The Liverpool Labour boss who want’s to rule Southport as well as his home city has been exposed as having received £89,000 of public money to pay his solicitors in his failed attempt to get a pension from a Sefton school where he wasn’t working. Mayor Joe Anderson is facing calls to pay back all the money which he used to cover his legal fees for a failed employment tribunal.
Mayor Anderson was dismissed from Chesterfield High School in Crosby where he had been receiving.£4,500-a-year in paid time off after he took up the role of city council leader on a full-time basis in 2010. The governors dismissed him in September 2012 after deciding he was being paid for no benefit to the school but Mayor Anderson took the school to tribunal in a dispute over his pension funds.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request from local campaigner Audrey O’Keefe has uncovered Liverpool City Council secretly using taxpayer’s money to cover £89,000 worth of Mr Anderson’s legal fees for the tribunal.
Photo: Chesterfield High School, Crosby
The decision to pay the legal fees was apparently taken by the council’s chief executive Ged Fitzgerald. Mr Fitzgerald was himself the subject of much controversy when appointed by Joe Anderson on a salary of £197,500 salary – £55,000 more than the Prome Minister gets.
Liverpool City Lib Dem leader Councillor Richard Kemp says Mayor Anderson should pay the money back.
“This is an absolute scandal.” he said. “There is absolutely no justification in using council money to satisfy a private problem of an individual politician.”
“This sum would pay for a year for 18 of the lollipop ladies that the council has laid off or moderate care costs for 20 elderly people at a time when our social services are being eviscerated by government cuts. Mayor Anderson should now do the decent thing and pay the money back.”
The Liverpool Council’s FOI response to Audrey O’Keefe said: “The amount paid pursuant to the indemnity is £89,549.This relates to legal work undertaken by Brabners [law firm] and by counsel instructed by them over a period of two and a half years.”
In the employment tribunal earlier this year it was decided that while Mayor Anderson had been technically unfairly dismissed from the school, because proper processes had not been followed, the governors were entitled to end his employment because the pupils were not getting any benefit from him. Judge Daniel Serota, QC, said Mayor Anderson had stopped working at the school after becoming council leader. It was Sefton Council, at the time run by present Bootle MP Peter Dowd, which then controlled the school and decided that Anderson could continue as a paid staff member despite the fact he did no work at the school. Council bosses agreed that Anderson could be paid the “maximum allowed as paid leave”, 208 hours a year, and “held open” his post while continuing to pay pension contributions. Peter Dowd has been a strong supporter of Joe Anderson’s attempts to lead the Liverpool City Region.
In 2011 the school was taken out of Sefton council’s control to become an independent academy. The school’s new governors thought the employment “arrangement” Mr Anderson had was “inequitable”.
Mr Anderson then claimed that he had been “dismissed unfairly”.
When it was shown that a council solicitor had written to Chesterfield High School raising various questions,Tribunal judge Daniel Serota, QC, remarked that it was “unclear to me why the legal department of Liverpool should have been acting on behalf of the claimant in his private capacity.”
Last week, Joe Anderson has been out in China with Tory Chancellor George Osborne who supports his campaign to put Southport, Sefton and St Helens under a Liverpool Mayor.
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