An inspection of Liverpool City Council (LCC) has revealed significant failings in the council’s housing strategy which have led to taxpayers’ money being wasted.
The Best Value report into LCC, led by independent inspector Max Caller, was commissioned by the government after the Labour-controlled council was thrown into turmoil following the arrest of the city’s mayor Joe Anderson.
The housing secretary Robert Jenrick MP said the report “paints a deeply concerning picture of mismanagement”, as well as “the breakdown of scrutiny and accountability, a dysfunctional culture putting the spending of public funds at risk and undermining the city’s economic development”.
The report revealed flaws in the council’s housing company Liverpool Foundation Homes (LFH), which launched in 2018 with a remit of building 10,000 new homes by 2028.
LFH is now being wound down as it is no longer being funded to achieve the goals identified when it was set up, it is understood.
“Had LFH continued in its current form, the accumulation of LCC funded debt based on highly marginal schemes, not forecast to come good for many years, would have presented major problems,” the report read.
“Some of the propositions put forward to the LFH board included schemes that LCC had been involved in through the sale and development process and which would not recover their costs if disposed of on the open market.”
The report found a lack of due and proper process in LCC across areas such as planning, regeneration and property management, as well as an atmosphere in which officers were silenced with “implied threats”.
Inspectors reserved some criticism for the council’s small sites scheme, which launched in 2014 looking for “new and innovative approaches to housing delivery”.
They found that the scheme “achieved no capital receipt for LCC yet has resulted in material sums being outlaid by the authority to deliver housing on some challenging sites”.
The scheme left numerous sites undeveloped, with the only difference being that the council no longer owns or directly controls them.
The report also found numerous instances in which section 106 agreements, through which councils agree affordable housing in new developments, were not completed prior to work starting on site.
Since the publication of the report the government has asked commissioners to take temporary control of parts of the council.
Acting mayor of Liverpool Cllr Wendy Simon and the council’s chief executive Tony Reeves, said: “This is a difficult day for our organisation and we take the report findings extremely seriously.
“The inspector’s report has highlighted several failings, but there is a collective commitment from both councillors and officers to learn from these mistakes. A detailed improvement plan is being drawn up and will be implemented in full.”
Image: The Royal Liver Building and Cunard Building, Liverpool. Credit: Pixabay