LIVEWIRE’S board has been told it ‘must focus’ on repairing the organisation’s damaged reputation with the public following a review into its governance.

The council commissioned an independent review following LiveWire’s controversial public consultation into the proposed closure of libraries across the town.

The findings have highlighted a range of concerns, and recommendations, for areas including leadership, integrity, board effectiveness, decision-making and openness.

The report says: “The governance and leadership of LiveWire has featured in the media spotlight for some time, with considerable negative coverage at a local level.

“The board must focus on repairing LiveWire’s damaged reputation with the public, while ensuring that projects key to its future success are front and centre of its strategy.

“There is no doubt that the media will continue to scrutinise LiveWire as key projects, such as the library review and Great Sankey leisure development, progress.

“We recommend that the council directors should play a much more active part in ensuring the two organisations work together effectively and in managing the public perception of key projects.

“The sharing of managing director and staff between LiveWire and Culture Warrington is confusing for stakeholders and may impair the long-term effectiveness of LiveWire.”

Prior to the results being published, Warrington North MP Helen Jones had been calling for a full public disclosure of them.

But, as stated in the report, Mrs Jones declined to participate in the review.

The Labour politician says the report ‘keeps returning to issues’ that ‘cast doubt’ on the effectiveness of LiveWire’s governance.

She added: “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.

“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.

“Ultimately, responsibility for the state of this organisation lies with the chair of the board and the managing director who should resign.”

LiveWire has responded after Mrs Jones called for chair Alan Yates and managing director Emma Hutchinson to resign.

A spokesman said: “Both the chair and managing director are focused on driving the organisation forward and have no intention of resigning.”

Mr Yates believes LiveWire, following its adversity, is now a ‘really strong and focused’ organisation.

He said: “As a board and as a team we have moved on significantly from the challenges of 2017.

“The MP has had a lot to say on this council-commissioned and independent governance report but has chosen not to contribute, despite being asked.

“But our door is always open if she’d like to come in and meet us.

“In terms of our managing director’s appointment – and finding people that share her level of experience and understanding about really complex operation like ours – we’re talking about fishing in a very small pond.

“When recruiting other leaders into our business we know that people with vast experience across the mix of library, leisure and cultural services are very, very hard to find.

“So, it’s easy to say but not so easy to do.

“But we’re delighted with the work Emma and the team have done, and continue to do, for the people of Warrington and we’re glad Emma has quite rightly been praised in the report for her professionalism, capabilities and resilience.

“Working closely with her, I know this to be true.

“Her dedication to driving the business on is unquestionable.

“In terms of any conflicts of interest, like any good business we’ve had a written process for any board conflicts of interest since we were established and we follow this at every board meeting.

“We’ve put some incredibly robust processes in place in terms of our financial structures and we follow all national best practice in terms of our charitable reporting and the financial requirements of a community interest company, which is what we are.”

Mr Yates and Culture Warrington chair Maureen Banner also commented in relation to concerns over sharing a managing director and leadership team across LiveWire and Culture Warrington.

They said having separate leadership operations ‘was never on the table’ and a shared team provides ‘better synergies’.