‘Liverpool is best-run council in Britain’… really?

Have the smelling salts to hand… a new study claims Liverpool has the best run council in Britain… no, seriously. Tony McDonough reports

Liverpool Town Hall
Liverpool City Council has been named the best run in Britain in a new analysis


Anyone who works in a newsroom is familiar with the daily tsunami of nonsense studies and surveys that arrive via email with almost all immediately sent to the recycle bin.

However, one particular study that arrived in LBN’s inbox this week has stopped us in our tracks. A digital marketing outfit called Dark Horse informs us that Liverpool City Council is, in fact, the best run local authority in the UK.

It was a claim that immediately had us reaching for the smelling salts lest we collapsed on the chaise lounge in shock.

Just a reminder that early in 2021 publication of the Max Caller report identified a “fundamental failure of governance” at the council and saw Government commissioners take over three council departments – property, regeneration and highways.

By August 2022, things had not improved. A new report said the council still had “serious shortcomings”. A debacle over its energy supply deals earlier in 2022 eventually led to the resignation of chief executive Tony Reeves.

Consequently, the Government commissioners have now taken full control of the running of the authority.

Now, Liverpool has tens of thousands of hard-working and dedicated council employees. It also has stand-out success stories.

These include the Culture Liverpool team, headed by Claire McColgan, which has delivered a series of stunning events over the past few years including Capital of Culture, Three Queens, the Giants and Eurovision earlier this year.

And when council-owned the cruise terminal opened in 2007 you could count the number of ships on one hand. Now 150 vessels a year come in and out and the cruise operators can’t get enough. Angie Redhead and the Cruise Liverpool team have been immense.

But even Liverpool City Council’s strongest advocates would struggle to keep a straight face if they were to say it was the best-run council in Britain.

In what it described as a “comprehensive analysis”, Dark Horse delved into Government data to scrutinise the inner workings of these city councils.

The study juxtaposed the amount of council tax contributed by residents with the array of amenities provided to the local populace.

Focus areas included education, crime, culture, health access to services, quality of roads, emergency services and housing. Using multiple data points for each category, the team ranked how well each city council.

Awarding points, for cities that did the best. Once the index was compiled, they standardised and weighted the categories accordingly. Providing the point-based system between 0 and 100. Using these nine categories, councils could score a maximum of 900 points.

Liverpool ranked first out of the combined indexes. This can be attributed to how the city ranked above average in how well it deals with crime and healthcare.

All sounds very scientific, however… Dark Horse also revealed that the area in which Liverpool “really shined” was education. This was partly attributed to the “high quantity of schools’ – they counted 2,668.

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However, a five-second Google search shows Liverpool has just 198 schools – 137 primary and 61 secondary. Inexplicably, Dark Horse’s figure is wrong by a factor of 13. They may have forgotten the old computer science maxim – garbage in, garbage out.

Dark Horse is a Manchester-based agency. Perhaps our rivals down the other end of the M62 are having a bit of fun at our expense.

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