Commissioners named to oversee Liverpool’s new era

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has confirmed changes to the city’s governance and revealed the names of the Whitehall officials overseeing its operations over the next three years.

The changes will see all-out elections held every four years from 2023, with no elections held in 2022; the mayoral election to be brought forward from 2024 to 2023, dependent upon the outcome of a governance review over the future of the role; and a move to one councillor per ward, except where it is deemed essential to have more than one ward member.

Four commissioners, who will oversee the authority’s highways, regeneration and property management functions and improvement plan over the next three years, have also been named, among them Deborah McLaughlin, Homes England’s former director for the North West.

They are:

  • Mike Cunningham QPM (lead commissioner) – involved in policing for more than 30 years, most recently as chief executive of the College of Policing from 2018 to 2020. Formerly one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Constabulary and national lead inspector for the development and implementation of inspections into police efficiency, legitimacy and leadership. Ex-chief constable of Staffordshire Police.
  • Joanna Killian (local government improvement commissioner) – more than 30 years of experience in the public sector. Since March 2018, chief executive of Surrey County Council, prior to which she wprked at KPMG then as chief executive of Essex County Council for nine years.
  • Neil Gibson (highways commissioner) – former executive director of transport, economy and environment for Buckinghamshire County Council. A fellow of the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation and former president of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport.
  • Deborah McLaughlin (regeneration commissioner) – A familiar name to North West property industry, following spells as director of housing at Manchester City Council and as regional director  at Homes England. Has also worked at the Audit Commission as a Best Value Inspector and auditor.

The Government intervened in the running of Liverpool City Council following a series of arrests as part of Operation Aloft last year, with Jenrick asking Max Caller to carry out a comprehensive review of the local authority’s affairs.

Jenrick has asked the commissioners to also have regard for:

  • The council’s Boundary Commission submission
  • The council’s governance referendum
  • The financial position of the council
  • Broader service delivery related to the council’s wider improvement journey

Last month, a meeting of all city councillors approved an 18-page document responding to the Best Value Inspection, including a timetable for implementing various changes to how the authority conducts its business.

Joanne Anderson, now installed as mayor having triumphed in May’s election, said: “We are determined to deliver the changes required to deliver the best possible value for our residents.

“The entire organisation is committed to ensuring the improvements we have mapped out in response to the report are achieved.

“The commissioners will be here to support and guide us on our improvement journey and we are ready to work colaboratively with them utilising their significant experience and skills.”

Cunningham said: “As someone who grew up in the Liverpool area I am honoured to have been appointed as lead commissioner. I am looking forward to starting this important work which will include providing regular updates to the Secretary of State.”

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