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Commissioners step in to council with controversial private rental scheme

The government is intervening further in the running of Liverpool council, which operates a controversial private rental sector licensing scheme.

Housing Secretary Greg Clark has set up a panel to develop a long-term plan to improve the performance of Liverpool council, which is Labour-run. 

Four commissioners were sent into Liverpool council in June 2021 to oversee its highways, property and regeneration functions. The then-Housing and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick announced that the commissioners were necessary following an investigation that found there were "multiple apparent failures" and a "deeply concerning picture of mismanagement" in the council. 


Now Jenrick’s successor - Clark - is considering more intervention.

A statement from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities says the new Liverpool Strategic Futures Advisory Panel will work closely with the city’s mayor and leading councillors “to help the council make the right decisions and to develop a plan to give long term confidence in the future of the city.”

The statement continues: “This further step comes after the report on the council’s progress revealed serious shortcomings, particularly around financial management and senior leadership. It also criticised the slow progress made in driving improvement measures that were highlighted in the commissioners’ [earlier] report.”

Clark says he is also “minded to appoint a commissioner to oversee the authority’s financial management and to transfer functions associated with governance and financial decision-making to the commissioners together with powers regarding recruitment to improve the running of the organisation.”

In April this year Liverpool council’s new landlord licensing scheme came into force. It includes 45,000 homes but even so, it is still much smaller than the local authority itself wanted.

The scheme targets 16 wards in the city where at least one in five homes is owned by a private landlord. Around 45,000 of the 55,000 properties in an earlier city-wide scheme – which ran from 2015 to 2020 – are covered.

The new scheme follows a lengthy stand-off between the council and the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities when a larger scheme was proposed by the council. 

This week Housing Secretary Clark said: “I am determined to help do everything I can to help Liverpool come out of the current intervention stronger and able to achieve its ambitions. The commissioners’ report shows that there are still serious shortcomings that need to be sorted out, especially in financial management. 

“But I want this to be a turning point at which the City of Liverpool can see a bright future that lives up to the power this great city embodies. So following talks I had in person in Liverpool with Mayor Joanne Anderson and Mayor Steve Rotheram in recent weeks, I am appointing a new panel, chaired by that same Mayor Rotheram and supported by some of the wisest, and most experienced people in city leadership, to lead this transition from current interventions to a successful future.”


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