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Thursday, 19 November 2015

Joe Anderson - the Mayor's undisclosed earnings

In my last posting I looked at the, then, Council Leader's strenuous attempts to get more cash than he was entitled to receive.  We now move on to Joe Anderson's earnings as Mayor of Liverpool.

It was a puzzle to me about why would the Mayor go to such lengths to try to hold onto a few thousand pounds of earnings from Chesterfield High School (where he worked zero hours but was paid for four hours per week).  Surely, I thought, if he was short of a few bob he could just increase the drawdown from his allowance as Mayor of Liverpool.  He had been awarded £79,500 but, we were told, he was only drawing down £66,000 p.a.  Why couldn't he just tweak up the drawdown and leave the School in peace?  Why did more than £100,000 of public money have to be wasted on a fruitless legal action against that school?

Until very recently I had thought that the only reason for not drawing down the missing few thousand quid would have been to avoid the political embarrassment of changing his mind about how much salary he thought he was entitled to take as Mayor.

I was wrong: despite declaring he was going to "reject" the £79,500 salary and only take £66,000, persistent questioning - here - has now revealed that he has been taking the full whack of £79,500 since being elected as Mayor in 2012.  So it looks like Mayor Anderson's peak earnings would have been approximately  £84,000 p.a. - a discrepancy of about £18,000 p.a. above his disclosed earnings of £66,000.

How did that come about?  Let's pick up the thread in April 2012.

2012: Lack of transparency on past and future Mayoral earnings

I was the Green candidate in 2012 and as we approached the first mayoral elections I called on all candidates to disclose their tax returns - Echo report here.  At the time I thought it would actually help clarify the debate: the controversy over the Leader's increased earnings from 2010 was still current.  If Joe Anderson had published his tax return - I thought - he could prove his claim that he was no better off as Leader than he had been when he worked for Sefton Borough Council.

At the time I had no way of knowing that his tax return (year end 5th April 2011) would have shown a completely different picture.  In my last posting I estimated that he would have received paid leave from Chesterfield High School for 1005 hours in that financial year as well as his allowances of £52,000.   So I can see now why he might not have wanted to publish his tax returns.

 Joe Anderson was again making a virtue of his modest salary aspirations as soon as he was elected as mayor.   In this BBC report he was quoted as follows.
"When I stood for elected mayor I made it clear that I was not seeking a pay rise ... what motivates me is making a difference to people's lives, not financial reward.  It is for that reason that I have decided that the allowance I take will be no more than the salary I received two years ago when a social work manager at a school in Sefton and my allowance as opposition leader."

And the Echo report  had a similar story with the headline "Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson rejects £80,000 salary recommendation for lower wage"

At the City Council meeting where the Mayor's allowance was agreed, we still had no knowledge about his extra pay coming through Chesterfield High School.  That factor only emerged much later when his employment tribunal case entered the public domain.  We have already seen that Council officers had been involved in his arguments with Chesterfield school and Sefton Borough Council.  Officers knew about that money.  So it is a mystery why they did not appear to have recognised the need to let councillors know.  In effect the Council meeting was setting his pay at approximately £84,000 but we did not know that at the time.

Joe's incredible money memory

Looking back at 2012, I reproach myself for allowing him to get away with the above nonsense.  For one thing, we have a politician who is taking a pay rise of £14,000 and getting public credit for not taking a pay rise.. 

More significantly, we all failed to check his sums.  In 2012 he is saying he needs to take £66,000 to match his old earnings as Leader of the Opposition and senior social worker.  But in 2010 he was saying he needed (only) £52,000 to match those same earnings.  Recall the  BBC report from 2010! 

Even more important, though, is the recently discovered failure for him to follow through with his "rejection" of the full allowance of £79,500 in favour of a lower £66,000.  He has been trousering the full amount since 2012.

But what about Joe's charitable giving? 

If you look again at my letter to Joe, posted here, you will see I asked him if there were any mitigating circumstances.  In the absence of a reply I can only make a conjecture.

