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Shambolic start to new Liverpool City Region Authority

Secret plot accusations, legal action, toytown politics and a leadership coup - and it's only the first day

Written by . Published on April 2nd 2014.

Shambolic start to new Liverpool City Region Authority

CIVIC wars broke out yesterday as the birth of the new Mersey super council was wrecked on its first day of business.

Mayor Joe Anderson accused leaders of neighbouring councils of holding meetings behind his back to make sure neither he, nor Liverpool, would be at the helm the new Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. 

Phil DaviesPhil DaviesNow he is taking legal advice and says he can’t work with the new body while it disadvantages Liverpool. 

Mayor Anderson pulls no punches in a 470-word letter he emailed to all 90 Liverpool councillors just hours after the new combined authority was inaugurated, with the Wirral leader Phil Davies as chairman. 

The new authority is the first to draw together the six  local councils – Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens and Halton – with the aim of working closely to generate jobs and investment and to run the city region’s public transport operation. 

Joe Anderson %281%29Joe Anderson

There was high drama when the first ever meeting started at 11am – with two of the six council leaders, Mayor Anderson and Sefton leader Peter Dowd – not even in the room.

According to Mayor Joe, Cllr Dowd had walked out of a preliminary meeting feeling frustrated over the failure top resolve various issues. 

By the time the two entered the meeting chamber just three minutes late, the leadership vote was a done deal - the four other leaders had elected Cllr Davies as the chair and Knowsley leader Ron Round as his deputy. 

Nobody at the meeting had suggested delaying the start until the Mayor and Cllr Dowd were present. 

Neither councillor spoke or raised any issues during the hour long meeting. 

The first indication that all was not well was a critical comment to Liverpool Confidential from Mayor Anderson’s deputy, Cllr Roz Gladden. 

A few hours later came a statement from Liverpool Town Hall: “This was not the most auspicious start to the first meeting of the Combined Authority and we would question the rationale of taking a key decision on the Chair and Vice Chair when two of its biggest constituents were not in the room.

Peter Dowd, Flounced OutPeter Dowd: Walked out“Liverpool and Sefton represent half of the residents in the City Region and just over half of the businesses, and yet this decision was taken without their involvement.

“The decision also seems to fly in the face of public opinion and the opinion of business leaders throughout the city, who have recognised that Liverpool is central to the success of the Combined Authority.”

But that message was a mere hand grenade compared to the Exocet missle propelled into the mix by Mayor Anderson last night.

Pointing a damning finger at Wirral, Knowsley, St Helens and Sefton, Mayor Anderson blasted in his letter: “Instead of thinking and behaving like leaders of a big global city, the City Region leaders have engaged in a dysfunctional debate akin to toytown level politics and ambitions.” 

At the meeting St Helens leader Barrie Grunewald proposed Wirral’s Phil Davies as chair and Knowsley Ron Round as his deputy. There were no other names put forward. The nominations were seconded by Ron Round and Halton’s Rob Polhill.

Without the full involvement of Liverpool it is hard to see how the combined authority can properly function. 

Liverpool's Lib Dem leader Cllr Richard Kemp has described Labour's internal rows over the leadership and naming of the Liverpool City Region as, "totally unacceptable and the idea that Liverpool might pull out of an organisation that it helped create on day two of its existence would make us the laughing stock of the country.

"I now believe that we need to put in place a small elected Great Liverpool Authority which would take over these strategic infrastructure and investment activities and the work of the four Merseyside activities for police, fire, waste and recycling and transport."

The next meeting of the Combined Authority is due to take place in June, after the May local elections, when there could be political changes that may change things anyway.

Whatever happens in the coming weeks, there is little doubt the image of the city region has been badly dented by a very public fallout.

As one political follower said early today: “They’ll be laughing their heads off over this up the M62 in Manchester.”

'A totally disrespectful attempt to exclude us': Mayor Joe's letter in full

Hi All

Just to bring you up to date with what happened at the first meeting of the CA this morning.

