The Tory government has sent a team of bureaucrats to impose its will on the Labour-controlled Liverpool City Council.
Tory minister Robert Jenrick used allegations of corruption involving former Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson to stage the partial takeover on Wednesday last week.
Jenrick stopped short of the complete takeover that had been threatened in the Tory-supporting Telegraph newspaper ahead of the announcement. But his team of commissioners—in place for at least three years—are on a mission to reinforce a regime of privatisation and marketisation.
An investigation into allegations of corruption at Liverpool council, commissioned by Jenrick, criticised the way the council granted some contracts.
It said that Anderson insisted on awarding contracts to Liverpool-based firms. It highlights a decision to award a health and safety contract to a firm owned by Anderson’s son, David.
David Anderson has called the report “factually incorrect” and “slanderous”.
The report has been held up as a damning indictment in the running of the Liverpool council.
But it really shows the grubby reality of opening up council services to commercial interests and the market. Under laws imposed by Tory and Labour governments, councils are required to give private companies the chance to bid for council contracts.
This outsourcing means that services are stripped from public control and put into the hands of unaccountable and unelected companies, under the guise of “partnership” with the council.
This culture of competition, marketisation and “partnership” is a recipe for corruption and dodgy dealing.
Yet the report touts reopening council services to competition as a solution. It complains that Anderson’s insistence on choosing Liverpool-based companies was “at worst, an attempt to stifle healthy competition in tender processes”.
It already has Liverpool’s street cleaning services in its sights. These were run by private contractor Amey until 2018 when the council set up its own company to buy the service back.
The government’s inspection report complains that since then the service has made a loss and is not operating “as a company”.
It recommends that all services run by council-owned companies are reviewed and opened back up to the market.