Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey has heavily criticised Labour’s leadership of Liverpool as he campaigned in the city with mayoral candidate Richard Kemp.

Mr Davey, who has led the Lib Dems since last year, said the city needed to “sweep out the bad apples” in the wake of a devastating government inspection which saw commissioners sent to oversee part of the council’s operations.

His visit comes as the party push hard to regain executive power in Liverpool, a council they controlled until 2010.

Mr Kemp, a veteran councillor for Church ward, is trying to position himself as the best candidate to restore faith in politics in the city and will face off against six other candidates in May.

Speaking today in the city, Mr Davey said new leadership under Mr Kemp would allow Liverpool to recover from a period of political turmoil.

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He said: “The current leadership of Liverpool Council is letting the city down.

“Labour inherited a city with good finances and an improving economy which was beginning to develop after the Lib Dems laid the foundations in the first decade of the 21st century.

“Liverpool was the city of culture in 2008, now Liverpool is the city of corruption.”

Labour has consistently criticised the Lib Dem leadership of the council and say the party’s involvement with the coalition government mean they were instrumental in cuts to the council’s budget.

Mr Davey rejected that criticism.

He said” The coalition government ended five years ago, which is a really unfortunate fact for Labour to face up to.

“Their leadership here has seen millions in public money wasted. Richard is absolutely the person to turn things around.”

The Lib Dems are also looking to take a series of council seats off Labour in south Liverpool.

The Lib Dem’s position in Liverpool deteriorated rapidly after Labour first gained control of the council just over a decade ago, with their number of seats on the 90 member council plunging into the single figures.

They have since rebuilt under Mr Kemp and are looking to capitalise on the ongoing turmoil caused by the publication of Max Caller’s report into the council’s planning, highways and regeneration departments.

Mr Davey also criticised councillor Sarah Morton, who was suspended by Labour after offensive posts about Prince Phillip emerged in the aftermath of his death last week.

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She issued an apology after referring to the Duke of Edinburgh as a “fascist piece of inbred s***”.

He said: “I am completely staggered that a councillor has chosen this period to make really derogatory and offensive remarks at a period when people are mourning.

“I cannot understand why you would choose that time to make an attack like that and I’m really surprised that she is still a councillor.”

There are seven candidates standing for the Liverpool mayoralty and 168 candidates standing for election in Liverpool’s 30 council wards.

The mayoral election candidates are:

Joanne Marie Anderson, Labour Party

Roger Bannister, Trade Union and Socialist Coalition

Katie Maria Burgess, Conservative Party

Tom Crone, Green Party

Richard Kemp, Liberal Democrat

Steve Radford, Liberal Party

Stephen Barry Loy Yip, Independent