Mayor Anderson is extremely close to a tight group of “developers”, none more so than Lawrence Kenwright. Mr. Kenwright, you might recall, bought Millennium House at a knock down (but unrevealed) price from the mayor. This was despite the fact that Mr. Kenwright had been banned as a company director, after an insolvency left debts of almost £2 million.
Stephen Doughty M.P. raised Mr. Kenwright and his financial arrangements in Parliament recently, in relation to another foggy deal, this time involving Cardiff council (https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2016-04-20/debates/16042033000002/CardiffCoalExchange#contribution-16042033000225). In both cases, one would have expected “due diligence” to have been exercised on the sales. Interestingly, accountants Grant Thornton did a “basic” check (whatever that means) on the Cardiff deal. The same firm are district auditors to Liverpool Council, but it is not clear what checks, if any, were done on the Millennium House sale.
It also transpires that in the past year, 545 contracts have been entered into by Liverpool Council without going out to tender. That is, over ten contracts every week without any way of members of the public being able to assess whether, at the very least, there is value-for-money in the way in which their council tax is spent.
Similarly, for small local businesses, there appears to be little information upon which they can assess their chances of doing business with the council. I well recall urging the council twenty years ago, to break open what were cosy cartels who divided work between themselves with the council’s blessings. The current lack of transparency in much the council’s dealing under Mayor Anderson, suggest the possibility of a return to the bad old days.
This was when “Private Eye” devoted a regular feature to a region they characterised as “Murkeyside”. Of course, they were referring principally to Liverpool and its too often grubby political manoeuvring. The question before us all now is whether we wish to see that lack of transparency and accountability spread once again across the whole of the city-region, or whether the new metro mayoralty will truly be a fresh start.