Perhaps he will argue that he has made donations to charities.  It would be interesting to see if he reports his donations; interesting too if any of the donations are ones which help burnish his image and reputation.

And returning to the dispute with Chesterfield school and his legal case to hold on to his extra earnings, surely it would be hard to justify taking money from a school which is then passed on to any charity of the Mayor's choice?  If the Mayor was short of a few bob, perhaps he could have eased up a bit on his charitable giving and left the School in peace.

Maybe the Mayor will enlighten us about that.

Other questions remain and I will develop those further in future posts.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Unlawful payments received by Joe Anderson

I will start this post by reproducing an email I sent to Joe Anderson, copied to senior Council officers on 20th October.

The Employment Tribunal record shows me that Joe Anderson received unlawful payments in the financial year ending 5th April 2011.  I think this is a serious allegation.  It is also a serious matter if senior Council officers were aware of those payments and condoned them.  That is why I had given the Mayor, and officers, an opportunity to correct any errors rather than have a false allegation go forward and cause reputational damage.

I have sent a series of such emails to the Mayor and to the Chief Executive and City Solicitor.   I know these emails are arriving because I have had one acknowledgement from the CEX and one from the Mayor's office before both of those channels fell silent.  Also I copy each email to my ward councillor's email address so that I know they have all passed through the City Council's mail system.

Here is the text of my email on unlawful payments.

Dear Joe,
Further to my email below and in the absence of any reply disputing the accuracy of the ET report, I am writing now to ask about the receipt by you of remuneration from Sefton MBC in the financial year ending 5th April 2011.  You may be able to correct any facts before I make any public comment.

According to Section 10 of the 1989 Local Government and Housing Act, it would have been "unlawful" for the authority (Sefton MBC) to have paid you for more than 208 hours for the purpose of performing your public duties as a councillor in that financial year.

Yet the Employment Tribunal record, paragraphs 29 to 33, shows that you would have received the following remuneration during that financial year:-

  • by implication, 4 hours per week paid time off for the month of April 2010 while still working at the school;
  • 36 hours per week paid, while no longer working at the school, for the months of May to September (full time); and
  • 8 hours per week paid time off while remaining away from the school for the months of October 2010 to March 2011.
I calculate that you would have received remuneration for approximately (4 + 36*5 + 8*6) * 52/12, i.e 1,005 hours during that financial year.
Have you been given any advice that it would have been unlawful for you to have been paid for some 800 excess hours during the financial year ending 5th April 2011?  Or, on the contrary, were you given advice that Section 10 did not apply to you and if so by whom?

Have you repaid the excess remuneration to Sefton MBC or do you intend to repay that money now?

I am copying this message to the City Solicitor and CEX.  I am also copying it to the former City Solicitor as it may appear that he should have been in a position to advise you about unlawful remuneration from Sefton and he may wish to clarify whether such advice was given or indeed whether he was aware of your continuing income coming through Chesterfield High School.

John Coyne
The relevant law - the 1989 Local Government and Housing Act - is here.  My calculations show that Joe Anderson received paid time off which was unlawful because, by some 800 hours, it would have exceeded the limit of 208 hours which a local government employer is allowed to grant in any one financial year.

Paragraph 30 of the Tribunal report contains the significant letter of 4 August 2010 from Sefton Borough Council to the new Leader of Liverpool City Council, Joe Anderson.   The letter refers to "considerable discussion" that had already taken place and had involved the former Chief Executive of Liverpool City Council.  It thus shows that at least one senior officer was already engaged in the cause of protecting the external pay of the Leader.

The letter makes clear the relatively simple legal position: "the school is bound to give no more than 208 hours of paid time in any one financial year."

However, having explained the law, it appears that Sefton Borough Council proceeded to misunderstand it.  They appear to have overlooked the paid time off already given in the first half of the financial year (April to September 2010) when they applied the 208 hours limit to the second half of the financial year (October 2010 to March 2011).

