Wednesday, 21 November 2007



Since the publication of the report 15th November 2007, public opinion has been showing a belief, that the whole report is a whitewash.

The blame has been laid well and truly at the doors of Mr Forde and Mr Green.

The report however has numerous contradictions and blatant omissions of the truth.

See below for copy of official report.

You can have your say by writing to the council, writing to the papers, writing to your councilors, signing the 2 petitions on line debating the truth behind this disgraceful affair in Liverpool's history.

If we allow them to lie to us, they will continue to lie and treat the Liverpool people with utter contempt.

On line petitions

Lee Forde is being made the scapegoat of the festival scandal petition

Is the Mathew Street report a whitewash?

Mathew Street festival

The report into the Mathew Street ‘fiasco’ still left many unhappy. Alan Weston reports

THE 11th-hour cancellation of the outdoor element of the Mathew Street festival was generally reckoned to be one of the biggest PR disasters in Liverpool’s history.

But the way the much-delayed report into the fiasco was handled has come a close second for some.

Following a lengthy investigation, the original report was changed after concerns over alleged “inaccuracies” were raised by council leader Warren Bradley.

This in turn led to accusations from council opposition leader Joe Anderson that the report – event-ually made public at the end of last week – was a “political cover-up,” and to demands to release the controversial first draft.

In the event, blame for the embar-rassing collapse of the festival, one of the key events in the city’s 800th birthday year, was laid principally at the door of two senior officials at the Culture Company. Both have since left their jobs, meaning there will be no disciplinary inquiry.

Cllr Warren Bradley, council chief executive Colin Hilton and Culture Company chief executive Jason Harborow largely escaped censure in the 30-plus page report. But the report into the cancellation of the outdoor stages of the festival high-lighted “serious mismanagement” in the Culture Company.

It blames former operations director Chris Green and events manager Lee Forde for not realising or not communicating the serious-ness of the problems affecting the festival to their superiors. Mr Forde has already defended his actions.

Cllr Bradley has never considered resigning but said lessons needed to be learned.

The Daily Post asks: Was the Mathew Street festival report a whitewash?

* OUR planned debate on airport-style security at our stations has been held over.

YES: The Case For - Inside job leaves everyone waiting for answers

by Liam Fogarty, chair of

SCRAPPING the outdoor festival hurt Liverpool badly. This report adds insult to injury – it’s an insult to our intelligence.

On August 10, Cllr Bradley ordered an inquiry into the Mathew Street fiasco. Asked who he thought was to blame, he said, "It’s down to officers who are paid through the public purse to deliver events."

Having pre-empted the verdict, Cllr Bradley got the outcome he must have prayed for. But the rest of us are right to be sceptical. The report lacks credibility.

We deserved a truly independent inquiry. Instead, we got an inside job.

This council is happy to pay huge sums to outsiders for spin and good PR. Yet, faced with a PR disaster of its own making, it opted for an internal investigation. No wonder Liverpudlians aren’t convinced.

Whatever mistakes Messrs Forde and Green may have made, to see more senior figures escape criticism simply beggars belief.

In Parliament, ministers are responsible for the mistakes their civil servants make. The consequences can be career-ending. It may not be fair, but it goes with the territory.

But in Liverpool, responsibility is something you dodge, not something you take. The report confirms that nobody was in charge as Mathew Street unravelled. Remember, this is not some school fete we’re talking about.

It is a huge, international showcase for Liverpool. If the threat to such an event didn’t show up prominently on our civic leaders’ radar, it ought to have done.

Mathew Street exposed Liverpool’s crippling lack of leadership. The festival needed someone to take the reins and take the rap.

Cllr Bradley’s lack of support for Culture Company chief Jason Harborow is telling. The bookies will give you long odds on Mr Harborow seeing out his contract.

Predictable calls for us all to "move on" ahead of 2008 just don’t wash. Our key arts institutions won’t let us down. Great events will take place. But the city’s decision-makers can’t simply shrug off the Mathew Street debacle.