As you are all aware I have reported to you the fact that members of the City Region previously held caucus meetings in a clandestine way to decide who would chair the CA - when I confronted them they admitted to this. They said (and by they I mean Wirral, St Helens, Halton and Knowsley) that I was too big a personality and Liverpool was to strong and therefore they would oppose me being chair of the CA or Liverpool chairing the CA.

Over the years, I have been a strong champion of closer working, and have personally brought together the city region leaders to bring us to this point. 

At no time had any of them raised any objections while I chaired the City Region Cabinet for the last four years as Leader and as Mayor.  But in turn, I made it absolutely clear that I couldn’t sign up to a position where I or any future Leader of Liverpool was barred from Chairing the CA.

Sefton’s Leader agrees with my stance and felt, like me, that it discriminated against what is the economic powerhouse of the City Region: Liverpool. Incidentally Liverpool and Sefton together make up 49% of the population of the City Region.

This morning a further debate once again took place prior the CA meeting to try and resolve the issue, it made no progress. Peter Dowd left the meeting frustrated and the meeting ended. I told the meeting I would try and bring Peter back.  When we returned at 11.03am to the Chamber where the meeting was being held, we found that the meeting had started and had indeed elected its chair. Both myself and Peter felt this was totally disrespectful was an attempt to exclude us in their haste to get the vote through. Although clearly the vote would have been  4 to 2.  

I think the clear message that was sent out this morning (and the behaviour of Leaders) was not one I would have hoped for. In my view people are more interested in their own personal ambitions than that of the City Region and it was not the best start I would have hoped for. This is such a missed opportunity instead of thinking and behaving like Leaders of a big global City the City Region Leaders have engaged in a dysfunctional debate akin to toy town level politics and ambitions.

I am considering options at the moment and seeking legal advice and will discuss this further at Full Council in two weeks, however my own view is I can’t sign up to something which disadvantages our City.  if you have any views I am happy to receive them.


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

John BradleyApril 2nd 2014.

Oh Come on I thought "Welcome to the Jungle" was an ideal metaphor. Though perhaps "Welcome to the Teddy bear pit of Merseyside Politics" would have been better.

AnonymousApril 2nd 2014.

Clash of the Tight'uns

GaryApril 2nd 2014.

Ronnie need to get a seat in the retirement home, and a few more new faces would us the world of good..they have all been around too long, bitter silly poeple....

mickeydrippin'April 2nd 2014.

They should have been courteous enough to have waited until Anderson and Dowd returned, instead of making the decision behind their backs. However, Joe Anderson should not think that he has to be chairman, just because Liverpool is the largest constituent of the Authority. In the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the elected chairman is the leader of Wigan Borough Council - NOT Richard Lees.

John BradleyApril 2nd 2014.

It is they jumping the gun that shows their intent is to cause trouble. That the 6 of them cannot get on for 2 minutes really shows that picking the LCR leader should be down to the public.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
Katie54April 3rd 2014.

They didn't jump the gun. Anderson and Dowd had left earlier, and the remaining 4 presumably doubted they would be back (given that Grunewald told the St. Helen's Star that Anderson actually said ""he would be withdrawing Liverpool from the Combined Authority and not attend the meeting"). They started the meeting on time, and followed procedure. The first item on the agenda was the chair. This isn't intent to cause trouble, it's determination not to be bullied.

John BradleyApril 3rd 2014.

Is there 3rd party confirmation of this?

Katie54April 3rd 2014.

The quote is from Grunewald in an article on the website of the St. Helen's Star. I imagine the other people at the meeting (all the LA leaders) could confirm it, if asked.

John BradleyApril 3rd 2014.

I expect they will be asked. The flaw in the entire joint body scheme is lack of leadership. MerseyTravel is a classic example, it just sits there and festers, too tied up in internal politics. With each council playing to the audience of it's borough's voters, a leader elected by the public and responsible too them is the only reasonable answer.

