Push for Home Secretary to intervene in Hillsborough decision

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Liverpool Council could push for the Home Secretary to intervene in the decision to throw out the Hillsborough ‘cover up’ trial after an intervention from an independent councillor.

The trial of two former South Yorkshire Police officers and a solicitor who worked with the force after the Hillsborough tragedy collapsed on Wednesday.

Ex-Chief Superintendent Donald Denton, former Detective Chief Inspector Alan Foster and Peter Metcalf each denied two counts of perverting the course of justice.

The judge presiding over their trial ruled the defendants had no case to answer.

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The decision is likely to end the final prosecution linked to the disaster, where 96 people died.

The move has prompted outrage across the region, with metro mayor Steve Rotheram calling it “a stain on the judicial system in this country”.

Speaking at Liverpool Council’s annual general meeting yesterday evening, councillor Peter Mitchell, who was one of those at the disaster, said he was “in despair” at the decision.

Councillor Mitchell was previously a Labour member but now represents Croxteth as an independent.

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In an emotional speech at the end of last night’s meeting, Cllr Mitchell said he had received distraught messages and calls from others who were at Hillsborough or who lost loved ones.

He said: “It is breathtaking how the establishment is again kicking this city, the victims and their families.

“Can you imagine the despair from the phone calls and texts I have been taking this afternoon? How is it possible that there is no case to answer?”

Cllr Mitchell later confirmed that he would bring a motion to the next meeting of the council to call for Home Secretary Priti Patel to intervene.

He said: “This decision should not be allowed to stand. There is a way that it can be challenged, it can be challenged if the Home Secretary refers the issue to the Supreme Court.

“I will bring a motion to the next council, I hope it will be supported by everybody here and we can send our voice that we believed there would be justice."

An emotional Margaret Aspinall with Andy Burnham at the Hillsborough Press conference at Anfield yesterday.

It has not yet been confirmed whether other parties on the council will endorse his motion but his speech, delivered at short notice, received a standing ovation from all members.

What else happened at tonight’s meeting?

While the Hillsborough decision cast a shadow over much of the meeting, the council passed a series of reforms as part of its attempt to address the damning Caller Report.

In addition, the council formally approved new mayor Joanne Anderson’s cabinet and appointed a new Lord Mayor.

Here is a round up of what you need to know.

Liverpool has a new Lord Mayor

One of the key acts at any council AGM is to choose a new Lord Mayor.

Normally only a one year term, outgoing Lord Mayor Anna Rothery, Liverpool’s first Black woman Lord Mayor, held the position for two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

She hands over to Speke-Garston councillor Mary Rasmussen, who will serve during the 2021/22 term. County ward councillor Roy Gladden will be her deputy.

Councillor Rasmussen has represented her ward, where she was born and raised, since 2007 and has held a number of key roles within the council.

There were only warm words from the leaders of the three opposition parties for councillor Rasmussen, who is well-liked across the parties in the chamber.

Her consorts will be her son Michael and her daughter Janine and she earlier paid tribute to her daughter Lian, who died last year.

Lord Mayor Rasmussen said: “It is such an honour to be asked to serve as the Lord Mayor in my home city of Liverpool, whose people are quite simply the best.

“It is, without doubt, the highest accolade which can be given, and my family are both delighted and proud.

“My mother and father would be so proud and my daughter Lian, who sadly passed away last year, would have been shouting the news from the rooftops.”

There’s a new cabinet too

Mayor of Liverpool Joanne Anderson's cabinet picks were approved yesterday.

While Joanne Anderson announced her cabinet earlier this month, ditching the entire cabinet appointed by former mayor Joe Anderson in an attempt to mark a clean break.

That new cabinet has now been formally approved by the council, meaning a number of new faces will be responsible for key city services.

Mayor Anderson has appointed a number of younger councillors to cabinet roles including education, social care, education and culture

However, her deputy mayor, Jane Corbett, has years of experience on the council and was also led a key investigation into fractional sales, which was one of the few positives outlined in Mr Caller’s report.

More council reforms were passed

This evening also saw further moves to address the outcome of Max Caller’s investigation into aspects of the council’s operations.

A new code of conduct for councillors was approved, along with specific guidance for the way elected members should conduct themselves when dealing with developers.

Lib Dem leader Richard Kemp said the approval of the new code was a vital step.

He said: “In many ways, this is most important document that we will deal with this year.

“It will set the tone for how we behave within the council. As a council, we have not behaved well in the past.”

Scrutiny is also set to be more robust this year, with rules altered to allow for increased opposition party presence on scrutiny committees.

Lib Dem Kris Brown is set to chair the new Finance and Resources Select Committee, which will have a sweeping remit in scrutinising council functions.

That committee replaces Audit and Governance, which was criticised in Mr Caller’s report for inadequately scrutinising the council’s operations.

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But the hard part is yet to come

Despite broad agreement over the changes to the council so far, much of the implementation of the reforms still lies ahead

Liberal Party leader Steve Radford warned the new code of conduct would only be as effective as its application.

He said the code “must not be used to suppress legitimate criticism” as he said is had done in the past and said it would be the actions of each councillor that restored trust in the city.

He said: “Respect can be demanded but it should be earned and that is the them that is not in this report.

“If we want to get respect from people we have to earn it and not just wave this document in front of them.”

In addition, while the council’s parties have by and large united so far in attempting to address the issues in the report, there are tensions between them.

One such moment last night saw Richard Kemp criticise Labour for breaking with tradition to appoint no opposition parties from Liverpool to scrutinise the region’s transport authority.

While not directly linked to the Caller reforms, the episode does give a sense of the tensions that could loom in the future as efforts to change the council continue.