"Lessons must be learnt," say the report’s sponsors. Too right. Liverpool’s seat-of-the-pants style of management is no way to run a great city. Internal enquiries can never restore public trust in the Council. And without real, accountable leadership, Liverpool will always be just a headline away from the next fiasco.

A meaningful apology from those who claim to lead our city is the least we deserve.

NO: The Case against - Liverpool can shake the world by working together

by Cllr Mike Storey, executive member for regeneration at Liverpool City Council

THE Mathew Street Festival should never have been allowed to get to the position it did, because of health and safety concerns, which brought about the cancellation of the outdoor stages.

I have to say I find it slightly galling to see Labour councillors huffing and puffing; remember in the ’90s, when the Labour council refused to give any money to the Mathew Street Festival and wanted to charge the organisers for the licences.

It was left to the new Liberal Democrat council to save the Festival and year on year, we have seen the Festival grow and expand to become the internationally acclaimed event it is today.

It is this poor behaviour that must stick in the throat of those who have organised the event, with the very same politicians never thanking the officers publicly for their incredible work.

Political point scoring to them is more important than real concern and support.

The Mathew Street report into the reasons for the cancellation is not in my mind a whitewash, but it is extremely vague in certain areas, crucially around important factual information. It is very easy to blame others, and I find it sad that those very same officers who have worked tirelessly, morning noon and night, have become the focus of everybody’s attention, instead of the process and procedures which allowed the situation to arise.

I feel certain subjects within the report received too much coverage at the expense of quite fundamental information:

Why did the report not question the overall senior management of the Capital of Culture Company?

What is the point of having a highly-paid management team to have overall responsibility for staff and events, if there is a lack of internal control, which was clearly identified within the re- port?

Why was the budget for 2007 realigned and events cancelled with no information being dis- seminated about these decisions, either to the elected members, Board members or the chief executive of the City Council?

Whitewash no, lessons learned, yes.

The time has come to move on, there is a new team in the Culture Company who have a record of delivering change. Liverpool has an opportunity to shake the world; the team working in unison will ensure that happens.


send your views to the Daily Post?

Forde comes out fighting
“I've been made a scapegoat,” says the city's former events manager as the Mathew Street Festival report is finally released. Read it in full, here....

by Angie Sammons

One of the two people to be blamed for the cancellation of the Mathew Street Festival today came out fighting by turning up outside Liverpool Town Hall - supported by the city council's former spin doctor - as journalists packed the building to hear the findings of the long awaited report into the shambles.

Lee Forde, the Liverpool Culture Company's former events manager, who spoke exclusively to Liverpool Confidential at the end of August to reveal why had quit his post (click here) was flanked by Matt Finnegan who today announced that he is acting as Mr Forde's unpaid press representative.

Lee Forde outside the Town Hall

The Mathew Street report, which has been beset by delays in publishing for various legal reasons, cites Mr Forde and his former line manager, Operations Director Chris Green (who has also since left the Culture Company) for either not realising or not communicating the seriousness of the problems affecting the MSF to their superiors, and says that both would have been subjected to disciplinary action had they still been in post.

However, Mr Forde claims to be in possession of a thick dossier of emails, many of which, he says, indicate that senior council members and officials were made aware of potential operational concerns as far back as February.

And as the city council officials and its leader, Warren Bradley, fielded questions from the local media inside the Town Hall, Mr Forde told us outside: “I haven't had the advantage of reading the report in any form, and I haven't had the opportunity to edit, or alter it in any way during the last three months, but it now seems clear that the city council is trying to use me as a scapegoat.”

Mr Forde went on: “I did the best within my power and within the reporting structure to make people aware - at the highest possible level - of the issues we were continually raising. To pretend otherwise is a travesty of the truth.

“There was a serious battle over funding for the birthday year celebrations between the Culture Company and senior councillors - sadly Mathew Street Festival lost out. I did not want people to become the physical casualties of that battle.”

