Liverpool City Council
since 26 May 2022
Deputy Mayor of Liverpool
Jane Corbett, Labour
Leader of the Opposition
since 13 July 2018
|Liverpool City Region Combined Authority|
Length of term
|6 May 2021|
|Liverpool Town Hall|
Liverpool City Council is the governing body for the city of Liverpool in Merseyside, England. It consists of 90 councillors, three for each of the city's 30 wards.
The council is currently controlled by the Labour Party and is led by Mayor Joanne Anderson. It is a constituent council of Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.
Liverpool has been a town since 1207 when it was granted its first charter by King John. It has had a town corporation (the Corporation of Liverpool) since before the 19th century, and this was one of the corporations reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835.
In 1835, Liverpool expanded into the village of Everton and then the township of Kirkdale in the 1860s. The corporation created a police force in 1836.
Liverpool was granted city status in 1880. When elected county councils were established in 1889 under the Local Government Act 1888, Liverpool was one of the cities to become a county borough, and thus administratively independent of Lancashire County Council, although the city remained part of Lancashire for ceremonial purposes until 1974.
In 1892 the city was given a Lord Mayor.
In 1895, Wavertree, Walton and parts of Toxteth and West Derby were incorporated into the city. Fazakerley (1904) and Gateacre (1913) followed, then the rest of West Derby known as West Derby Rural in 1928 and finally Speke in 1932.
Liverpool's first female councillor was Eleanor Rathbone, elected in 1909. Eighteen years later, Margaret Beavan became the first female Lord Mayor in 1927.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the council was run by the Conservatives, whose policies were responsible for Liverpool leading the way in many areas of social reform, for example, the provision of the first council-housing in Europe. Labour councillors were first elected to the council in 1905, but Liverpool was one of the last major cities in the UK in which the Labour Party gained control, which occurred in 1955. The Conservatives were able to briefly regain control in 1961, until 1963, and again in 1967 until 1972.
In 1974 Liverpool became a metropolitan borough within the new county of Merseyside. In 1986, the Merseyside County Council was abolished and its functions devolved to its districts, including Liverpool. Since 1986 Merseyside has continued to legally exist as a ceremonial county, but without a county council.
In the late 1970s, the city was run by the Liberal Party under Sir Trevor Jones. As part of their plans, a cost-cutting exercise was drawn up, to reduce the council's costs by 25%. In 1979, the Conservative Party won the general election. The new government intended to cut council spending but Liverpool City Council successfully negotiated an exception from this, on the grounds that they were already following government policy and cutting 25%.
During the 1980s, the Trotskyist Militant group gained control of Liverpool's Labour Party and the council, and attempted to challenge the national government on several issues including refusing to set a budget in 1985. The council then adopted a 'deficit budget' in which spending exceeded income, causing a financial crisis. The leadership of the Labour Party was drawn into the controversy, culminating with Neil Kinnock's speech to the Party Conference in 1985, denouncing Liverpool City Council without explicitly naming it. Derek Hatton, councillor for Netherley ward and Deputy Leader of the council, shouted "lies" at the platform, and Eric Heffer, MP for Liverpool Walton constituency, left the conference platform.
The Labour Party ultimately succeeded in expelling members of Militant, and Hatton himself was expelled from the Labour Party in June 1986.
In May 2017, Gerard ('Ged') Fitzgerald, then the council's chief executive, and three others were arrested by Lancashire Police on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and witness intimidation. It followed investigations into financial irregularities relating to 'One Connect', a partnership between Lancashire County Council and British Telecom (BT) set up during Fitzgerald's tenure as Lancashire council chief executive. Lancashire county council had aborted a procurement exercise relating to the potential outsourcing of Lancashire county council's vehicle fleet to British Telecom, an action that was investigated in 2013 by a firm of solicitors, DAC Beachcroft and later the police.
One of the others arrested at the time was Geoffrey Driver, then Lancashire council leader and leader of its Conservative party group. The warrants for the men's arrests stated that evidence had been gathered that between 2013 and 2015 Mr. Driver in collusion with the three others had been "involved in activity directed toward a number of principal witnesses ... which was clearly designed to intimidate, belittle and undermine them both professionally and, crucially, as witnesses in the investigation". The witnesses reportedly included four people who held Lancashire county council roles, including as treasurer, auditor and as a councillor.
