Former Labour Minister accuses Liverpool Council of “Institutional Incompetence”

Kilfoyle2

When a former Labour Minister with a vast experience of Liverpool politics makes comments like this in a national newspaper we should all listen to him

Without a doubt the most experience Labour politician in Liverpool is Peter Kilfoyle. He was the Labour ‘Witch-finder General’ who worked to defeat Militant was an MP for 17 years and is a former Minister. When he tells us that the Council is institutionally incompetent and gives more reason for concern than in the past 50 years the people of Liverpool should listen to him. That’s what you would expect me or any other Lib Dem to say – and we do. But this is the reaction to what is happening to someone deep within the Labour tribe. It must be incredibly difficult for someone like him to come out and use such terms about his own Party but he does and we should all take heed.

At the last council meeting I posed a series of questions. Here are the answers to just 4 of them. These are not the responses from a council leadership who are open and transparent. They show nothing but contempt for the people who fund everything in this City – YOU!

  • We must at some stage, legally be told the amount that the Council will get for the sale of part of Calderstones Park to Redrow. Why not tell us now?
  • We must at some stage legally be told the costs of the relocation of the Model Railway, Beechley Riding and Calder Kids. Why not tell us now so we can really work out whether or not it has all been worthwhile in cash terms?
  • Why not admit that we should have checked up on the companies that we were selling land to and which now us more than £1,000,000 and have left us trying to deal with derelict sites across the City?
  • Instead of answering questions that were not posed why not admit that the Council has already lost £1 million+ in rent and service charges in St John’s Market and will have to spend at least £500,000 putting right the botched improvements to try and save the market from extinction?

Peter Kilfoyle is right about ‘Institutional Incompetence’. This is not, however, the incompetence of officers but a comprehensive failure of the political leadership to bring in the right people; apply the necessary political oversight; and ensure that systems are in place for the council to adequately discharge its responsibilities.

As so many people tell us – “Roll on the next local elections in May”,  when we can elect a good number of Lib Dem councillors who will join our current ‘Fab 4’ to put things right and hold Joe Anderson’s Labour Party to account.

 

Question 1 To the Mayor of Liverpool

Given that the price that Redrow will pay for the land at Harthill Road must become a matter of public record when it is published on the Land Registry will the Deputy Mayor reveal how much the Council are asking for the land?

Answer

Negotiations are still continuing regarding the sale price for the land. As such the proposed land value figure received from Redrow remains commercially sensitive.

Question 2 To the Deputy Mayor of Liverpool

Given that the Council is not applying for grants towards the relocation of the Model Railway; Beechley Riding Stables or Calder Kids and that therefore the capital to meet these costs must come from the Council’s own capital programme, which must be a matter of public record, would the Deputy Mayor please indicate what budget has been allowed for the relocation of the model railway given that work is due to start soon on this site.  Will she also give the indicative amounts for the relocation of the other two units?

Answer

Details of the estimated cost of relocating Beechley were reported to Cabinet in 2015 and are included in the capital programme, which is in the public domain.

As has been frequently stated, the purpose of the Harthill scheme is to provide a new future for the riding stables and Calder Kids.  Both require new facilities (in the case of Calder Kids, desperately) but the austerity measures brought in by Lib Dems in Government have removed Liverpool City Council’s ability to fund new facilities without using the land receipt from Redrow.

The relocation costs for the three individual projects will however remain confidential until the works have been individually tendered, but the overall cost of the scheme will contained in a Cabinet report to be presented in due course.

Question 3 To the Mayor of Liverpool

Marketing of China Town and other sites

  1. Would you agree that the behaviour and actions of the Council are a major cause for concern and that we need to consider carefully our concepts and practice of due diligence in these sites whether we had a controlling interest because of land ownership or by helping to sell them?
  2. Would you agree that the council should participate in no more marketing exercises for any property in Liverpool until these issues of North Point Global have been resolved and internal mechanisms have been strengthened?
  3. Would you agree that the Council has a moral duty to respond to the people in these failed investments and in assisting them in coming together to try and get their money back all or in part?
  4. Would the council immediately take what remediation activity as is possible around the failed sites, especially in terms of partial road closures, to return communities to as close to normal as possible given that it might take years to resolve these issues.