“Both my staff and I repeatedly warned there were serious problems of public safety and funding over Mathew Street, but nothing was effectively done even after I resigned. I have no intention of hiding away – I have done nothing wrong and nor have my team. I ran Mathew Street successfully for five years and my team won awards for their work.

“We were proud to work for the city. But I am ashamed now of what the city council has done. They know exactly who was responsible for the cancellation of the Mathew Street festival.”

Mr Finnegan, the city's former media chief who resigned from his £65,000-a year-post after an 18-month suspension during the well documented David Henshaw-Mike Storey feud, said: “I worked with Lee for six years, he always struck me as one of the most professional of the council's employees and had the utmost integrity.

“I do not like seeing people hung out to dry and made a scapegoat for something that was not their fault and not their responsibility.

“ I believe him when he says that he repeatedly told people what the problems were with Mathew Street and the danger to public safety. The responsibility for cancelling the event doesn't lie with him but with much more senior people in the Culture Company and the city council. Of course they won't come out and defend their reputation, but Lee has to do it and I am here to help him."

Warren Bradley: "A fully open and transparent investigation"

Mr Finnegan added: “There are very serious issues at stake here. This is not the last you are going to hear of this. I think there will be more stuff that will emerge over time because it's about the way that the city is being run and it's about the future of Capital of Culture.”

In a statement, Councillor Warren Bradley said: “I promised a fully open and transparent investigation into the cancellation of the outdoor stages and I am pleased that the report has now been published for everyone to read.”

Read the report in full, here....

IF LINK TO REPORT DOES NOT OPEN FROM HERE GO TO liverpool confidential for full details.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Mathew Street Festival Coverup Revealed


HomeNewsLiverpool News

REVEALED: How Mathew Street fiasco began a year ago

Mathew Street festival

A long-awaited report into the Mathew Street fiasco today lifted the lid on what went wrong in the months leading up to the event’s shock cancellation on safety grounds just weeks before it was due to take place.

As the Daily Post revealed today, event manager Lee Forde and Culture Company operations director Chris Green are blamed.

Both would have faced disciplinary action if they had not already resigned.

But the chain of events appears to have started in February when council leader Warren Bradley and regeneration boss councillor Mike Storey took money from the festival’s budget to help pay for a son et lumiere show and enhanced 800th birthday celebrations

Opposition councillors today branded the report a “political cover-up” saying officers no longer employed by the council were being used as scapegoats.

The report says:

  • £400,000 was allocated for this year’s festival, £200,000 less than the cost of the 2006 event, after council leaders diverted funds.
  • Mr Forde blamed staffing and budget issues for not making progress with the festival plan but a definite budget was not agreed with Mr Green at an early stage.
  • Early warning signs that Mr Forde’s work was not up to scratch were not identified or acted on by Mr Green.
  • Mr Green did not act quickly enough to replace Mr Forde when he handed in his notice on June 4 even though he was due to quit the Culture Company days before the Mathew Street Festival.
  • Council chief executive Colin Hilton and Culture Company chief executive Jason Harborow were not told of the police’s concerns and the work needed to hold the event until July 11.
  • Mr Hilton says he told Cllr Bradley of police concerns before he went on holiday on July 21 although the council leader disputes this.

The report reveals it was “widely known” in November 2006 that the Pier Head - previously the main stage site - was no longer available.

But the problems with this year’s festival appear to have stemmed from an un-minuted meeting on February 21 – attended by Warren Bradley, Mike Storey, council chief executive Colin Hilton and Chris Green.

Evidence suggests “Chris Green proposed either cancelling the Mathew Street Festival altogether or holding it as a one-day event (with five stages) in order to produce some of the savings required to fund the son et lumiere and birthday celebrations”.

Mr Green’s recollection is that the suggestion was rejected by Cllr Bradley who said it “had to be held over three days”.

Cllr Bradley’s recollection is that he and Cllr Storey agreed a two-day festival could be held.

