Government officers sent to oversee the city council’s regeneration, property and highways departments have requested an external law firm be appointed to assist them.
The commissioners, who arrived in Liverpool in June, have “identified a requirement for additional legal due diligence for some projects and schemes that will be presented to them for decision and agreement”, according to a report to the Liverpool City Council’s cabinet.
The cabinet is being asked to approve expenditure of £150,000 to appoint a law firm to add an additional level of scrutiny to the departments’ processes.
The advice provided by the law firm “will assist the commissioners, give assurance to the Secretary of State, and ensure the best interests of the council are met”, the report said.
The appointed legal firm is to provide advice on future property, regeneration and highways deals but also look at various historic transactions.
Housing Minister Robert Jenrick appointed a team of commissioners in the wake of Max Caller’s damning best value report.
Published in March, the report by government adviser Caller found evidence of mismanagement and a “dysfunctional culture” within Liverpool City Council, following a probe of its property, regeneration and highways departments.
The commissioners were appointed earlier this year and have now been in post for a little over two months.
The four commissioners appointed to Liverpool City Council 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.
Cunningham is paid £800 a day in his role as lead commissioner and Killian, Gibson and McLaughlin are paid £700 a day.
Over a four-year period, the cost to the council of the government intervention as a result of the Caller’s Best Value Inspection will be £2m.