Sunday, 13 May 2007


Is a new leader in waiting here?

Mar 18 2005

City Editor Larry Neild looks at the top 10 names to take Liverpool up to Capital of Culture year

Daily Post

The top 10 names to take Liverpool up to Capital of Culture year, from top left, Brenda Smith, Colin Hilton, Phil Halsall, Thomas O'Brien, Sir Howard Bernstein, from bottom left, Steve Broomhead, Jim Gill, Carole Hudson, John Flamson, Frances Done

INTERNATIONAL headhunters were paid £75,000 to search for a new captain to steer Liverpool out of troubled waters in 1999.

However, their search stopped at nearby Knowsley Council whose then chief executive left to take up the top job in Merseyside's largest local authority.

Now the hunt is back on to find a new steward for the city, someone who will lead it into Capital of Culture Year in 2008.

The outgoing Sir David Henshaw has been credited as one of the key architects in the transformation of Liverpool.

However, his intention to leave his Dale Street office sooner rather than later opens up the prospect of a key job in local government being up for offers. And, with a salary worth at least £180,000, it offers the successful applicant the chance to shine as Liverpool focuses on becoming one of Euope's major city destinations.

Undoubtedly, this will lead to a number of high-quality candidates jockeying for the number one position in the forthcoming months.

Top 10 names in the frame are:

* John Flamson, head of Merseyside Objective 1 Programme. His current task is ensuring the £2bn European-backed programme is wisely managed. He is seen as a tough talking civil servant with the gentle touch.

* Carole Hudson, chief executive of St Helens council. The glass town has seen its profile raised dramatically thanks to Ms Hudson who has put it firmly on the regeneration map.

* Jim Gill, chief executive of Liverpool Vision. Seen as a nononsense talker who heads the public-private company charged with regenerating the city centre. Some say releasing Gill from the 'shackles' of a second tier body overseen by the council executive will show an unseen executive capable of high delivery.

* Frances Done, former Rochdale council chief executive who headed the Manchester Commonwealth Games company. Now a high flyer with the Audit Commission.

* Steve Broomhead, one time Warrington council chief and now chief executive of the North West Development Agency. His job is to delicately balance the interests of a massive area stretching from Cheshire to the Lake District while making sure rivals big city Liverpool and Manchester get their fair shares.

* Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of Manchester city council. Veteran local government go-getter who has over-seen the transformation of Manchester.

* Tom O'Brien, chief executive of The Mersey Partnership. A local boy, "done good", who reached the dizzy heights of the World Bank in Washington before being 'loaned' to Merseyside.

* Phil Halsall, Liverpool's executive director for resources. Former chief executive of South Ribble who is credited with transforming Liverpool's financial situation.

* Colin Hilton, executive director for Lifelong Learning at Liverpool. Like Halsall, was one of the five super-directors hired under the Henshaw regime. Education in Liverpool has been transformed.

* Brenda Smith, former MD of Granada and now managing director of another media empire. Former Merchant Taylors girl Ms Smith is also on the board of the NWDA, and, in 2003, was named North West Businesswoman of the Year.

Whatever the choice, though, the man, or woman, picked as chief executive will be at the helm during the 800th birthday celebrations in 2007 and, perhaps more importantly, in 2008.

Hunt is on for outstanding ambassador

LIVERPOOL needs a chief executive who can act as an ambassador to the city during a crucial period in its history.

The Merseyside area has been undergoing something of a renaissance in recent years and this will no doubt intensify as Capital of Culture Year, in 2008, comes closer. So one of the main criteria when considering who to choose for the post will be a person's ability to shine as Liverpool looms larger on the European stage.

The chief executive will receive a salary of £180,000.

Another role will be meeting VIP visitors as well as Royalty, and to be involved in complex talks about key projects.

The person must also be a mover and shaker, as well as the most senior paid ambassador for the city around the country and abroad.

The chief executive is also the chief advisor to the council cabinet, or executive board.

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Council leader Warren Bradley said that some individual councillors’ behaviour was “appalling” and not fitting of a democratic society.