Attempting to break through the legal limit of paid time off

If the Leader had understood the legal position, he might have realised that he was already receiving over-generous treatment with his paid leave.  Instead of demanding more, he should have been repaying money already given in excess of 208 hours for that financial year.  Instead of that he deployed two arguments to try to break through the principle of the 208-hour cap.  Paragraph 32 of the Tribunal report describes his letter of 8th September 2010.

Firstly, he claimed that other local authority leaders in Merseyside had been granted additional time off (notwithstanding what the law says) so the local precedent should apply to him in all reasonableness, fairness and consistency.  I have to express an opinion here: that seems to be a completely brazen disregard of the law; if other leaders have received unlawful payments the remedy is to ask for them to repay those sums, not to copy them!

Secondly, he claimed that, as Leader, his post was effectively Chairman of the Council.  Section 10(1)(b) of the Act exempts the "chairman of the council" from the 208 hour limit.  Of course, he is completely wrong.  In Liverpool it is the Lord Mayor who is the chair of the council and that post rotates each year. The Lord Mayors (or similar mayors or chairs for other authorities) have a demanding schedule of ceremonial and civic visits during their year of appointment.  The role of leader of the council is completely different.  It can also be a demanding role, but that is recognised by the Special Responsibility Allowance which is paid by the Council to the Leader.

Neither of his arguments prevailed, but paragraph 42 of the Tribunal report   describes his return to the attack with an email to the Chief Executive of Sefton on 11 May 2011.  He was "extremely disappointed" with his situation.  By implication (we don't have the full text) he continued to challenge the 208 hour legal limit.  He also is "shocked" not to be getting pension contributions from his employer based on his full time salary rather than his current eligible remuneration.  And he asks for voluntary redundancy from his job.

I will return to that letter in future posts.  His expectations for pension contributions are very interesting.  And his application for a redundancy pay off casts light on his subsequent self portrayal as a victim of a "sacking".  But the most significant point in that letter is the following sentence.  (My emphasis added.)
"I have now decided to ask LCC to go down the route of putting in a grievance or look at unfair dismissal on my behalf which they are willing to do..."
So here we have the evidence that the Leader is claiming to have "willing" City Council resources available to pursue a legal case for him against his employer.

I think that claim is very serious.  Senior officers should not have been willing to be used in that way.  Instead they should have been advising the Leader to moderate his demands so that they complied with the law.  They should have pointed out that he had already received unlawful payments in excess of the 208 hour limit for the financial year ending 5th April 2011.

To be continued.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Chesterfield school: What did the Mayor do wrong

It's proving very difficult and very slow to get information from Liverpool City Council on the deeds of the Mayor in pursuing his legal case against Chesterfield High School and other related questions.  But I believe I have enough information, so far, to draw some important conclusions.

I believe the Mayor has a case to answer and his political supporters also have a case to answer for applauding him in his misdeeds rather than holding him to account.

The issues are complex and extensive.  They will need more than one blog posting.  Today I will look at the events in the year following his appointment at Leader of the Council in 2010.

Before I do that, here is my suggestion of what the Mayor would need to do now to put right what he has done wrong.

Putting it right - what the Mayor should do

  • pay the legal costs incurred by the City Council in pursuing his case against Chesterfield High School, i.e. £89,549.;
  • pay the legal costs incurred by the School , i.e. £41,692;
  • repay the money he received unlawfully in the financial year 2010/2011 in excess of the limit of 208 hours prescribed by the Local Government and Housing Act 1989;
  • recognise that two employment judges, at Tribunal and then at Appeal found his payments from the School to be an "inequitable" arrangement - money for no value - and repay all the money he received from the School in return for zero work since May 2010;
  • apologise to the City Council for failing to disclose his Chesterfield school earnings when the Council set his allowance in 2010 and again in 2012;
  • apologise for his misconduct in seeking to persuade Sefton Borough Council to make unlawful payments to him;
  • recognise that he has exposed senior officers to suspicion of misconduct in acting to advance his personal interests and wishes, and take steps to ensure there can be no recurrence;
  • provide full and frank disclosure of all documents and information relating to the origin and handling of the legal case against Chesterfield High School; and
  • if those documents confirm that there was never any possibility of a public interest in pursuing the case, he should apologise for the misuse of Council resources. 
I think it is unlikely that the Mayor will redeem himself by doing any or all of the items in that list, but he could.  If he fails to make amends and recognise that he has been a chump, I think it is very possible that the Labour Party will remove him as the mayoral candidate for May 2016.

