Liverpool City Council’s budget plans have broken down after a bitter public email row between Mayor Joe Anderson and Liberal Democrat leader Richard Kemp.
The Labour mayor called Councillor Kemp “a despicable character” after details were leaked of where the council’s Budget Working Party proposed to cut spending. Both parties are laying the blame at the other’s door.
Mayor Anderson said that the attempts by the Lib Dems to accuse the Labour contingent of leaking the information were “dishonest, although predictable from you”, and went on to say: “You forget in trying to kid me that you are trying to kid the kid that kidded Billy the Kid, in other words I see you for what you are, someone never to be trusted.”
The mayor continued his furious tirade, saying: “I stand by my claim that you are the most dishonest politician I have ever come across and would rather have ten Tories to you.”
Cllr Kemp, who published the email exchange on his blog site ‘But What Does Richard Kemp Think?’ hit back, saying: “I have no need to shift the blame for leaks to the Labour Group because that is where they originate.”
He also used his Twitter account to publicise the relationship meltdown, saying: “The Mayor of Liverpool loses (self) control!”
Cllr Kemp said in the email exchange: “Do you wonder that I get angry when the council is behaving so duplicitously. Since I became leader I have tried to engage constructively with you and indeed have suggested a number of things which subsequently appeared in your documents. Keeping the Liberal Democrats out of the process will not stop leaks – they do not come from us. It will, however, leave us free to oppose what you are doing far more freely. That is what we will do.”
The leaks emerged over the weekend, with the Liverpool Echo reporting on how the council was about to propose the closure of two municipal golf courses in the region, in Allerton and Kirby. Other reports referred to closing nurseries and charging for football pitches.
Prior to the email argument, the Labour majority council was working alongside the Lib Dems in the Budget Working Group as the authority tries to save £32 million of public spending next year, and the group was due to meet tonight to finalise proposals.
With Mayor Anderson’s final word to Cllr Kemp being “there is now no need for BWG on Monday”, it would appear that the Labour leader has dissolved the group.
He said to Cllr Kemp: “Every one of the Labour Group compared to you are saints. There will never again be any co-operation between us and I look forward to exposing you and your party in the weeks and months ahead.”
The Labour group will now press ahead without a bipartisan element involved in the process, but Cllr Kemp warned Mayor Anderson that the new way of operating would not be without opposition, and that the initial problem would not be solved.
The Mayoral Select Committee meets next Tuesday to discuss final budget options.