In September 2017, it was reported Fitzgerald had been suspended, following a Liverpool council disciplinary panel meeting. In December 2017, Fitzgerald applied for a judicial review of his arrest, but in April 2018, the High Court refused. In its judgment, the court said one ground for refusing his application was that the scope of an earlier investigation by Lancashire police – dubbed Operation Sheridan – that had led to his arrest had "widened to include alleged criminality within Liverpool City Council and the Merseyside Pension Fund (MPF)". In May 2018, Fitzgerald resigned from his Liverpool city council role with immediate effect. He remained on police bail.
The High Court judgment was critical of the 2017 application for arrest warrants presented by D.C. Fishwick of Lancashire Police, which "ran to 29 pages with another 27 pages of appendices" and was described as "not easy to summarise ... presented as it was ... as an impenetrable, discursive mass lacking a discernible sense of order. Understandably, the police are concerned to comply with their duty as to disclosure; but the answer to that obligation does not lie in simply "throwing" material at the Court in the manner in which it was done in this case". The Lancashire police investigation into the financial irregularities started in 2013 and was reported to have cost in excess of £2m by May 2017.
Lancashire county council's 'One Connect' was reportedly similar to 'Liverpool Direct', a partnership set up between Liverpool city council and BT, which was later bought out entirely by the council. David McElhinney, who was one of the men arrested in May 2017, had been chief executive of both Liverpool and Lancashire council's joint ventures with BT at various times.
In August 2018, a case file of evidence gathered on Mr Fitzgerald and two other ex-council executives was handed to the Crown Prosecution Service.
In June 2020, it was reported Liverpool city council's accounts since 2015 had not been signed off by its auditors, Grant Thornton, on account of the 'complex ongoing police investigation'. The Crown Prosecution Service said the file was still being considered. Lancashire Police declined to comment.
The Lord Mayor of Liverpool is the first citizen and chosen representative of the city, acting as a focal point for the community as well as promoting the city. This is a different role to that of the directly elected Mayor of Liverpool. The Lord Mayor's main responsibilities include meeting delegates from twinned cities, chairing council meetings and representing the city. The Lord Mayor of Liverpool is always a serving councillor, elected by the full council at its Annual General Meeting held each May, and usually serve for a term of one year.
By contrast, the Mayor of Liverpool is the council's political leader, being a directly elected mayor. The directly elected mayor position in Liverpool was created in 2012, and the current mayor, elected in 2021 is Joanne Anderson of the Labour. The directly elected mayor position is due to be abolished in 2023 with the council reverting to having a leader of the council chosen from the elected councillors as the political leader, as had been the case prior to 2012.
As a constituent district within the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Liverpool also has a third type of mayor, the Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region.
For historical political control and leadership, see Liverpool City Council elections.
Elections are usually by thirds, in three of every four years. 2004 saw new boundaries and a reduction in the number of councillors from 99 to 90, so all seats were contested.
In March 2007, Labour gained a seat from the Liberal Democrats in a by-election in Speke Garston ward. In the May 2007 council elections, the Liberal Democrats lost 4 seats to Labour, leaving the council make-up as Liberal Democrats 51, Labour 35, Liberals 3 and Greens 1.
Labour then won the second by-election in Warbreck ward in September 2007.
In May 2010, the Labour Party, led by Joe Anderson, gained control of the council for the first time in 12 years. In May 2011, Labour increased their majority on the Council making 11 gains.
At the May 2012 elections, Labour won 27 seats and the Liberal Democrats, Green Party and Liberals 1 each. This made the composition of the Council 72 Labour (after one councillor became an independent), 9 Liberal Democrat (after defection to the Labour party), 3 Liberal, 2 green and 2 independents.
In the May 2014 elections, the Labour party won 27 seats, the Green party won 2 seats, and the Liberal party won 1 seat. This made the composition of the council for 2014/15: 78 Labour, 4 Green, 3 Liberal Democrat, 3 Liberal, and 2 independent.
Liverpool is split into 30 separate wards for elections. These are the wards since the 2004 local elections.