As a Green Party supporter I have mixed feelings about keeping Joe Anderson as the Labour candidate.  It has been very much in our interests to have him as Mayor as his unpopular decisions and abrasive personal style have driven support away from him and towards us.  However, as a citizen of Liverpool I think it is vital that he is replaced by a more capable and rational candidate, even though that might make it harder for the Green Party to win.  But, now to turn to the interesting events of 2010 ...

2010 - the New Leader, his undisclosed earnings and his attempts to get more cash

This BBC report explains Joe Anderson's intention to take an increased allowance, totalling £52,000 as a full time Leader of the Council.  A key quote was 
"Although my allowance will increase, I will not be any better off financially than I was as Leader of the Opposition because I have given up my previous full time job."
The Employment Tribunal records make clear that the Mayor's statement was untrue.  When the City Council meeting raised his allowance, accepting the argument that his pay should match the total of his earnings as a senior social worker plus his previous allowance as Leader of the Opposition, we were not told that he intended to hold on to his job at Chesterfield High School and to continue to receive a salary from that job.  He had not "given up" that job.

You could argue that this was a private matter, but there are problems with that.
  • The pay that he received from his old job was paid time off to fulfil his duties as a member of the council.  So he would be paid twice for the same thing - money from the public purse to compensate him for being a councillor.  
  • In addition, if the Mayor had thought his Chesterfield employment was a private matter, then why would he be able, later on, to require the Council to involve Council officers in arguments about his remuneration and, of course, to pay his legal costs.
Or you could argue that four thousand pounds on top of his new £52,000 p.a. was not a big deal.  Again, there are problems with that. 
  • Firstly, he was receiving a lot more than four thousand pounds.  The Employment Tribunal record, paragraphs 29 to 33, explains that he continued to receive his full salary for the five months from May to September.  After that he received pay for 8 hours off per week, not 4 hours, until 31 March 2011.  (I think that level of payment was actually unlawful, but I'll return to that in a subsequent blog posting.)
  • Secondly, even if he had been paid just an extra four thousand pounds, that is a lot of money to be paid out for no reason by any school which may also try to raise extra money from time to time by parents' fund raising.
So, if the additional pay from Chesterfield school was not a private matter and if it was not insignificant, could it just have slipped the Mayor's mind when he was in the Council meeting on 21July 2010 which awarded him the increased allowance?

In other words, was this just an accidental non-disclosure of a relevant fact rather than a deliberate concealment?  The Employment Tribunal record helps us.  Again at paragraph 29 we see that on the very same date - 21 July 2010 - the Leader was emailing the School and also Sefton Borough Council asking for his salary to continue at 50%.  So he would have had £52,000 from Liverpool City Council and, I estimate, an additional £14,500 from Sefton if he had had his way.

A future Freedom of Request for the full disclosure of the timing of his email of 21 July 2010 may help determine whether he was asking for the extra cash before the Council meeting, or after it, or perhaps even during the meeting at a quiet moment?

For the record, I have written to Joe Anderson to give him the opportunity to explain this non-disclosure and also to dispute any facts reported in the Tribunal judgement.  (I know the email arrived as it was copied, through the Council's email server to my ward councillor, Cllr Tom Crone.)

In my next blog posting I will look at the question of unlawful payments to the Mayor and his attempt to procure such unlawful payment.