Roger: This is not a good report for us is it Warren?
Fireman:Well Roger we’ve got to put it into perspective really haven’t we and remember where Liverpool was and that’s not thinking back 10 years. Liverpool has come an awful long way. The people of Liverpool were asking for lower Council Tax and the Liberal Democrats have delivered that and they also wanted better services and you look at the services that are now delivered by Liverpool City Council. If we look at the most vulnerable either elderly or the Children’s Services the social care we are now delivering at a level that Liverpool has never delivered before. We also look at the bread and butter your schools, your sports centres, your libraries, One Stop Shops in communities, our parks, we’ve got 13 green flag parks. It’s like a new home to me when you get an old dilapidated derelict building you’ve got to bring it up to a standard and I think Liverpool City Council under the Liberal Democrats have certainly done that and I am certain if we did a survey of people in the City do you want Liverpool City Council to sit on £20m worth of reserves or do you want the City Council delivering front line services that affect the most vulnerable and people’s lives in the City. I think that they would vote with their feet and say that we support the policies of Liverpool City Council. We’ve got to look at the financial regulations put in by Government and if you want my opinion about this Roger it is purely political.
Roger: Well come on, you know the Audit Commission is not a political body
Fireman: Well with respect Roger and I would beg to differ on that
Roger: Well how can it be a political, it’s an independent organisation?
Fireman: We can say everything is independent to a certain extent but you know you look at what we’ve got at the moment in Liverpool and we’re delivering top quality services.
Roger: But the problem with this is that you’ve got an overall score rating of 2 which was adequate performance into 05, overall score in 06 was 2 which is adequate performance.
This year it is down to 1 below minimum requirements inadequate performance.
Fireman: Based around financial regulations…
Roger: Yes I’m talking about the financial…..
Fireman: Laid down by government. I mean that’s what you’ve got to remember. Don’t try and muddy the waters and say oh this is about Liverpool City Council and their overall performance. It’s not. You look at the issue that we’ve done about achievements. Liverpool scoring 3-4 on achievement at the moment through the Audit Commission.
Roger: I didn’t know that.
(EDs: Pitiful, just pitiful.)
Fireman: And we do seem to always go to the negatives when we’re looking for something like this.
Roger: The District Auditor was pretty negative about you wasn’t he and…
Fireman: No, I have got to say Roger I would love to have £50m in reserves. I would also love not to have to put additions of £7m into adult social care and £2-3m into children’s social care. The facts are we have got to do that because of the pressures that are on Liverpool at the moment.
Roger: So are other Councils….
Fireman: I’m not willing as Leader of this Council to take away care to the most vulnerable to allow it to sit in reserve. I am not willing to do that and I will go to the stake on that the people of the City. Liverpool now is only one of a handful of Councils up and down the country that is providing moderate care to the most vulnerable people in the City. Now to give people an idea of what moderate care is that is home care. These people who’ve got no family to support them and require a visit in the morning or a visit in the evening to make sure they’re ok to help them to take the pills, to make sure that they’ve got the food. Most Councils up and down this country have removed that care. Liverpool City Council is still allowing our most vulnerable people our sort of care. Now is that wrong, is that wrong?
Roger: Now no one would argue that’s wrong but everyone. But many people are affected by housing. Housing is really poor isn’t it. I mean you are so poor you’ve had to hand it over to a different group to run it.
Fireman: Well with respect Roger, with respect, you’ve got to know what the Housing Corporation have done and in partnership with the Government again it’s easy to say it’s the Council, in partnership with the Government we’ve tackled head on through the Pathfinder areas of the inner core of the City some of the housing inefficiencies of the City. That hasn’t happened over the last five years that’s happened over 30 or 40 years. The problems in Norris Green in housing were prevalent 30 or 40 years ago and weren’t tackled. As an Authority we’ve challenged what wasn’t tackled and we’ve challenged it head on and I opened a couple of weeks ago with Flo Clucas and Marilyn Fielding with Cobalt Housing the first phase of Norris Green. We’ve transformed that area and its got houses for sale and social housing in Norris Green that people are seeking to live in now. We’ve got in a core Edge Hill, Kensington, Kirkdale the same issues that have been there for 30 or 40 years that we’re tackling now hand in hand with the Government. I’m not taking the credit for it and the Government isn’t. We’ve got a schools’ programme that is second to none. Liverpool’s young people are now achieving at the national average. I want it higher than national average to give new opportunity but again I’ll say I’m not going to suit accountants’ financial regulations in London and leave £millions sitting in reserve while we have still got the challenges Liverpool has got and I think people you know.
Roger: Do you think it was a mistake to keep Council Tax down or freeze it over the past few years?
Fireman: Well isn’t it ironic Roger how last week John Healey said how Liverpool is charging £101 a head...
Roger: Because its inefficiencies….
Fireman: Well we have taken £150m worth of inefficiencies out of our budget over the last 10 years. We’ve kept Council tax down which is exactly what Government policy is and is exactly what John Healey is saying. Councillor Joe Anderson is saying something completely different to the people of Liverpool that he will put taxes up to build reserves to put in reserve well again this administration this Lib Dem administration is not going to tax for the sake of taxing to leave money sitting in reserve. We will build up the reserves over a period of years and then we will be able to tackle some of the other issues that we’ve got to do. We recognise the health inequalities. To improve health inequalities we’ve got to have a real stable economy offering real opportunity and raising the aspirations in them poorer communities. You cannot do that leaving millions and millions of pounds laying in reserves and this administration will continue the robust financial management that we’ve done. We’ll carry on delivering…
Roger: If it was that robust we wouldn’t have this problem of £20m overdrawn on Capital of Culture.
Fireman: Roger, lets put things into hindsight. We are still delivering front line services. We are still…
Roger: It’s about £20m overall that we’re short this year – now that’s not robust management
Fireman: But Roger we are going through a budget setting process. Every Local Authority up and down the country is in the same process as us. I remember reading about Wirral being £50m short. Other Local Authorities. I meet the core city leaders who are £40-£50m short exactly the same as Liverpool . And let’s not forget I haven’t come on here to knock the Government I’ve come on here to say that I believe we’ve got a robust financial programme in place that is going to deal with the shortfall. We’ve delivered year on year but I’ll say again I am not going to allow millions and millions of pounds to lay in reserve. Cut front line services to the most vulnerable and then say that’s acceptable. Nor as Leader of this Council am I going to allow Council Tax to go through the roof again which will drive the inability to bring further investment into this City. While the Lib Dems have been in control we’ve brought Council Tax down, we’ve brought renewed confidence and we’ve brought real investment that will bring opportunities to the most vulnerable and I think that is the most important and I think the people of this City will stand full square with us on that. I’m proud of what we’ve delivered in this City over the last 10 years and Capital of Culture is part of that."