Reeves is credited with having begun the process of improving the running of the city council. Credit: via Liverpool City Council

Liverpool reacts to Reeves resignation

Tony Reeves has resigned after a tumultuous four years at Liverpool City Council, leaving the authority without a chief executive in the midst of a major rebuilding process. 

A loss for the city?

Several individuals Place North West contacted said that Reeves’ departure was a loss for the city. 

“It’s fair to say Tony Reeves led the city through an incredibly difficult period and did so in a professional and principled manner,” said Tom Roberts, Mott MacDonald’s cities lead for Liverpool. 

“I’m sorry to see him go at this time. I hope the city can move forwards and attract a new chief executive of the experience and calibre this great city deserves.” 

Sean Keyes, managing director at Sutcliffe, agreed that Reeves had been good for the city. 

“Tony has done a great job for Liverpool and has helped keep the city together throughout the Covid period, something that won’t be forgotten by our city’s residents,” Keyes said. 

“Tony held the Liverpool City Council together during a difficult time and I now wish him well in his next challenge.” 

Not everyone is sad to see Reeves go, though.  

Independent councillor Sam Gorst tweeted: “The CEO down and only the Mayor to go… Bring on May 2023. Change is coming!” 

Reeves’ time in office

While not everyone agreed with the way Reeves ran the city council, many people in Liverpool credit Reeves with beginning the process of changing the culture at Liverpool City Council, described in a damning government report as “dysfunctional”. 

Reeves, who resigned as chief executive yesterday, voiced his concerns about the way property transactions between the authority and developers were being conducted to police shortly after arriving in post in 2018. 

This sparked the Merseyside Police investigation Operation Aloft, which resulted in several high-profile arrests, including former Mayor Joe Anderson and head of regeneration Nick Kavanagh. Neither man has been charged and both deny wrongdoing. 

Max Caller, a strategic advisor to the government, was appointed in 2020 to carry out a review into various council departments, including regeneration, off the back of Reeves’ concerns. 

Caller’s subsequent report, published in March 2021, painted an ugly picture of the inner workings of the city council but praised Reeves for his work to try and turn the tide. 

Speaking to Place North West in the aftermath of the report, Caller said that there were “some [individuals] who don’t deserve to be in public office, or in public life, and need to be removed.” 

Meanwhile, Reeves said there was “a collective commitment from both councillors and officers to learn” from the mistakes highlighted in the report and to rebuild trust between the council and residents. 

Pressure on Reeves had increased in recent months following the city council’s failure to promptly renew several contracts, leading to prices increasing.

In May, the city’s electricity bill looked like it would increase by £16m because of this and Mel Creighton resigned as director of finance and deputy chief executive for the city council at the end of May following the error. 

The failure to extend another dozen contracts was revealed last month, prompting the commissioners to describe the situation as a “low point” for the council in a cabinet report. 

Commissioner conflict

His resignation yesterday leaves the city council scrambling to appoint a replacement to lead the authority on its journey of improvement. 

Cllr Richard Kemp, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool said he was “saddened but not surprised” at Reeves’ resignation and heaped praise on the “decent, honest and competent official”. 

“His actions stopped the council losing many more millions through corrupt practices, which were first exposed in an internal audit report that he commissioned,” Kemp added. 

“The only people who will be pleased [about Reeves’ resignation] will be those whose actions in plundering our city were prevented by actions instigated by this decent, honest and competent official.” 

The city council is working to find an interim replacement for Reeves. Credit: Place North West

Following the damning Max Caller report, commissioners were installed at the city council to assist Reeves with its running and to oversee some of the departments in need of improvement. 

However, Kemp believes the appointment of commissioners has not been a success and contributed to Reeves’ leaving. 

“Mr Reeves was caught between an incompetent and inexperienced set of politicians and an incompetent and inexperienced set of commissioners,” he said. 

“His position became intolerable, and I understand that for the sake of his health and his family he has decided to move on.” 

The relationship between Reeves’ and the commissioners is emerging as one of the main reasons behind his departure. 

“My understanding is that his relationship with the government-appointed commissioners has become extremely strained and with the possibility of them receiving further powers it would have pushed that to breaking point,” said Nigel Murphy, associate director at strategic public relations firm Cratus Communications. 

“Over the last couple of years, Liverpool has set out a clear ambition for the city and has been working to re-establish itself as a place to invest. However, the uncertainty this brings, along with all-out council elections next year, makes the task increasingly difficult.” 

Bill Addy, chief executive of Liverpool BID Company, urged the city and commissioners in post at the city council to work together to maintain Liverpool’s recovery. 

“Recovery is not taken for granted. We are not out of the woods yet. Liverpool has to be seen as a viable for investors, a place they can trust to do business,” he said.
“We would urge the commissioners not to treat the city as a closed door, but to recognise that Liverpool is strongest when it works together. Communication is vital.  

“The culture of Liverpool is one of collaboration, of pooling knowledge and resources. That is a key strength and it is one we have had to hone. The city cannot be left to drift with big decisions to be made by businesses, across all sectors, and investors”. 

Attention now turns to finding a replacement for Reeves. But given the difficult situation the city council finds itself in, that might not be easy, according to City Residential managing director Alan Bevan.

“Although many commentators will now be calling for a big hitter or a top-notch CEO, I suspect the position may well be seen as a poison chalice until we get some clarity on the government’s position/involvement in the operational side of the council,”he said.

Your Comments

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If the plan is to make Liverpool a place to invest then there is much hard work to do, and one of the main barriers is the stance of a substantial number of councillors representing the city who are openly anti- development and anti-business, these are not just restricted to Labour but are evident in the Liberals, the Greens, and even more so amongst the breakaway Labour Independent group. Any city needs jobs and investment but I am not sure if that ever enters the heads of many here on the elected city council.

By Anonymous

The council and its elected members must decide if they want to support growth and development of the city or do more harm than WHS restrictions and lengthy consultations. This city grow up on trade and commercial endeavours not on mealy mouthed politicians who are afraid to venture past the confines of their political dogma.

By Liverpolitis

From anybody outside the city looking in, Liverpool is basically not investable.
It’s one of the worst examples of a labour council gorging at the trough with empty and broken promises to the common folks

By Mcr watcher

The only person to has driven change for the better in this city is Tony Reeve. The councillors are just the same councillors who totally failed to tackle the decline of the city over the past decade. They are way too insular. Anyone who was at RIEFF in Leeds this year would have been only too acutely aware how far behind the rest of the northern core city has once again slipped. I wish Liverpool would just wake up and let the rest of the world in…

By Victoria Sponge

Reading between the lines, it sounds like Tony’s priority for turnaround was the city, whereas the commissioner’s priorities are different and focus on protecting the British state.
If this is true they are foolish to not have trusted his judgment that turning the city round is the way to protect British interests.
The commissioners might be able to control council purse strings, but that’s it.
The budget they control is small fry versus what the city (and in turn the British state) is actually up against.
They should ask themselves, who wanted Tony Reeves out, and why. You can be sure that they will be next.

By Jeff

Come on Liverpool

By Anonymous

Hopefully they’ll throw the tall buildings policy out of the window too

By Anonymous

My Reeves always had a tough job on his hands and we shouldn’t forget he got the ball rolling on the much-needed flush-out. Wishing Liverpool some strong new leadership, and some political diversity wouldn’t go amiss either.

The city has gone backwards in the past ten years – too much hubristic spend on feel-good events and not enough focus on the fundamentals of a strong economy which is now coming back to bite: street art and giants are like having a bevvy to cure a heartbreak.

By Mousketeer

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