LEISURE and library operator LiveWire have published the “governance review” which was commissioned by Warrington Borough Council after coming under fire from Warrington North MP Helen Jones.
It follows calls by the MP for a full public disclosure on the results of the governance investigation which the council commissioned for an independent review of the governance of LiveWire, in order to benchmark against the best practices within community interest companies.
But the review carried out by accountants Jackson Stephens has now been published and reveals that the MP for Warrington North was invited to take part, but declined saying she didn’t believe the review to be totally independent.
In response to the report LiveWire highlight that since taking over leisure, lifestyle and library services in 2012, more than £12m in savings have been delivered for Warrington Borough Council and, by association, the taxpayers of Warrington.
It has also managed to retain a range of essential – but non-profitable – services for the people of Warrington, as well as bringing in more than £5.4 million in external capital to enhance and improve Council facilities and services.
LiveWire’s not for profit status enables it to bid for funding options that would not be available to other commercial operators.
As an organisation, LiveWire continues to make progress and has been working closely alongside the Council and its partners to continue to challenge itself and strengthen its governance, processes and team.
As well as highlighting a range of positive contributions LiveWire has made for the Warrington community, the independent report, commissioned by the Council, has considered a number of areas for development.
A series of actions have already been taken in response to the recommendations made.
Alan Yates, Chair of LiveWire said: “As a Board and as a team we have moved on significantly from 2017. LiveWire is a really strong and focused organisation and that is genuinely because we’re not afraid to challenge ourselves at every level.
“Although our business has evolved since the challenges of 2017, our ethos as a not for profit organisation – delivering the best possible services for the people of Warrington and reinvesting in local priorities – hasn’t changed at all.
“We welcomed the challenge this report gave us – contrary to some views – because we feel that all good organisations should review what they do and how they do things. We wanted that challenge and the opportunity to grow and improve.
“As a group and as individuals we can agree or disagree with some of the specific findings within this independent report, but we absolutely have listened to them and we’ve actioned a series of priorities against every single one of the findings, and will continue to do so. Change is constant, and so is evolution.
“In 2017, before this report was even commissioned, we set about strengthening the range of skills and experience of our Board and leadership team, bringing in an experienced new Finance Director and making a raft of other improvements that ensured we were in a stronger place to challenge and support our leadership teams.
“I know each and every one of the LiveWire Board and team is incredibly passionate about giving back to our local communities, and to the people of Warrington. Not everything goes right – as we know – but there are so many incredible things we’re achieving for people every single day, many of which are unreported.
“But that wide range of skill sets and experiences we have as a Board, underpinned by regular reviews and skills audits to fill any gaps, gives us a much stronger governance platform than we’ve ever had before,” added Mr Yates.
But Helen Jones responded by saying: “Although I don’t regard the report as being fully independent it does still highlight serious concerns about Livewire and its board.
“It raises questions about the way the managing director was appointed and why the appointment was not open to external candidates; how the chair deals with conflicts of interest; why the board does not meet more often and how non-attendance by directors casts a doubt on their ability to carry out their responsibilities properly.
“It also suggests that the quality and accuracy of financial information has been questionable, that audit procedures need strengthening, and that directors need a more robust induction and in post training, with the council directors needing to play a greater role than they currently do.
“The report keeps returning to issues which cast doubt on the effectiveness of LiveWire’s governance. This is not helped, as the report points out, by the fact that the managing director and staff work for both LiveWIre and Culture Warrington.
“LiveWire is a public interest company which spends public money. This report raises serious questions, which I am told has produced an ‘action plan’ for improvement. However, that action plan remains shrouded in secrecy and LiveWire’s board and management seemingly remain unaccountable and non-transparent. This report was drafted in September last year and has only just, begrudgingly, come to light a year later.
“Ultimately responsibility for the state of this organisation lies with the chair of the board and the managing director who should resign.”
The full report can be read here https://livewirewarrington.co.uk/images/news/files/Governance-Report.pdf