Answer

  1. The City Council has no legal relationship with North Point Global (NPG) in relation to the Pall Mall site. The Pall Mall scheme is a private developer-led project and the site was acquired by NPG from a third party by way of a commercial transaction. The City Council has no land interests on the site and its involvement in this project has merely been one of granting planning consent for the scheme, which was approved by Planning Committee.

On this basis the only due diligence that the City Council has been required to undertake is to ensure that all information needed to determine the planning application has been submitted and determined in accordance with the City Council’s planning policy framework.

  1. The Council does not engage in direct selling or marketing to investors of any schemes, other than those wholly owned and run by LCC. The Council does however, promote schemes across the city as part of its job of increasing investment and growing the economy. As stated already the sale of the Pall Mall site was a private transaction between two private parties, therefore the Council procedures would have had no impact on the transaction.
  2. The Council has worked closely with all investors that have contacted the Council, even those that have invested in the Pall Mall and Baltic House schemes where the Council has no involvement. Indeed officers met with The Pall Mall Action Group when it was over from Hong Kong to discuss the Council’s position. Both

Pall Mall and Baltic are private developer-led schemes and investors will have entered into a commercial transaction with NPG or a related company and its agent and it will have been the investor’s individual responsibility to undertake its own due diligence around the risk to their investment.  Investors should also contact the agent who sold the scheme.  For example, the following is from Aspen Woolf’s website (Aspen Woolf sold New Chinatown investments in the UK):

How can I be sure my money is safe?

All property sales within the UK must go through a UK solicitor. Your solicitor won’t ask you to pay a deposit unless they have thoroughly checked your sales agreement. Most of the developments Aspen Woolf deal with have a first charge for our client’s financial security, safety and benefit. This is above and beyond what is normally required. We also spend considerable time conducting due diligence on not just the developer, but the directors of the development, ensuring the development has full planning approval.

That said, the Council is gravely concerned about the potential for reputational damage that the NPG situation has brought on the city and the Council continues to put pressure on NPG to dispose of the Pall Mall and Baltic House sites to proven developers who could build out the schemes. The original Tribeca scheme with Urban Splash, under the Lib Dems, had stalled for 10 years before the existing legal agreements and rights to new legal agreements were acquired by Chinatown Development Company Limited in 2015 and 2016. The Council took decisive and speedy action when it believed the China Town scheme was stalling indefinitely. The action taken by the Council could result in the assets of the developer being placed in the hands of a liquidator and if this occurs the Council would work with the liquidator in the disposal of the site to a developer who will deliver a scheme. The City Council are also retaining the details of developers who approach the Council with an interest in the China Town site and will make this list of interested parties available to the liquidator should matters proceed this way. The Council is determined to be proactive and try to unlock these schemes in the city, as opposed to the track record of the previous administration, where the Tribeca site was stalled for a number of years.

  1. Officers are presently reviewing the position with the various highway closures, temporary road closures and site licences, with a view to terminating these where they have lapsed and not renewing when they become time expired. However notices will only be terminated as long as by doing so it does not present a health and safety issue for the public, which has to be City Council’s primary concern.

Finally, instead of taking the opportunity to smear the city, the Lib Dems should help the city.  Liverpool remains a good place to invest, with over £11bn of schemes being developed.  The city acted decisively in the case of New Chinatown with concerted efforts to take action to ultimately, get the scheme back on track. The public would expect that all political representatives will do their best to grow the economy and promote Liverpool, rather than talking the city down.

Question 4. To the Mayor of Liverpool         

St Johns Market

Would the Mayor please inform us:

  1. What the income estimate from Market traders was for the financial year 2016/17 and what the actual income was?
  2. What the income estimate for traders was for the current financial year and what the current estimate is?

Answer

The Council is not privy to information regarding the income of market traders within St John’s Market either individually or as a collective.

Liverpool City Council does not employ the market traders, who are mostly either self-employed or own their own business, and therefore does not have access to their personal financial trading details

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. . Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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