The report says: “With previous year’s costs at £600,000 Lee Forde put in a budget proposal of £600,000 for Mathew Street festival but received an initial allocation of £500,000.

“The councillors’ subsequent requirement that it was run as a two to three day event and then Cllr Storey’s insistence in March that an unfunded event be funded by savings being made from the festival and 800th birthday fireworks display budgets rather reduced the ability to deliver the festival to the scale required by councillors.”

It adds: “Cllr Storey insisted upon the funding of the son et lumiere event in the knowledge that such funding would result in a reduction of the funds available for the 800th birthday fireworks display and the Mathew Street festival.”

“Chris Green updated Cllr Bradley and Cllr Storey separately in May with a relatively detailed outline of the proposal.

“No evidence of any further communication to members of issues and concerns with the festival was found.”

But the budget changes were not properly discussed between Mr Forde and Mr Green.

The report says: “Without this revised budget Mr Forde claims that he could not proceed with planning the event by way of completion of the event document.

“Given the seniority of Lee Forde it is reasonable to expect that he would bring this issue to Chris Green as an example of one of the budget issues Chris Green had asked to be told about.

“At the same time Chris Green should have ensured that Lee Forde had clear information as to what his budget was and to what extent, if any, it could be exceeded.”

The report then alleges Mr Forde had “clear instructions” from the police and councillors by mid- April of what was expected but “failed to progress the plans”.

It says: “It is around May that one would expect the pace of the planning to increase, but instead it seems to have slowed down.

“Lee Forde used the budget issues as a reason for not progressing the plans, but he failed to communicate this to Chris Green, who could reasonably expect Lee Forde to have been finalising the plans.

“At the same time, given Cllr Bradley and Cllr Storey’s requirements, which Chris Green was fully aware of, one would expect Chris Green to be taking a more active role in planning for the event.

“He failed to do this and Lee Forde was left largely to his own devices.”

The report speaks of “early warning signs” that Mr Forde was “not fully focused and committed to delivering a successful Mathew Street festival”.

It says: “Chris Green failed to act on those signs even after Lee Forde resigned on June 4. “Chris Green took too long in starting the recruitment process for a replacement and should have been more decisive with Lee Forde immediately following his resignation.”

The report reveals that as early as May 2007 police were concerned enough to be considering commissioning an “independent inspection”.

But Chris Green suggested they did not proceed because the Culture Company “already used an independent safety adviser for Mathew Street”.

The cancellation could even have been avoided if action had been taken in early June, the report claims, and work requested by the police on June 5 had been done.

It says: “It was a month later when Chris Green started to appreciate the amount of work to be done. His failure to get a replacement event manager appointed, adequately resourced and briefed in time was a significant factor that led to the eventual cancellation.”

Lack of communication between Mr Forde and Mr Green is criticised by the report.

It says: “It was not until July 4 that Chris Green was fully aware of the significant amount of work to be done and the level of concern the other agencies, predominantly the police, had about the festival. He should have been aware of those problems far earlier and alerted Jason Harborow, but he failed to do so.”

Mr Hilton and Mr Harborow found out about police concerns on July 11 and took “appropriate action based partially on information given to them by Chris Green at the time”.

In late July, consultants Capita Symonds were commissioned to look at safety plans for the event amid police and Culture Company concerns.

They recommended delaying the event by six months, effectively forcing its cancellation.

The report says: “Allegedly, Colin Hilton alerted Cllr Bradley about the police concerns and that officers were taking action to deal with them before Cllr Bradley went on holiday on July 21.

“At this stage, Colin Hilton understood the concerns were not of a degree that could not be dealt with or that subsequently might force a cancellation. Cllr Bradley’s recollection of this differs.”

The report ends by saying Mr Green and Mr Ford would both face disciplinary investigations if they had not both resigned from the council already.

It also recommends the Culture Company’s communications process is reviewed “as a matter of urgency”.




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."