Who runs the asylum?

A recent blog by Lib Dem Richard Kemp raised questions about the real ownership of Liverpool Airport, and the curious arrangements surrounding it. However, the blog does not really detail the baffling relationship between the Peel Group and Liverpool City Council, as exemplified by the airport.

In fact, there are at least three Liverpool airport companies – Liverpool Airport Ltd; Liverpool Airport Intermediate No.1 Ltd; and Liverpool Airport Property Holdings. The first company has as a director, Mr Robert Hough – senior Peel executive, former chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership, and close confidante of Mayor Anderson. The second company has Mayor Anderson himself on the board, where his familiar Ged Fitzgerald also sat until April 22nd of this year. The third company is blessed with the sagacity of councillors Ann O’Byrne and Malcolm Kennedy on the board.

Given that all three of these companies relate wholly and solely to Liverpool Airport, one might have imagined their business address as being at Speke, or, at least, in Liverpool. Not at all – they are all registered at the Peel headquarters in the Trafford Centre in Manchester. As with the Local Enterprise Partnership, it appears to be another case of an absentee landlord.

We should not be surprised at the opaque arrangements surrounding the airport. Peel have an incredibly complex organisational network, making it virtually impossible to keep tabs on them. Yet these arrangements, and the participation of senior council figures in them, help to frustrate objective scrutiny of the airport’s affairs. Given the council’s investment in it, this is unacceptable. Transparent it is definitely NOT!

The airport’s ownership’s administrative base in Manchester, reminds one of another lesser known local interest – the Chrysalis Fund. Ostensibly a pot of funding from the European Regional Development Fund, it is dedicated to regeneration on Merseyside and is scheduled to run until 2022. Its worth is said to be initially £30 million (Chrysalis management) to £39 million (the Local Enterprise Partnership). One thing is certain – this fund is also run from Manchester.

All contact numbers and its office, are down the other end of the M62. Given that its three active partners/administrators who actually run the fund, are Manchester-based, this is no shock. These private-sector companies are the Royal Bank of Canada, Igloo Regeneration, and Bilfinger GVA. I suppose that we should be grateful to have two LCR councillors on the board – Ann McLachlan of Wirral and Malcolm Kennedy of Liverpool. Or should we?

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