Katie54April 3rd 2014.

As I pointed out last night, in a post that has been removed this morning, this is not the antidemocratic conspiracy Jo Anderson is attempting to portray it as. He has known since January (according to Ron Round in yesterday's Echo) that the other leaders did not want him to chair the new Combined Authority. And in the private meeting before Tuesday's public one, he threatened to withdraw Liverpool if he didn't get the Chair, according to Grunewald in yesterday's St Helen's Star. This of course accounts for the fact that the remaining leaders started the meeting on time, without him and Dowd. And is a much more plausible reason for them having left the earlier meeting. This isn't about conspiracies to exclude Liverpool or disadvantage Liverpool, it's all about Anderson's ego.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
EditorialApril 3rd 2014.

Hi Katie, we haven't removed anything. Carry on posting!

Katie54April 3rd 2014.

Thanks, but it's definitely gone. Having said that, it was quite long - lumps of direct quotes in my usual indigestible style - and no paragraphs, of course (any chance?.....).

EditorialApril 3rd 2014.

What has happened is we were migrating server last night as the old one was up to capacity. Can only assume your posts got gobbled up. Apologies.

Katie54April 3rd 2014.

Just thinking about Anderson's email, and the phrase "A totally disrespectful attempt to exclude us". Apart from the fact that respect/disrespect doesn't really come into it, this wasn't an attempt to exclude "us" - if "us" means Liverpool. It wasn't an attempt to exclude him personally, either - if he was using the royal we.

Katie54April 3rd 2014.

The rest of the email is even worse. First he says that no-one has ever raised any objections while he was chair of the Group. But if this is the case, why did he have to "make it clear" he couldn't sign up to a position where he might be barred from chairing the CA", and, again "this morning a further debate took place prior to the meeting....". This makes nonsense of the first statement, and all adds credence to Grunewald's account. And what does barred mean? Who proposed the barring, when did they do it and how exactly was it supposed to work? Maybe he means vetoed - which is what he apparently did when a rotating chair was suggested (he appears to feel he's entitled to the job on a permanent basis). He also appears to redefine dysfunctional. The group called his bluff on the threat to withdraw, the debate functioned fine and his point of view did not prevail. That's not dysfunctional. Infuriating, perhaps?

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 3rd 2014.

It would be interesting to hear the views of a constitutional lawyer. There is a case to say as no rules or standing orders were in place, so therefore the meeting should not have started until and unless all six leaders were in attendance. In that case all six share equal blame for this.

AnonymousApril 3rd 2014.

This is how the St Helens Star newspaper is reporting the little spat…. Headline/ St Helens Council leader Barrie Grunewald: Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson is 'playing silly games' over Liverpool City Region Combined Authority ST HELENS Council leader Barrie Grunewald has urged Joe Anderson to “stop playing silly games” after the Liverpool Mayor threatened to withdraw from the city region council in a row over the leadership. Just one day after the first meeting of the new “super council”, the Mayor Anderson is already seeking a way to pull the city out. In what is believed to have been a frosty encounter, the five other council’s political leaders refused to accept that Anderson should be elected chair without undergoing the due democratic process. Wirral’s Council leader Phil Davies was eventually chosen as the chairman of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. Cllr Grunewald said: “Due democratic process took place yesterday and I seconded the nomination of Cllr Davies as chair and proposed Cllr Ronnie Round as vice chair. “In doing so I vote for the people I best felt able to carry out the role, working in partnership. It is very regretful that Mayor Anderson has responded in the way he has. All Labour leaders were in the building from 10am and indeed Cllr Anderson stated at our previous meeting he would be withdrawing Liverpool from the Combined Authority and not attend the meeting. “That was a choice for him and I hope he now reflects on his actions and stops playing silly games and starts to work with the new body which was set up to attract new investment and our local growth plans, which is about bringing jobs in to our region.” An email leaked to the Star by a Labour insider said: “Be in no doubt whatsoever, if Merseyside reputation is further damaged and money is withheld from us to progress our growth plan – the blame can only lie at one person’s door and that is Mayor Anderson.”

