Council seeks to Suppress Damning Report on EFC Deal

Bramley Moore

Let us all see the CIPFA report which the taxpayers of Liverpool have paid for so that we can all see the risks that this eminent organisation thinks should be addressed

I believe that Liverpool Council is deliberately suppressing a report which raises great concerns about the viability of the EFC move to Bramley Moore Dock.  I know that before she left our former Director of Resources commissioned a report from CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting) about the issues raised by the potential deal. CIPFA is the source of all knowledge when it comes to council finance and indeed much of what we do and what the government allows us to do is undertaken on CIPFA rules or CIPFA guidelines.

When I asked the Council a direct question about the existence of a report my question was avoided. It has taken considerable effort by the Liverpool Echo to get the Council to even acknowledge that the report existed.

However, CIPFA, has confirmed that the report exists and that it has raised a series of questions that need to be addressed. I know that this report raises serious concerns and that professional opinion is looking askance at both our current level of borrowing and the future level of borrowing were the EFC deal to go ahead. But the report from CIPFA raises serious questions of principle about the deal itself and the role of any public sector body in entering such complex private sector led agreements.

This is what CIPFA officially told me:

Message from Rob Whiteman – Chief Executive of CIPFA received at 10.05 on 1st March 2018

Dear Cllr Kemp,

Thank you for your request.

I would advise that you speak to Ms Hellard, whom I understand from press reports remains your s151 Officer until 11th March, about the detail of the report she commissioned from us.

However, I am happy to confirm that we did carry out a review of the risks of the scheme you cite.

We were not asked to make recommendations on whether or not it proceeds but did raise a number of issues for the Council to consider. 

If you are comfortable, our usual policy is to let clients know when we receive queries on their commissions to assist communication. 

With best regards,

Yours sincerely,

Rob

Of course, in reality, Becky Hellard has gone. That is why I asked the interim Director of Resources for the report; a request which he avoided. We must also now question whether or not the effective departure of our highly respected Director of Resources, Becky Hellard, days after the report arrived at the council is a coincidence or has a sinister implication.

Almost everyone I have spoken to, included die-hard Evertonians, agrees that there are four questions to be asked which the Council seems to be avoiding.

  1. Why is one of the richest men in the world not paying for this himself? He can borrow money almost as cheaply as us and certainly the difference would be less than the amount that Everton will pay Liverpool.
  2. The owner of Everton did not become one of the richest men in the World by giving money away. Why is he doing it in this case?
  3. The cost of building the stadium has already gone up from £300,000,000 to £500,000,000 in 18 months but we still have had not had a digger put in the ground to see what’s underneath the surface. How much will this really cost and who will take the risks of the extra costs that we all know will arise? There is already a difference of opinion between the Council and Everton about the Council’s contribution.
  4. How much are all the things around the stadium going to cost and who is going to pay for them? The costs of the external infrastructure; new roads; new water, sewage, gas and electricity supplies.

 

Mayor Anderson has already contradicted himself on the way ahead. He has told the press that the Council will put £280,000,000 into the deal but that there will be full scrutiny of the deal. Full scrutiny must include the right of the Council to reject the deal when it sees all the figures and risks. This is an option that the Mayor has apparently ruled out.

This is without a doubt the single biggest commercial venture that the Council will ever undertake. It is vital that all Councillors and the taxpayers of Liverpool who will underwrite this debt must know all the facts about it. That is why I challenge the Council to come clean and publish the CIPFA report so that we can have a full and frank debate about a project which will have a major impact on the Council’s finances.

 

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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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10 Responses to Council seeks to Suppress Damning Report on EFC Deal

  1. Catherine Byrne says:

    Very productive digging.
    Among the many questions this raises, the fact that the Council “avoided” a question from an elected member is particularly alarming, as it sounds as if they were getting ready to deny the report itself existed (as I suspect they would have done so if you hadn’t confirmed its existence through CIPFA). They put a lot of time and effort into doing this over the Ernst & Young report on the LDL deal (unsuccessfully as you know).They clearly haven’t learned their lesson.
    The other worrying thing is the specific Council statement that ““It is important to note CIPFA is one of a series of outside experts that we consult as we carry out our due diligence. This is perfectly usual in a scheme of such significance”. That sounds familiar too, and seems to indicate they’re getting ready to ignore CIPFA’s concerns because other experts they consulted think it’s a great idea.
    Either way, it is worth pursuing this, and requesting a copy of the report. The commercial confidentiality argument is an excuse – they can redact things that really are commercially confidential, and I believe that is what the Information Commissioner would ask them to do. CIPFA’s concerns will not (all) be about the commercial aspects, but about the appropriateness of a public body entering into what may well be a risky venture. Nothing commercial about that.

  2. r lockhart says:

    Can this not be refered to the department for Culture Media and Sport and the Communites department for their investigation.Where are the local Labour MPs as it’s their constituants who are going to end up paying for this folley.

  3. Paul says:

    Quite simply the National audit office should investigated this without delay the erroneous figure of of the Seven million a year must be debunked and scrutinised by mathematical finance formulas
    And how much offshore tax avoidance will take place

    • Catherine Byrne says:

      Local government affairs are not within the remit of the National Audit Office. The body that would have been appropriate was the Audit Commission, but that was abolished after the 2010 election. The only thing left is District Audit – and that is no longer independent, but farmed out to the private sector. In Liverpool, that’s Grant Thornton.

  4. Stuart Walsh says:

    The matter is commercially sensitive at present and it’s wrong to try and use this for political gain.Of course it’s correct procedure for the council to commission such a report and of course this will raise some questions. Wait until it’s released before making valid comments instead of scare mongering.

    • richardkemp says:

      No it is not commercially sensitive because the report has already been given to Everton. They are ‘on the other side’ of the discussions and would be the ones who we would want to keep the details from. The City Solicitor has confirmed this. If Everton can have the report why not councillors who represent the taxpayers of Liverpool

      • Stuart Walsh says:

        The report is commercially sensitive between the two parties involved at this present time and must disagree with your opening remark. There is a time when all will come into the open and that is the time to direct comment, either for or against, instead of just going for sound bites as you are at present.

    • Catherine Byrne says:

      Apart from the fact that much of this report is clearly about aspects that are not commercial, there is supposed to be proper scrutiny of what officers are doing in our name and on our behalf. Here the only elected person who knows anything about this is the mayor. I don’t think Richard is necessarily suggesting that the whole thing be made public, at this stage, but merely that it should be shared with him, as a senior councillor and leader of the opposition, as well as with whatever cross-party scrutiny bodies we have left. The fact that this isn’t happening is not acceptable, and deeply worrying. Pointing this out is not scare-mongering.

  5. Paul says:

    Money laundering off shore tax avoidance etc etc

  6. Paul says:

    Quite simply Anderson is after a seat on the the board
    Rejected for metro mayor rejected for Walton mp
    On Billion pounds

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