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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.


  1. Excellent writing and research into the dark arts of Mayor Anderson, I greatly look forward to reading your next blog exposing more skulduggery from Mayor Anderson. Mayor Anderson's Tyranny is a threat to our Freedom of Information.
    Well Done John..... Audrey O'Keefe.

  2. Pity the Echo wasn't as thorough so all voters are made aware of what's going on.