Commissioners to be reduced as government hands back powers to city

The number of commissioners overseeing Liverpool Council has been reduced as the government confirmed powers have been returned to the local authority.

Following their fourth report into the intervention at the Cunard Building before Christmas, government-appointed officials confirmed they would seek to hand back management of key areas to the city council owing to an improvement in performance. New documents from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities have confirmed oversight of highways, finance and appointments will no longer be under Whitehall control.

Additionally, the number of commissioners in position at the city council has been reduced, with Joanna Killian stepping down to take up a new role at the Local Government Association. In a letter to city chief executive Andrew Lewis, it was confirmed she would not be replaced.

The letter, written by Max Soare, deputy director local government stewardship, said ministers have asked me to confirm to Mr Lewis that they “recognise that substantial progress has been made by your authority,” and the role he too has played since joining in May 2023. Before Christmas, lead commissioner Mike Cunningham said his team’s fourth assessment of progress since the intervention began almost three years ago was “positive” and gave scope for a reduced role.

Mr Soule wrote, “I know that commissioners and ministers have confidence that you and the Authority will continue to work collaboratively with Commissioners in prioritising the areas of focus that the Commissioners and Secretary of State have set out, in order to support your Authority’s ongoing improvement, and to provide the assurance that the Authority’s improvements are stable and with a well set improvement trajectory.”

The director also confirmed Michael Gove, Secretary of State for DLUHC, would not seek to replace the outgoing Ms Killian. He said, “This, together with the reality that each of the Commissioners are reducing their involvement, is in recognition of the progress being made by the Authority and intended to support a managed transition to reduce and ultimately end the statutory intervention.”

It is expected highways powers will be returned to the local authority from 31 March while Ms Killian will leave her post on 18 March. An explanatory memorandum attached alongside the updated directions said the next report by the commissioners, expected this month, would be “crucial” to outline the direction of travel beyond the expected end of government oversight in June.

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