Mayor Joanne Anderson is unconvinced more government intervention is the answer to Liverpool's woes. Credit: Place North West

Govt drafts in Bernstein for Liverpool rescue mission 

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

More than a year after commissioners were first appointed to support Liverpool City Council in the wake of Max Caller’s damning report, the government has decided to take more action to try and bring the authority up to scratch. 

The latest round of measures includes appointing a panel of public sector giants to support the commissioners’ work.

Sir Howard Bernstein, who ran Manchester City Council for almost 20 years, is among them. He is joined by ex-Leeds City Council leader Baroness Judith Blake and Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram, who will chair the panel.

Bernstein, credited with playing a key role in the regeneration and economic growth of Manchester during his two-decade tenure, will now attempt to influence the future of the city at the other end of the M62. 

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

More failure = more intervention 

The latest report by commissioners already installed at the city council’s planning, highways and regeneration departments has identified “further evidence of failure” in relation to the authority’s financial management and governance. 

Earlier this year, council mistakes led to Liverpool’s electricity bill rising by £10m as revealed by a report from accountancy firm Mazars. Chief executive Tony Reeves, the man credited with kickstarting the city council’s improvement journey, resigned shortly afterwards. 

In a letter to councillors, secretary of state for levelling up Greg Clark said there was a “lack of urgency to implement change” at the city council, prompting him to expand the scope of the government’s intervention. 

As well as the four existing 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 it can come out of its present difficulties and have confidence in the bright and strong future that such a great city has the right to demand of itself,” Clark said. 

Liverpool Strategic Futures Advisory Panel 

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

As well as 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 is clear that they do not believe there has been as much progress as they would have hoped to have seen since they were appointed,” 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 thriving Liverpool.” 

The mayor reacts

Following the commissioners’ latest report and the recommendation for more government say in the way the city council is run, mayor Joanne Anderson has said “further government intervention will not solve the issues” facing the authority. 

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

“We have lost £465m in funding since this government came to power in 2010, so it is not surprising that there are areas where we can improve performance,” she said on Twitter. 

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A rescue mission? Even now I can barely believe I am reading these words. It’s a long way back for Liverpool. I only wish I had more faith in our horses.

By Scouse mouse

Northwestism moves another step closer to becoming Greater Manchester’s dormitory region.

By Michael McDonut

Bernstein, still has a hand in Manchester, very much in the background now but still there I believe.

By Anonymous

Maybe Howard should join Man Utd if he’s up for rescue missions. Howard’s strategic guile can only be positive for Liverpool if they take notice rather than obsess over their woke agenda.


I can’t understand why so many Liverpudlians take offence and can’t understand why the Wirral is crying out to sever all links with Liverpool and the LCR?

By Heswall

Look on the bright side….more involvement for Manchester’s trusted partners

By Anonymous

I wonder if Bernstein really knows what a heavy load he is going to have to carry? Whatever goes wrong the locals will just blame Manchester. Leave them to it.

By Poynton guy

Let’s hope and trust that this intervention provides a solution for Liverpool some self inflicted others by central government cut backs creating a confrontational atmosphere which has played into the hands of certain political fractions on both sides.
My only concern is how long will this Panel exist for and will the issues it is addressing disappeared by then and the same old party politics begin again. I say this because some of the panel may be past their sell by date and the new LCC CEO?
Perhaps the government might consider introducing proportional representation for the City so one political party does not dominate the agenda again and again?

By Cherry Blossom

I think Sir Howard is an hon president at Man city. I think he’s going to get a dose of reality in Liverpool !

By Anonymous

Desperate times, desperate measures. Those who have been at the helm at LCC since 2008 should hang their heads in shame.

By Tom

The Commissioners Report that was published today lays bare the disfunctionality of the Council. The challenges to put in place an organisation that can serve the people and businesses of the city are enormous especially given the financial pressures the Council has going forward. Everyone reading this article should read that report.

Given these challenges it is pretty clear to me that Steve Rotheram will provide the strategic civic leadership to the city and the city-region. The baton is firmly in his hand.

By Anonymous

The job of a city council and it`s councillors is to strive the make the place prosperous for it`s citizens and for business to flourish thus providing employment, but most of the councillors only hinder business, especially property developers.
It`s no use having a philosophy of believing in local and central state provided housing and work if that is going against the national and global grain.
I reckon even if Starmer gets in he will persist with the commissioners till Liverpool rids itself of this malaise, the pity is there are loads of young , bright people in the city with great ideas and business acumen but are banging their heads against a brick wall.

By Anonymous

I’m with Poynton guy, leave them to think they’re Rome. They’ve been needing a fresh scapegoat since UNESCO did one.

By Anonymous

Amazing that the most dysfunctional and untrustworthy national government ever has the nerve to label local government as being dysfunctional

By Mary Smith

Has the penny finally dropped ?

By Dave

Not local government Mary, just LCC.

By Anonymous

If in the next 2 years,besides sorting out the administrative mess the council is in, if this panel could get the Pall Mall office scheme started, the cruise liner terminal on site, plus the Littlewoods studios built, and entice some reliable companies to build in our city centre then this will point the city in the right direction, and make the voters think why have we been voting in such poor councillors for the last decade.

By Anonymous

Yes we know Bernstein has been parachuted in that us the biggest disappointment. He will join the likes of wilmott Dixon,Graham’s C&C to report back to Manchester round rable

By George

The council could do with a big shake up. I think having proportional representation in Liverpool (and the city region) would be good for the sake of improving scrutiny of whoever is in power.

By Chris

Let’s hope for the best. Just think what the NorthWest could be if Liverpool was as well run as Manchester and Salford. The argument for PR in big labour cities (inc. Manchester and Salford) feels sound. For every authority that uses a dominant position under FPTP for good long term strategy there’s many that don’t.

By Rich X

Same old problems, from an utterly disfunctional and self serving council that refuses to acknowledge its shortcomings. Anderson’s comments, just like those of her predecessor when he was in power, are ones of denial, seeking to blame everyone else. Sadly Liverpool City Council is a laughingstock and a failure in democracy caused by the abuse and incompetence of office. They may not like it, but Bernstein’s arrival is the best thing that has happened to them in a very long time.

By Grumpy Old Git

Hopefully Bernstein = Heseltine, a man who did a fair bit for Liverpool when it was in difficulties, to the point he was given ” freedom of the city”.
If Bernstein is backed with some money we can get some flagship projects underway that have been on the back burner for too long.

By Anonymous

I’m hopeful the intervention of government commissioners and the appointment of Sir Howard Bernstein and Dame Judith Blake will help reboot this city. I think they’ll be appalled by the anti business rhetoric from Joanne Anderson and the rest of this council. Let’s hope she and her like get the boot and this city can get back into business. Her anti business rhetoric is appalling. She blames decisions made outside of this city for our appalling state of affairs, never admitting that years of council incompetence and waste are to blame. She just doesn’t get it ! She and her colleagues must go.

By Stephen Davis

Dan, I think you need to look at a map of the north! The other end of the M62 from Liverpool is Hull, not Manchester!!!!

By Geographer

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