Cabinet accused of ‘abuse’ of power as LiveWire funding deal confirmed

On January 9, the Labor-run council’s cabinet approved a grant to LiveWire, as well as an increase in the management fee paid to both LiveWire and Culture Warrington.

The grant aims to support LiveWire with energy and ‘other relevant cost increases’ and ‘potential income shortfalls’ for the financial year 2023-24.

The cabinet approved an increase to the LiveWire management fee from the financial year 2023-24 of £1,328,000 per annum, and approved an increase to the Culture Warrington management fee from the financial year 2023-24 of £217,000 per annum.

LiveWire runs leisure center and libraries while Culture Warrington looks after the Pyramid, Parr Hall, and Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, and runs the Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival.

The scrutiny committee met at the Town Hall on Monday after the cabinet’s decision was ‘called in’ by Conservative councillors.

However, following a vote, the meeting was moved to part two – meaning it was closed to the public.

Committee members Cllr Kenneth Critchley, Conservative, and Cllr Mark Jervis, Conservative, spoke against the proposal to move the meeting to part two.

Cllr Critchley stated that, in his opinion, there is ‘nothing in these documents that warrant consideration’ of part two.

He added: “The grant has the capacity to significantly distort competition in the leisure sector in Warrington and, as such, in my opinion warrants the very closest of public scrutiny.”

Cllr Jervis said he thinks ‘frankly, the cabinet is abusing the use of part two to hide things from the residents of Warrington’.

Committee chair Cllr Steve Wright, Labour, said ‘it’s the decision of this committee, not the cabinet, as to what we do at this committee’.

The council has confirmed that the committee decided to offer ‘no advice’, so the decision ‘may be implemented without delay’.

After the meeting, in relation to LiveWire, Cllr Tony Higgins, the council’s cabinet member for leisure and communities, said: “The services could have been at risk if we had not stepped into help them through these challenging times.”

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