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Forde comes out fighting

“I've been made a scapegoat,” says the city's former events manager as the Mathew Street Festival report is finally released. Read it in full, here....

Published on December 4th 2007.

Forde comes out fighting

by Angie Sammons

One of the two people to be blamed for the cancellation of the Mathew Street Festival today came out fighting by turning up outside Liverpool Town Hall - supported by the city council's former spin doctor - as journalists packed the building to hear the findings of the long awaited report into the shambles.

Lee Forde, the Liverpool Culture Company's former events manager, who spoke exclusively to Liverpool Confidential at the end of August to reveal why had quit his post (click here) was flanked by Matt Finnegan who today announced that he is acting as Mr Forde's unpaid press representative.

The Mathew Street report, which has been beset by delays in publishing for various legal reasons, cites Mr Forde and his former line manager, Operations Director Chris Green (who has also since left the Culture Company) for either not realising or not communicating the seriousness of the problems affecting the MSF to their superiors, and says that both would have been subjected to disciplinary action had they still been in post.

However, Mr Forde claims to be in possession of a thick dossier of emails, many of which, he says, indicate that senior council members and officials were made aware of potential operational concerns as far back as February.

And as the city council officials and its leader, Warren Bradley, fielded questions from the local media inside the Town Hall, Mr Forde told us outside: “I haven't had the advantage of reading the report in any form, and I haven't had the opportunity to edit, or alter it in any way during the last three months, but it now seems clear that the city council is trying to use me as a scapegoat.”

Mr Forde went on: “I did the best within my power and within the reporting structure to make people aware - at the highest possible level - of the issues we were continually raising. To pretend otherwise is a travesty of the truth.

“There was a serious battle over funding for the birthday year celebrations between the Culture Company and senior councillors - sadly Mathew Street Festival lost out. I did not want people to become the physical casualties of that battle.”

“Both my staff and I repeatedly warned there were serious problems of public safety and funding over Mathew Street, but nothing was effectively done even after I resigned. I have no intention of hiding away – I have done nothing wrong and nor have my team. I ran Mathew Street successfully for five years and my team won awards for their work.

“We were proud to work for the city. But I am ashamed now of what the city council has done. They know exactly who was responsible for the cancellation of the Mathew Street festival.”

Mr Finnegan, the city's former media chief who resigned from his £65,000-a year-post after an 18-month suspension during the well documented David Henshaw-Mike Storey feud, said: “I worked with Lee for six years, he always struck me as one of the most professional of the council's employees and had the utmost integrity.

“I do not like seeing people hung out to dry and made a scapegoat for something that was not their fault and not their responsibility.

“ I believe him when he says that he repeatedly told people what the problems were with Mathew Street and the danger to public safety. The responsibility for cancelling the event doesn't lie with him but with much more senior people in the Culture Company and the city council. Of course they won't come out and defend their reputation, but Lee has to do it and I am here to help him."

Mr Finnegan added: “There are very serious issues at stake here. This is not the last you are going to hear of this. I think there will be more stuff that will emerge over time because it's about the way that the city is being run and it's about the future of Capital of Culture.”

In a statement, Councillor Warren Bradley said: “I promised a fully open and transparent investigation into the cancellation of the outdoor stages and I am pleased that the report has now been published for everyone to read.”

Read the report in full, here....

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27 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

London RoadNovember 16th 2007.

I see in today's paper that Councillor Bradley is putting the boot well and truly into Jason Harborow for it all, and Jason would doubtless do likewise if he wasn't busy running his ice cream factory in Spain. It doesn't matter who was at fault, really, but a good leader or manager is one who takes stuff like this on the chin instead of blaming the people much lower down in the chain of command. That's what effective leadership is about. Liverpool has unfortunately never had this and this very public spat has gone way too far, with all this whinging and people saying it's not their fault. And just 6 weeks before culture year starts. Bradley should know when to keep his mouth shut by now.

AnonymousNovember 16th 2007.

Can somebody let me know when its 2009?

Gallant Little BelgiumNovember 16th 2007.

According to today's Daily Post the blithering Culture Company blockheads spent a fortune arranging a reception for the area's ten European M.P.s. in Brussels. Unfortunately the Culture Company dolts hadn't done their research: the V.I.P.s were hundreds of miles away in Strasbourg! Perhaps if they were paid a more typical Liverpool salary they might actually pull their fingers out and start getting things right for a change?

Liam Fogarty, A Mayor For LiverpoolNovember 16th 2007.

This "investigation" has been a shoddy exercise from Day One. The report it has spawned just adds insult to injury - it's an insult to our intelligence.This was Liverpool's biggest PR disaster in years. Yet no senior politician or officer is willing to accept responsibility for it.Mathew Street represents everything that's wrong about the way Liverpool is run: poor leadership, a lack of accountability and a 'seat of the pants' approach to city management.Predictable calls for us all to "move on" just won't wash.

ENovember 16th 2007.

