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Government writes Bernstein over Liverpool rescue mission

The former Manchester City Council chief executive will be part of a panel tasked with turning around Liverpool City Council as Whitehall increases its control over the struggling authority.

More than a year after commissioners were first appointed to support Liverpool City Council following Max Caller’s damning report, the government has decided to take more action in an attempt to bring the authority up to standard.

The latest set of measures includes the appointment of a panel of public sector giants to support the work of the commissioners.

Sir Howard Bernstein, who led Manchester City Council for almost 20 years, is one of them. He is joined by former Leeds City Council leader Baroness Judith Blake and Liverpool Area Mayor Steve Rotheram, who will chair the panel.

Bernstein, credited with playing a key role in Manchester’s regeneration and economic growth during his two decades in office, will now try to influence the city’s future at the other end of the M62.

Bernstein was CEO of Manchester City Council for almost 20 years. Credit: via the archives

More failure = more intervention

The latest report from commissioners already installed in the council’s planning, roads and regeneration departments identified ‘further evidence of failure’ when it comes to the financial management and governance of the authority.

Earlier this year, mistakes by the board led to a £10million rise in Liverpool’s electricity bill, as revealed in a report by accountancy firm Mazars. Chief executive Tony Reeves, the man credited with starting the city council’s improvement journey, resigned soon after.

In a letter to councillors, Secretary of State for Leveling Greg Clark said there was a “lack of urgency to implement change” at City Council, prompting him to broaden the scope of government intervention.

In addition to the existing four commissioners, led by Mike Cunningham, Clark is to appoint a fifth to oversee recruitment, governance and financial decision-making.

“Liverpool must now experience a turning point in which they can emerge from their current difficulties and have confidence in the bright and strong future that such a great city has a right to demand of itself,” Clark said.

Advisory Committee on Liverpool’s Strategic Future

The government has also set up a separate team to work alongside the commissioners to “develop a plan for Liverpool’s rebirth as a city”, Clark said.

In addition to Rotheram, Bernstein and Blake, the Liverpool Strategic Futures Advisory Panel will be bolstered by a private sector business leader, to be selected at a later date.

“The commissioners’ report makes it clear that they do not believe there has been as much progress as they would have hoped to see since their appointment,” Rotheram said.

“The Liverpool Strategic Futures Panel has been set up to chart the city’s path to stability and prosperity. For the city region to reach its full potential, we need a strong and prosperous Liverpool.

The mayor reacts

Following the Commissioners’ latest report and recommendation for greater government influence over the way City Council is run, Mayor Joanne Anderson said “further government intervention will not solve the problems” facing the City Council. authority is confronted.

She says many of the problems – including “glaring skills shortages” – are common across local government and are not specific to Liverpool.

“We have lost £465million in funding since this government came to power in 2010, so it is no surprise that there are areas where we can improve performance,” she said. said on Twitter.