The city council has terminated the contract of its head of regeneration Nick Kavanagh, who has twice been arrested and released without charge in connection with a police corruption probe and has now pledged to clear his name.
Kavanagh’s dismissal follows a week-long hearing organised by Liverpool City Council’s Appointments and Disciplinary Committee, to discuss whether to continue his employment. Kavanagh was suspended from his role after being arrested in December 2019 on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and misconduct in public office and has remained on paid leave since.
Last September, Kavanagh was arrested again by Merseyside Police on suspicion of bribery and corruption. On both occasions, he was subsequently released without charge and no charges have been brought against him in the months since, although the investigation continues.
Kavanagh was quoted as telling local media today: “The decision of the [disciplinary] panel is not a surprise. From the beginning, it has been clear to me that no matter what factual evidence I provided it would make no difference.
“I have stayed silent since my suspension in December 2019 because as a public servant it is not my place to comment on matters without the authorisation of my employer. I have kept a dignified silence throughout this process.
“I am no longer an employee of the council and intend to clear my name at an appeal or tribunal.”
A council spokesperson told Place North West: “Nick Kavanagh is no longer employed by Liverpool City Council.”
The police probe, named ‘Operation Aloft’, focuses on alleged corruption in the award of building and development contracts across Liverpool. A total of 11 people have been questioned in the 18 months or more that it has been ongoing, including high-profile public figures such as Kavanagh and the former mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson. Anderson has denied the allegations and claimed he is innocent.
Liverpool City Council is now bracing itself for a possible takeover by Whitehall officials, expected to be announced this week, due to concerns about its management and governance given the scale and implications of Operation Aloft.
The Government had commissioned strategic advisor and former electoral commissioner Max Caller at the end of last year to produce a report into the council’s procurement practices.
That report has been completed and given to city council chief executive Tony Reeves and acting Mayor of Liverpool Wendy Simon for review, with secretary of state Robert Jenrick expected to announce tomorrow the outcome of the report and any action that central Government wishes to take.
It is rare for Whitehall to send in officials to take over the running of a local authority – though not unheard of. In 2014, then-communities secretary Eric Pickles ordered a team to go in and manage the finances and management of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets for a two-year period. Liverpool City Council is a far larger authority with jurisdiction over an entire city.