Will StockleyApril 3rd 2014.

ha ha ha morally corrupt (certainly) and generally corrupt (probably) politicians all spitting out their dummies ..... the fat controller starts to lose his grip over at last.... ha ha ha... anyone who votes for any of these idiots ( or their 'party' friends and cohorts) in the future is an idiot too...... vote independent at every level :from councils to mps ... mayors to police commisioners.... these people create more and more jobs for their cronies to create more and more faux power for themselves.....get rid of the lot of them please peeps .... i beg u abandon party politics..... it has destroyed this city......whole swathes of abandoned houses....filthy streets.... crap police who bully the local populous ...........TRAMS where are my trams ??.....why arent the tunnels free now as they should be by law???

mickeydrippin'April 3rd 2014.

I agree that Joe Anderson totally expected to be elected chairman. However, when he left the earlier meeting, apparently to persuade Cllr. Dowd to return, the other leaders must have thought it was a good opportunity get the election over and done with - as they did not want Joe to be elected - instead of waiting for them to return. Very childish behaviour by all six council leaders in my opinion.

AnonymousApril 3rd 2014.

People really do struggle with Joes arrogance and with his dip in popularity i hope this dosent give Cllr Nick Small more confidence in challenging in becoming Mayor because if he did then we would be in real shit!

Hettie KetteApril 3rd 2014.

How can one possibly take a mayor seriously when he starts a letter with "hi" and ends it with "Joe". This is the sort of thing that makes Liverpool a laughing stock.

6 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 4th 2014.

He probably wrote it in Comic Sans too

AnonymousApril 4th 2014.

Come on, it's 2014! Would you prefer something like "Dear Sir, I respectfully refer to your electronic communication of the 3rd instance and remain your obedient servant" or other stiff Edwardian style?

Mark MywordzApril 4th 2014.

Quite frankly, yes

John BradleyApril 4th 2014.

It was an email to his fellow labour councillors.

AnonymousApril 4th 2014.

Hettie Kette is right. Not just about this sort of letter but about most of the Mayor's letters and communications. Not so long ago, officers or the press office would prepare a statement for the politicians and it would be reviewed and scrutinised before being signed off for release into the public domain. Despite the fact that Joe has employed high cost press officers and people to deliver a communications strategy, almost every announcement or letter that comes out of the Mayor's office looks amateurish and usually gets people's backs up. It is often ill thought out or full of idiosyncrasies that give it the appearance of having been written by a 5th former trying to look grown up. Half the time they don't seem to know what they are announcing and quickly go on the defensive or start lashing out the moment there are any questions raised about what they are actually doing and why they are doing it. Usually along the lines of everybody is wrong except me, followed by insults about the intelligence or motives of anybody who dares speak out. I think Anderson has really blown it this time and shown himself to be the egotistical g.s. many have suspected. Full of his self importance and demanding to be in charge of every decision and every forum. It makes sense to have either a rotating chair for the regional group or one of the partner councils taking the role. Why does it HAVE to be the Mayor of Liverpool? It is supposed to be a partnership. Clearly Anderson did not see it that way. He has underlined the fears other council leaders had that Liverpool would dominate everything because Anderson does think he has the right. He is convinced that this Regional Partnership should be subordinate to him. Well why? Why should it? He may ride roughshod over the views of elected members in Liverpool but to their credit, the elected members and leaders of the other authorities have rightly told him, don't think you can act like the Great Dictator here mate. If he believed in a genuine partnership, he would have had the good grace and intelligence to actually suggest there was a rotating chair or that the char should be from one of the other authorities. I am sorry Mr Mayor but you are not Kim Joe Un. They don't all have to have the same haircut.

