Liverpool – A council with no moral compass

Apparently, there are no problems around the failed sites like this one in Norfolk Street according to the Council. They haven’t spoken to local people and businesses.

I put down a series of written questions about our due diligence and partnership finding processes to the Audit & Governance Committee which met yesterday. Although I am far away the results were e-mailed to me and one questions came easily to my mind, “Are they having a laugh?”

According to the replies Liverpool has a strong due diligence process!! Really? In that case why have we entered into arrangements with a number of contractors in a number of fields. The promoter of the “Hope & Glory Festival” with a string of failed events behind him. The developers of a number of property schemes who a quick search on Google would reveal had a large number of questions against their name. In a slightly different way the appointment of an architect to lead the refurbishment of St Johns Market with no experience of markets. And the Council tells me that its processes are sound!

They see nothing wrong in continuing to continue to promote residential property developments despite the fact that the involvement of the Council has led many people to invest in developments where their money is almost certain to be lost. They also have refused a few weeks ago to conduct a full review of the property needs of our City at a time when more and more developments are having difficulty in letting or sales. I’m in the region at the moment and I can tell you that there is concern here at the way people have been led into these investments. The Council does not seem to understand that out here the involvement for a Mayor or Deputy Mayor is a guarantee of completion. That is the way the world works.

The Council thinks that all is well around failed sites. In Norfolk Street businesses are still complaining about the way that the road system is still not working effectively because of street blockages. In the City Centre Development local residents have complained to me about incursions onto the site with people stripping the assets and getting into all sorts of illicit activities.

They don’t think that they should be doing something for the failed investors. The legal action that they have launched and which they look almost certain to lose is not to recover assets for the investors but for the Council. Of course, the Council must try to get its money back but there is so much that they could be doing to seek justice for those who relied on Liverpool’s good name. Of course, we should try and assist those who have lost money by investing in our City

Anderson’s Labour Party are living in another World where nothing ever goes wrong or if it does, “It’s not our fault guv!” When St John’s Market went so badly wrong no politician took responsibility but an officer was suspended. They have not told me how much they have lost on the market refurbishment but I do know and will be revealing that soon. When developments go wrong if was always, “something that could not be foreseen and the Council always acted properly”.

Anderson and Co get away with it because they do not allow internal scrutiny. We have a series of select committees whose job is to receive a string of PowerPoint presentations but which lack the guts to ask difficult questions. Reports, no matter how half baked, are always approved with self-congratulation and a huge amount of crawling to “Iron Man Joe”.

Liverpool Council is corrupt. Not in a legal sense and not in a financial sense. I don’t think anyone is on the make or on the take. No-one is benefiting from the dysfunctional nature of the Council, but we are all losing as a result of its blundering. Labour continue to remind us that we have lost lots of money form the Government. True, but that is no reason to go squandering our remaining cash on quixotic ventures.

Liverpool needs a root and branch change in its political and managerial structures. We are paying a lot of money for a former Chief Executive to do the work that should be being done by our suspended Chief Executive. He is supposed to be reviewing the structure of the Council but in reality, may just be involved in preparing for the Peer Review which the Mayor has recently commissioned. Let’s hope that he is strong enough to cut through the garbage and help us develop strong systems that will enable us to overcome the many internal problems that we have.

In the meantime, we have the Council’s own Pravda up and running. You may have received a copy of City magazine., This magazine was stopped in 2012 and has been reintroduced without any public notice or report to committee. A 32-page paper costs a lot to prepare, print and distribute. That’s the council’s answer to its problems. Pretend that they don’t exist and talk only about the good things. Instead of the Labour paying out its own cash to tell you their version of the truth they are using taxpayers’ cash your cash.

Here are the questions and answers from last night’s meeting. As always, I reproduce them in full and allow you, the people of Liverpool, to come to your own conclusions.

  1. Would you agree that the behaviour of the Council is a major cause for concern and that we need to consider carefully our concept and practice of due diligence in these sites whether we had a controlling interest because of land ownership or by helping to sell them?

The Council has strong due diligence processes in place with regard to land and property transactions, based around knowing the customer in terms of the people we deal with, their background and source of finance. In all cases, any money received from land and property transactions is transferred to the Council from Law Society registered firms of solicitors who have complied with their own statutory Money Laundering procedures in relation to their clients before undertaking a transaction with the Council.

  1. Will you agree to have an outside review of our due diligence practices to check if we have the right experience, competence and attitude ‘in-house’?

As part of the Council’s commitment to excellence and best practice, our due diligence procedures are periodically reviewed across regeneration, finance, legal and audit departments, each bringing current best practice into our procedures.

  1. Would you agree that the council should participate in no more marketing exercises for any residential property in Liverpool until these issues of North Point Global and similar developers have been resolved and internal mechanisms have been strengthened?

We should not delay regeneration and therefore potential growth in the City’s economy. The issue with NPG is being dealt with through legal procedures. Across the city there is circa £1.2 billion of development activity being delivered successfully and £10 billion pipeline of future development. Despite the Councillor’s best efforts, this Council will not put the future of the city at risk for narrow, partisan political gain

  1. 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?

The Council has already taken immediate and proactive legal action against China Town Development Company Limited, as the developer is not performing nor complying with its contractual obligations. The Council has been clear with regard to our objectives in taking this action, which is to have the development delivered for the existing investors.

  1. Should the council make an immediate review of the failed sites, such as in Norfolk Street, and try to minimise the distortion of roads etc caused by what was supposed to be ‘Work in Progress’.

As with everything the Councillor has suggested, the Council has already acted, swiftly and in keeping with our duty, and has reviewed the Norfolk Street Project. There is no undue distortion of the road network given the alternative routes that are readily available and open to traffic in the area.

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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1 Response to Liverpool – A council with no moral compass

  1. Pingback: Liverpool – A council with no moral compass — But what does Richard Kemp think? | L8in

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