Sunday, May 18, 2008

Committee of Selection

I would have liked to stay in York a bit longer but needed to come back to Liverpool for my first Committee of Selection.

That is the committee that works out the structure of the new council, suggests who the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor should be, agrees any select committee changes, levels of councillors' allowances and other such similar matters.

It was a real eye-opener, I don't mind telling you!

The committee is politically balanced so it was inevitable that the LibDems should win the lion's share of the votes at the meeting (but with Sir Trevor Jones and Steve Radford of the Liberal Party voting with us on a couple of votes we did win at least two of them.)

The committee recommendations then go to full council on Tuesday to be ratified - I hope some of them will NOT be ratified.

The political headlines would be

1. The LibDems have chosen Mike Storey to be the Deputy Lord Mayor (we take it in turns and it is their turn to select a Deputy, who will work with our Labour Lord Mayor, Steve Rotheram this year, and then take over as Lord Mayor next year - barring accident or scandal). To say the room went totally silent when Warren Bradley proposed him would be an understatement. We were truly stunned. You could have heard a pin drop.

Mike was sitting at the table with us, indeed had chaired early items on the agenda, as we waited for the current Lord Mayor to fight his way through the terrible city traffic caused by the Big Dig. Perhaps nobody wanted to say anything to slight him while we were in his company, I dont know, but as the shock hit us, nobody could think of anything to say. The chair asked for "those in favour" and a few voices said "agreed", but only a few. It didnt go to a vote that I recall but nobody verbally dissented and usually you only have a vote if a voice says "opposed". I think we were all too stunned. We could not quite believe that the leader was proposing a man who was shamed into resigning as leader of the council in anticipation of a serious Standards Board enquiry and who has since been reported again.

Warren quipped that he expected the proposal to have been more controversial, expecting a back-lash presumably, but I think he misjudged us. It is controversial, but we were all dumb-struck. The waves have been felt since, according to the newspapers and one or two local websites, and I suspect will go on being felt.

2. The LibDems propose cutting the number of select committees from 8 to 6, bundling up together a whole host of important matters and thereby limiting scrutiny. But it occurs to me that they may also have limited the number of posts they reward the loyal 26 with - the people who voted for Warren in the leadership contest - and not rewarding those who did not support him. They intend to have 8 cabinet members plus a leader and deputy leader. Add 8 assistant cabinet members and 4 committee chairs, plus a deputy Lord mayor and throw in 3 neighbourhood committee chairs and you more or less have a full house.
Of course this is the cynical view, I could be very wrong. I only offer one possible reading of the facts, and will authorise any dissenting views through the comments, providing they are not personally rude or aggressive. One needs to be fair about these particularly controversial items.

3. The LibDems intend to disregard the Independent Panel who recommend the level and range of councillor's allowances, to allow Assistant Cabinet members (Assistant Executive members as they are known in the city) to go on collecting allowances. The Independent Panel has asked that Assistants should not receive special responsibility allowances any more as there is no way of demonstrating that they deserve them (in a nutshell. I think the wording talks about the lack of a job description or any mechanism to demonstrate effectiveness.)
They will only win this vote in full council by asking the 8 lucky Assistants to vote themselves an allowance that the independent panel does not think they merit. It is a disgraceful situation in my view.

I reeled out of the committee, my head spinning with the spectacle of a disgraced party clinging on to power and influence through all manner of sleight of hand.

(It was however very thoughtful of Councillor Ron Gould, who I have a lot of time for, to support me in calling for the answers to questions asked in the formal part of council meetings to be less offensive or childish or provocative and rather more professional. Thanks Ron!)


scouseboy said...

Just keep exposing the Fib Dems at every opportunity,I recon you wil be in control of the council shortly after christmas.

Chris Paul said...

Hi louise - I made the same point independently on my blog about the 26 pieces of silver. Is there an easily accessible list of the special responsibility allowances for all these roles?

And is there a book on any of the 20 non Bradley-ites getting jobs?

Good luck with stopping Storey. It could happen you know, it could happen.

Louise Baldock said...

Interestingly, I noticed in full council that Colin Eldridge, LibDem PPC for Liverpool Wavertree, is now a back bencher, where previously he was a cabinet member.

He represents Church ward with Richard and Erica Kemp, so I am forced to conclude that he was one of the 13 who voted for Richard.

I had imagined him as a Bradleyite, that shows how little I understand about the machinations of the LibDem Group here in Liverpool.

Erica herself, who was promoted to cover Paul Clein's post after he resigned, is now also on the back benches - although I have not checked the back catalogue of chairs and deputy chairs etc so am prepared to stand corrected on this.

So, it does very much look as though Councillor Bradley has pulled up the drawbridge.

But for all that, they were remarkably united at full council, really remarkably united.

So perhaps they have had the hard word from the manager at half-time and have come out fighting in the second half?

I wonder how long they can keep it up, a big job for Paul Twigger as the new Chief Whip, one I dont envy.