Anderson heads to High Court in legal fees spat
The former mayor of Liverpool is appealing to overturn the city council’s decision not to pay his legal fees in relation to the ongoing Operation Aloft police investigation.
Meanwhile, Liverpool City Council has set out a list of measures it intends to take over the next three years to clean up its governance and culture.
Anderson had reportedly asked the council to pay any legal costs incurred in connection with the Merseyside Police corruption probe, but the local authority is understood to have rejected the request.
Having had his request turned down by the council, Anderson, who was arrested as part of Operation Aloft last December on suspicion of bribery and witness intimidation, has since been released without charge and has denied all allegations, has taken his bid for public legal funding to the High Court in an appeal.
Joanne Anderson, one of two Labour mayoral candidates that could replace Joe Anderson following elections in May – and no relation of the former mayor – described his request as “appalling” in a tweet on Sunday.
She wrote: “I believe the council is right not to pay these legal fees. It is both morally and ethically wrong to request that council funds be used in this way.”
Manchester-based JMW Solicitors, which is representing Anderson, refused to comment, while Liverpool City Council said it would be “inappropriate to comment on legal proceedings”.
Anderson has not been charged in relation to Merseyside Police’s investigation into corruption within Liverpool City Council, and denies any wrongdoing.
The former mayor’s request for legal funding from the public coffers comes after a challenging week for Liverpool City Council, when an official report on governance at the local authority found that it “has failed in numerous respects to comply with its [statutory] Best Value duty to taxpayers.”
As a result of the review by strategic advisor Max Caller, communities secretary Robert Jenrick confirmed last Wednesday he would send in Whitehall-appointed commissioners to to oversee some council functions and departments for the next three years.
“We are embarking on a partnership to mend a politics that has for too long been rooted in a pervasive and rotten culture,” Jenrick said.
Liverpool City Council’s chief executive Tony Reeves told Place North West last week that the council has already taken several steps to clean up departmental functions over the past two years. The council today outlined further planned measures, including:
- Restructuring the regeneration department and implementing a new file management system to improve transparency around decision making, within the next six months
- Making changes to highways operations, contract commissioning and audit and governance rules in the council’s constitution, within a year
- Putting in place new governance for the council’s wholly-owned companies in the next two years
- Drawing up an overall improvement plan over the next three years as well as a programme of cultural change across the organisation.
Acting Mayor of Liverpool Cllr Wendy Simon and Reeves said in a joint statement today: “There is a collective commitment from both councillors and officers to learn from the failings highlighted in this report.
“We would like to reassure all residents and businesses that we will take action to address all of the issues highlighted. We know we need to rebuild your trust….
“At the same time, we will ensure we keep delivering essential services and offering a helping hand to the people of our city.”