Tempers flared on the Labour Benches of Sefton Council this week over reports alleging massive mismanagement at Merseytravel
Councillor Tony Robertson moved a motion calling on the Council to support the results of two independent Inquiries which has been commissioned by the new Labour majority on the Merseytravel board, supported by both Lib Dems and Conservatives.
Labour Leader of the Council, Councillor Peter Dowd, visibly upset, defended the management of Merseytravel under his brother’s leadership. He repeatedly attacked Councillor Robertson’s proposals as a ‘tawdry motion’. Councillor Mark Dowd, who had been forced to resign as Merseytravel Chairman by pressure from his own Party, also spoke out. He said that Merseytravel was alredy addressing the matters raised in the report and pointed out the physical achievements of the Transport Authority under his control.
Several Labour councillors who did not contribute to the debate maintained a constant barracking or shouted out while opposition councillors were speaking. One was seen to make a fist and wave it at Councillor Robertson.
Councillor Iain Brodie Brown reminded councillors that these thick reports contained a massive list of major criticisms of Merseytravel including a whole host of spending decisions declared by experts as being wrongly-made.The reports had identified a culture of bullying and intimidation which had caused the Authority’s reporting officer to fail to do his job of telling ordinary members of Merseytravel what their Chairman and Chief Executive were doing in their name. The Chair had failed in his duty to ensure that the Chief Executive complied with rules about his expenses. Contracts had been awarded improperly. The independent reports had the support of the Labour Parties in Liverpool, St Helens and Wirral and had been written by the respected Chief Executives of two neighbouring Councils as well as a top firm of Chartered Accountants, Mazars. Why, Cllr Brodie Browne asked, was Sefton Labour Party completely out of step with other Labour Parties in the area?
Councillor Sir Ron Watson told the meeting that he would not be supporting the motion. His concerns were that there should be good trains running on time at a reasonable price with passes for pensioners. Merseytravel provided this.
Councillor Peter Dowd criticised the £30,000 cost of the Mazars report as money wasted. Councillor Tony Dawson pointed out that the extent of waste at Merseytravel under the ‘old regime’, which had been identified in the reports, included £4 million per year on one item alone – the move of Merseytravel HQ to a massive new luxury office block in Mann Island. Labour Councillors called out “Lies! Lies!” to which Cllr Dawson asked which of the Chief Executives the Bootle Labour councillors were calling liars as it was they who had identified these sums. Several Labour councillors shouted out that the ‘Hudson Report’ from the Chief Executives had been ‘dealt with’ already. In an extraordinary move, the Mayor, Cllr Kevin Clusky stopped Cllr Dawson speaking because “it has been said this matter has been dealt with already”. The Mayor apologised when Cllr Dawson pointed out to him that the report had never ever been debated within Sefton Council.
The Mayor intervened yet again when Cllr Dowd suggested that members should not vote on the motion on the Mazars report because this report had not been formally published. Several councillors waved copies of the report and pointed out that it was widely available. The Mayor put it to Cllr Robertson, who was summing up, that councillors should not vote on the motion because it had not been published. Councillors Shaw and Brodie Browne offered to bring the motion back to the next meeting if that was the Mayor’s view. The Mayor decided to not press his point and he allowed the motion to go to the vote.
The motion to support the implementation of the Independent Inquiry reports into Merseytavel was voted down by Labour and Conservatives combining against the Lib Dems: 42 votes to 19.
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