Between 1953 and 1973 the wards of Liverpool City Council were Abercromby, Aigburth, Allerton, Anfield, Arundel, Breckfield, Broadgreen, Central, Childwall, Church, Clubmoor, County, Croxteth, Dingle, Dovecot, Everton, Fairfield, Fazakerley, Gillmoss, Granby, Kensington, Low Hill, Melrose, Netherfield, Old Swan, Picton, Pirrie, Princess Park, St Domingo, St James, St Mary's, St Michaels, Smithdown, Speke, Sandhills, Tuebrook, Vauxhall, Warbreck, Westminster, Woolton. Each ward returned three councillors and was represented by an Alderman, bringing to the total number of representatives on the City Council to 120.
In 1973, the whole council was reconstituted and the number of wards was reduced to 33. Each ward elected three councillors, and the aldermanic system was abolished.
Council meetings are held at Liverpool Town Hall at the junction of High Street, Dale Street and Water Street, which was built between 1749 and 1754. The council's main administrative offices are located in the Cunard Building at Pier Head. From 1868 until 2016 the council's main offices were the Municipal Buildings on Dale Street. The Municipal Buildings were sold in 2016 after the council decided they were too large and costly to maintain for the council.
On 18 December 2019, Nick Kavanagh, Liverpool council's then regeneration chief and Elliot Lawless, head of property development company Elliot Group, were arrested by Merseyside Police on suspicion of a number of alleged offences including conspiracy to defraud, misconduct in public office and bribery, reported the Liverpool Echo newspaper. The charges related to "the sale of council land and building property" in the "Georgian quarter and Toxteth" and the allegation that "Mr Lawless was able to secure two sites on an 'improperly preferential basis'", according to a consent order obtained in a High Court application by the newspaper.
Both were reportedly released on bail in March 2020. No charges were brought against them and their arrest warrants were quashed, with the police reportedly citing "technical difficulties". Mr Lawless had applied for a High Court review of the arrests, which found in April 2020 that a search of Mr Lawless’ home shortly before his arrest had been unlawful. The proceedings were reportedly "concluded by consent" between Merseyside Police and Mr Lawless. However, a police statement noted an investigation would continue and that it retained £337,342.00 and €10,442.10 in cash seized from property and vehicles connected to Mr Lawless under the Proceeds of Crime Act, and "copies of exhibits seized" at the time of the arrests. Mr Lawless denies any wrong-doing. Mr Kavanagh has reportedly not spoken publicly since his arrest. On 11 May 2020, the Echo reported Liverpool council had suspended Mr. Kavanagh.
On 3 September 2020, Mr. Kavanagh was reportedly re-arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery, together with four others.
On 7 September 2020, Merseyside Police was granted permission to retain the cash seized in December 2019 for a further 90 days, the third such successful extension request.
See also: Joe Anderson (politician)
In April 2015, Liverpool Echo reported Mayor Joe Anderson had instructed Liverpool City Council lawyers to assist him in a legal dispute he was bringing against Chesterfield High School for unfair dismissal. The school had dismissed Anderson after he had not worked at the school for two years. The council spent over £89,500 from public funds to support Anderson's application to the employment tribunal over two and a half years. The initial tribunal found the school was within its rights to terminate Anderson's contract, however they had not followed the correct procedure to do so. Anderson appealed against the finding but lost.
On 5 December 2020, Joe Anderson was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation, as part of a police investigation, dubbed Operation Aloft, into alleged fraud in the awarding of construction contracts in the Liverpool city area. Four other men were also arrested. It is not clear whether the arrests were related to the council bribery allegations involving Nick Kavanagh and Elliot Lawless (see above). Anderson said he had been interviewed for over six hours by police and bailed to return in a month. The Labour Party suspended Anderson on news of his arrest. Liverpool City Council said it would not comment on matters relating to an individual.
On 24 March 2021, Robert Jenrick announced that he will be appointing Commissioners to oversee authority and carry out limited functions of the council for at least 3 years. This was following an investigation, commissioned in December 2020 and led by Max Caller, that found there were "multiple apparent failures" and a "deeply concerning picture of mismanagement" in the council. Jenrick said that the Commissioners might have to take over authority in regeneration, highways and property management if they see no improvement. The acting Mayor of Liverpool, Wendy Simon, and the Chief Executive of the council, Tony Reeves said "The inspector’s report has highlighted several failings, but there is a collective commitment from both councillors and officers to learn from these mistakes." They also said "“A detailed improvement plan is being drawn up and will be implemented in full. We will be open and transparent about the progress we are making on each of the recommendations."