Liverpool City Council faces significant challenge, Michael Gove warns

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Liverpool City Council was criticised for its failures in a report earlier this year

A backlog of planning applications is constraining development in Liverpool, the housing secretary has warned.

Michael Gove said the council faced a "significant challenge ahead" to provide the services that residents in the city deserve.

It comes after government-appointed commissioners published their first report into the council's progress.

In the document, it outlined how the council was at the "beginning of a long improvement journey".

The local authority has been under scrutiny since the arrest of 11 men - including the former Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson - and one woman.

It follows an investigation by Merseyside Police into allegations of fraud, bribery, corruption and misconduct in public office linked to building and development contracts in the city.

Mr Anderson, who denies any wrongdoing and has not been charged, subsequently stepped down from his role as the city's mayor.

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Following the allegations, the government announced an investigation into the council's planning, highways, regeneration and property management departments.

Inspectors found "multiple apparent failures" within the council which led to the government appointing four commissioners to oversee a three-year improvement plan.

In their first report, the commissioners highlighted how the council had a "great deal to do in the next three years".

Recent whistle-blowing in the Highways Department suggested that "pockets of inappropriate behaviours" still existed, it said.

But commissioners praised "the hard work and ambition from the dedicated and talented staff across the council to begin to make the necessary improvements".

Mr Gove says his department is ready to support commissioners to secure the "transformation" of the council

Mr Gove, the Secretary for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said he was pleased to "hear about the steps the council have taken to expose and stop wrong-doing".

"It is vital for Liverpool's transformation that a clear line is drawn between the council of the past and the council of the future," he added.

He added that the commissioners had shared their concerns about the "council's financial resilience" and welcomed a review by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, which was expected to be completed before Christmas.

In a joint statement, the city's mayor Joanne Anderson, who is no relation to Mr Anderson, and chief executive Tony Reeves said an "immense amount of work" was under way to bring in changes.

They added that "the culture of bullying and intimidation" that had existed in parts of the organisation was also being tackled.

"We care immensely for our city and its people and we are determined to provide the best opportunities for all," they added.

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