Praise for the local government guru called in to clean up Liverpool

Devastating report on ‘multiple failures’ by Liverpool Council was led by Max Caller CBE, a member of the Federation’s Yesherun Edgware synagogue


The local government consultant whose devastating report into Liverpool City Council was published this week has been a long-serving member of the Norwood charity's  Advisory Council and hails from a family who were stalwarts of the small but influential  Jewish community living in Newport, south Wales.

Max Caller CBE, now a member of the Federation’s Yesherun Edgware synagogue, was called in to lead an emergency inspection into Liverpool Council on whether it had provided best value to the taxpayer.

His investigation, which focused on the council's property management, regeneration, highways and planning over the past five years, concluded there had been multiple failures and that public resources had been put at risk.

The report was ordered by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick after the arrests of five men, including the Labour mayor, Joe Anderson, last December.

On Wednesday Mr Jenrick delivered a statement to the House of Commons in which he confirmed that the report into activities at the city council "paints a deeply concerning picture of mismanagement, breakdown of scrutiny and accountability".

The Communities Secretary announced that he would appoint  commissioners to support the council's chief executive Tony Reeves. They will take control of the council's planning, property management, highways and regeneration departments for a three-year period. An improvement plan will also be put in place.

He also praised Mr Caller and his team for their report, which has further cemented his reputation as one of the country's leading experts in local government.

Born in Cardiff, Mr Caller's family were active members of Newport Synagogue, where he attended cheder classes as a child.

After studying civil engineering at the University of London, Mr Caller went on to become Chief Executive of Barnet, Hackney  and Tower Hamlets councils.

Luke Akehurst, director of the We Believe In Israel campaign group and a member of the Labour Party’s national executive committee (NEC) , was chief whip of Hackney Council, while Mr Caller served as Chief Executive from 2000 up until 2004.

He told the JC: “Max was absolutely central to taking Hackney from being easily the worst local authority in the country to being an award-winning council.

“I don't believe any another other chief executive could have rescued Hackney.

“He is completely focused on delivering high quality public services and on  absolute probity of governance.

“Most importantly he provides charismatic leadership while being totally respectful of councillors being the ultimate decision makers.”

Before his Hackney role, Mr Caller had been Chief Executive of the London Borough of Barnet for 11 years, from 1989 to 2000, where he introduced a cabinet form of governance and a scrutiny system, which was deemed one of the models for subsequent legislation.

The former Mayor of Barnet and ex-Conservative councillor Brian Coleman wrote on his blog that Mr Caller “had a huge capacity for hard work, a knowledge of the council second to none, an understanding of the pressures on politicians, a first class brain, an ability to serve whomsoever the electorate had given him to work with and a remarkable attention to detail. “

One communal leader, who asked not be named, told the JC: "I have never worked with, or got to know him well, but it is rare that someone is spoken so highly of in the way that Max is."

Mr Caller gained valuable experience of conducting  a "best value"  inspection when he was named as one of the commissioners hired to look into failings in the conduct and governance of Tower Hamlets council in east London, in a role which lasted more than two years, from December 2014 to March 2017.

The Tower Hamlets inspection was called by the then Communities Minister Lord Eric Pickles under section 10 of the Local Government Act 1999.

A similar investigation Mr Caller undertook into Northamptonshire County Council in 2018 resulted in commissioners being appointed to oversee the authority after financial mismanagement was disclosed.

Mr Caller is also the former chairman of the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, a role he occupied from April 2010 to December 2015 -  at the same time chairing the Welsh Local Government Boundary Commission.

He has also been an electoral commissioner.

As well as carrying out two statutory inspections in Northamptonshire and now Liverpool, Mr Caller also conducted another non-statutory review in Nottingham.

Despite his exhaustive work schedule, Mr Caller confirmed to the JC that he had managed to find enough spare time to serve on Norwood's Advisory Council.

The council - a group of highly respected people, who are experts in their particular fields  -  meets two or three times a year to be brought up to date about Norwood services and advise on new projects and initiatives.

Former Liverpool Mayor Mr Anderson, who stood down from the role after his arrest on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery and witness intimidation, has consistently denied wrongdoing and has not been charged.  His bail conditions were withdrawn on Tuesday but he remains under investigation.

Mr Anderson was detained with 11 others, including former deputy leader of Liverpool Council Derek Hatton.

In the Commons on Wednesday, Labour's shadow communities secretary Steve Reed confirmed his party would accept Mr Caller's report "in full."

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