granada

Government inspector Max Caller was called in to investigate after a series of arrests in the city for fraud, bribery, corruption and witness intimidation.

Amongst those held was the elected Mayor of Liverpool at the time, Joe Anderson, who was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation.

Mr Anderson, who left his post, has not been charged and insists that the allegations are baseless.

Mike Cunningham is the lead commissioner installed at Liverpool City Council. Credit: PA/ITV Granada

The government today confirmed there will be a "significant reduction" in the intervention at Liverpool City Council with revised directions being published

The council may now appoint most senior managers again and it will regain oversight of the finance and highways functions from 31 March.

The size of the commissioner team will reduce from five to four, with members steadily reducing their involvement and days spent with the council.

Cllr Robinson said he has held constructive discussions with the local government minister, Simon Hoare MP, about the intervention.

The minister has written to the council leader to say the government recognises the progress made and wishes "to support a managed transition to ending the statutory intervention”.

Simon Hoare MP has written to Liverpool council leader Liam Robinson Credit: PA/ITV Granada

Cllr Robinson added, “I am confident this marks the beginning of the end of the intervention as we know it.

"It is a tribute to the hard work of staff and councillors who have worked so hard to put in place the building blocks for improved services.

"We are continuing to work at pace to deal with those areas where we still need to make progress, such as property management.

“I want to reassure residents that we are not complacent and we continue to move at pace to drive the improvements we need to make and achieve our ambition of becoming an excellent council delivering value-for-money services.”

The commissioners will continue to have power over governance, regeneration, property management and a limited number of senior appointments including the Director of Property, those related to HR/organisational development and statutory officers.

The next commissioners' report will outline what will happen at the scheduled end of the intervention in June 2024.