From todays Daily Post:
I’m not quitting, defiant Liverpool Culture Company chief tells staff
THE embattled chief executive of Liverpool Culture Company made it clear yesterday he did not intend to quit his £150,000-a-year job.
Jason Harborow gave an impassioned 20-minute speech to his staff at Millennium House, following the emergence of a leaked email in which council leader Warren Bradley called for him to be “relieved of his duties”.
The Daily Post understands Mr Harborow told his team he was their “captain”. He vowed he would soldier on with the high- profile job of delivering a successful year of events in 2008. And he said it was vital Culture Company staff stuck together following the cancellation of this weekend’s Mathew Street festival due to health and safety concerns.
The relationship between Cllr Bradley and Mr Harborow was last night at an all-time low as insiders revealed the pair have not spoken for a month, apart from passing civilities at an arts event 14 days ago.
The rift between the two men deepened drastically after yesterday’s publication of the email, which was sent on August 3, the day after the festival cancellation was announced.
In it, Cllr Bradley asked Liverpool chief executive Colin Hilton to relieve Mr Harborow of his duties.
He said the suspension “would be seen as a levelled sensible response, until the independent investigation has been concluded.”
He named council officers that he thought should fill Mr Harborow’s shoes until Mr Hilton concluded his inquiry into the festival fiasco, the result of which is expected next week.
Cllr Bradley signed off: “In conclusion, nothing short of my request will be deemed acceptable.”
Sources close to the Culture Company last night said Mr Harborow was asked to leave the job for a week, following the collapse of the festival, but had refused to do so.
Rumours were last night circulating that auditors were brought in to trawl through computers for emails relating to the festival fiasco.
Despite Mr Harborow’s defiant stance, sources within both the ruling Liberal Democrat group and the Labour opposition were last night saying they thought his position was becoming untenable.
The Daily Post understands a Liberal Democrat group meeting took place the day before the email was sent.
A party source said there was now “some impatience” among members that there needed to be “some change among officers”.
Last night, senior Lib-Dems rallied behind Cllr Bradley with Cllr Berni Turner, executive member for environment saying he was doing a “superb job”. Labour leader Joe Anderson said the email to Mr Hilton was proof that an independent inquiry was required.
His deputy, Cllr Paul Brant, renewed the Labour call for Cllr Bradley to resign over the affair.
Cllr Bradley said: “I have got every faith in the inquiry being run by Colin Hilton, and we should wait for the outcome of that.”
He said a scrutiny panel was being set up to look into risk management and analysis at the council and Culture Company.
Cllr Anderson said: “Clearly there needs to be an independent inquiry.” He said if Cllr Bradley was calling for suspensions while the inquiry was taking place, he too should be standing aside “even if it’s temporarily” while the affair was examined.
“The differences between Jason and Warren Bradley are now irreconcilable. The two people who should be at the vanguard of the Capital of Culture are at odds with each other.”
He said the debacle bore “remarkable similarities” to the damaging controversy over a sequence of emails that led to a break between Liverpool’s former chief executive Sir David Henshaw and former council leader Cllr Mike Storey.
Louise Ellman, Liverpool Riverside MP and Culture Company board member, said: “I think Warren Bradley is in a difficult position, and I am surprised that instructions were issued ahead of an inquiry as it could prejudice its findings.”
She agreed that an independent inquiry was required.
“This situation should not have arisen,” she said. “It indicates panic reactions when a cool head was needed.”
Cllr Berni Turner, executive member for environment, said: “He (Bradley) is the leader of the group and I will support him every step of the way. He’s got my vote of confidence as leader. I think he’s doing a superb job.”
A council spokesman said: “The council and the Culture Company are unable to make any public comment while the investigation into the Mathew Street festival is ongoing.”
Mr Harborow was not available for comment.