Hettie KetteApril 4th 2014.

He is the 'Elected Mayor' and a figurehead for a great city. He's also supposed be a university graduate. It just isn't good enough. I wouldn't mind betting that the proper Lord Mayor's communications have a superior and far more fitting level of dignity.

Katie54April 4th 2014.

Brilliant, Anonymous - a perfect summary. Let's hope he's learnt his lesson, although I wouldn't bet on it - we'll have to wait and see if there are any more tantrums at the next meeting in June. After today's Cabinet meeting he refused to comment on the allegations made by the leaders of both St. Helens and Knowsley (and if they were untrue he would surely have taken the opportunity to say so). He was "sad" if the region had been brought into disrepute, but took no responsibility for it, and tried to imply it was everyone else's fault. No mention of legal advice or threatening withdrawal. He also said "since then I've been getting on with running Liverpool and carrying on doing that and continue to promote the city region and create regeneration opportunities". He was elected to run Liverpool City Council, and given his many roles here (he has taken over Brandt's role as Cabinet Member for Finance, serves as a director of the Arena and of scandal-ridden LDL and wears all sorts of other hats), he really should focus on all that. The rest is now the remit of the Combined Authority.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
John BradleyApril 4th 2014.

Hopefully. Though I think the entire things makes the case for having an elected Mayor for the City region.

Katie54April 4th 2014.

Yes, you're probably right. The reasons for having an elected Mayor of the City have now evaporated. It would be far better if we (Liverpool) had just a leader, who like all the others would focus on the local authority and be properly accountable to the council. Then an elected Mayor for the City Region could focus on regeneration, transport, etc. That's the way things work in London - the Mayor does not run the local councils, they each run themselves. The problem would be who such a figure might be accountable to. The London Mayor is accountable to the London Assembly (with their own equivalent of PMQs). What would we have?

John BradleyApril 4th 2014.

I'd reduce the size and power of the councils and go for a system line LA or San Fransisco for the LCR. en.wikipedia.org/…/Government_of_Los_Angeles… or en.wikipedia.org/…/San_Francisco_Board_of_Supervisors…

John BradleyApril 4th 2014.

Basically shrink each council with an elected a mayor for each, who also form the board of SUpervisors.

Harry MillerApril 7th 2014.

I'm delighted to see Anderson get his comeuppance at the hands of so-called comrades - just as he was on a policy decision taken by the waste disposal authority. It is clear the man is disliked even by his own party colleagues Wheter Wirral's Phil Davies is the answer is another matter altogether - he does run one of the most dysfunctional boroughs around. What this does tell us is that having anelected Mayor was a mistake. In fact the ceremonial mayor Gary Millar would be a far better leader for the region; intelligent, diplomatic and respected; all the things that Anderson isnt. I can only shake my head at all of you out there who voted for Anderson. Are you all numpties too?

AnonymousApril 8th 2014.

An earlier correspondent wrote how it was more usual for press officers (ie spin doctors) to compile civic communications on behalf of politicians. I think it is to Mayor Anderson's credit that he himself puts pen to paper. The alternative would be a squeaky clean spun communique which would be much worse. What this episode does demonstrate, among other things, is that should there ever be an elected mayor for the greater merseyside area, it would not mean such a leader would automatically be Liverpool centric. That in itself ought to make (Liverpool) supporters of a city region mayor, be careful what they wish for.

1 Response: Reply To This...
John BradleyApril 8th 2014.

You should be perhaps make an effort to understand why an elected Mayor for the region would be preferable.

Harry MillerApril 8th 2014.

It would be preferable if you could find a few decent candidates rather than an egocentric fool voted in by an electorate who cant see further than the Labour party badge.

1 Response: Reply To This...
John BradleyApril 8th 2014.

The only way that is going to happen is when the post of LCR Mayor is big enough to attract someone with the ability and ambition to be a cabinet minister.

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