This report is an attempt to cover up the real mess. Harborow was informed about the Pier Head issues in 2006.My guess is he will be back early next week and collect his pieces of silver.Then he will announce his resignation, thus protecting his masters.Chris Green has always been Harborow's "yes-man" but to use Lee Forde as a scapegoat, is a cowards way out.All of this still does not solve the real problems and will jeopardise the delivery of 08.

RhinoNovember 16th 2007.

I have known Lee to be a hard working man of integrity for the past twenty years. I find it very hard to believe he would become a fool overnight, as he has been portrayed by Harborow, Bradley & Hilton.The council has found itself a patsy. Keep yer chin up Lee, the truth will out. Good luck mate.P.

Copy LaneNovember 16th 2007.

Release the hounds!

EvilEddNovember 16th 2007.

The Mathew Festival has for many years been a showcase of what this city is capable of. If Forde is telling the truth, and as documentary evidence to prove it, good luck to him - and well done for standing up.

In the KnowNovember 16th 2007.

Not suprised to hear bill heckle come out in support of Chris Green him and his mates got 40 odd grand a year out of the event

Sir Howard WayNovember 16th 2007.

Indeed Mr. Lane! Crown Prince Harpik would have the over-remunerated chumps at the Culture Company dragged from their beds (or "champagne lounges") in the early hours, publicly humiliate them in front of a huge and appreciative crowd of real liverpudlians and Council Tax Payers before putting them to the sword! This city needs strong leadership and spectacular balls. Crown Prince Harpik is our man!

Stanley StreetNovember 16th 2007.

Warren Bradley: A fully open and transparent cranium more like!Has he managed to do his job properly and sack Harborow yet? Normal Council workers on sick leave cower in their houses in case they are spotted going to the local shop for a loaf, but it appears the Harborow is too sick to work but well enough to travel abroad!No wonder he's got a deal with Bradley to get themselves both off the hook in this so-called "report"!

Copy LaneNovember 16th 2007.

This all makes our city look like a mess. It is clear, as London Road points out, that our leadership is once again in chaos. Who could restore order, confidence and pride among the politicos and the citizens in 2008? Joe Anderson, some would say. But for me there is only one name that keeps recurring as the obvious leader of Liverpool: Crown Prince Harpik, and I know there are many more who agree with me.

RhinoNovember 16th 2007.

Truly astonishing!!! Bradley and Hilton attempt to enlist Lee to stitch up Harborrow!!! liverpoolsubculture.blogspot.com/…/ley-and.html…

WappingNovember 16th 2007.

Surely the headline acts should have been booked long before June so that the promotion and publicity could be booked in advance, let alone to ensure decent headline acts were actually available? And shouldn't all the tenders from outside contractors have been evaluated by then too? I haven't seen evidence of any of this in any reports.Are we expected to believe that the last minute cancellation was a surprise? It seems to me everyone knew MSF wasn't going to happen but nobody knew what to do about it.

AnonymousNovember 16th 2007.

When we got the "city of Culture" staus 3 years ago I thought "oh all the Councellors will get new Donkey Jackets - I think they have had more than donkey jacks - I would love to know who ate all the pies.........

Tony ParrishNovember 16th 2007.

I think someone should start a very public petition saying Lee is being made a scapegoat for the fsilures of the city council and the Culture Company over Mathew Street and we won't have it! Could we get five thousand signatures? That would embarrass the life out of Fireman Bradley, Story-teller, Cover Up and the Harbarrowboy. have a look at the liverpool subculture blog.

Marathon ManNovember 16th 2007.

It's not over by a long way this....

AnonymousNovember 16th 2007.

Ooh, that's a big one...

allerton roadNovember 16th 2007.

yes London Road is right he should have shut his mouth and carried out a private internal investigation and found out what happened. Instead he opened his big mouth making a stupid magnanimous gesture to the voters and found out that his senior officers were all as thick as thieves and shafted him good and proper.Now tell me who runs this city?

The Man on the Garston omnibusNovember 16th 2007.

Thank goodness it is only public money that is being so profligately wasted!

lee fordeNovember 16th 2007.

I agree with Wapping the bands should have been booked by June along with the other event infrastructure and I can confirm they were.All plans were in place, this does not appear in the report as this would be a positive and the report is seeking to be negative.any further questions?

Jon GardNovember 16th 2007.

EvilEdd says.." The Mathew Festival has for many years been a showcase of what this city is capable of.Exactly.Loads of drunken scum embarassing the city.

AnonymousNovember 16th 2007.

Unbelievable. All of it

can the last one out turn off the lightsNovember 16th 2007.

We should all be insulted that the publishers of the 'report' think we are as dim and stupid as they are. The council are pretty good at leaking emails and reports to the press, lets hope someone who has a fit of conscience will send the original uncensured report in. Roll on the May elections and let them see how dim we are then....

fatmouthNovember 16th 2007.

what about that slippery bugger Donaldson?

Tony ParrishNovember 16th 2007.

here is a good petition which everyone should sign.....www.petitiononline.com/…/signed.cgi?leeforde…

lee fordeNovember 16th 2007.

I would just like to thank to all the people who have been in touch and offered support, thanks to all the people who took the time to write in and phone in to various media institutions.It has helped me and my family a lot in getting through this personal attack and character assassination.

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