Culpable Ignorance

In September, 2016, I blogged about the worrying connections between construction firms PHD1 and Bilt. The former was seen as the baby of a man named Peter McInnes. When police named him in court as a drugs money launderer, he quickly wound up the PHD1 group of companies, replacing it with a new group – Bilt.

McInnes’ sister – a director of PHD1 – was one of the two directors of Bilt when it was set up. Owing over £11 million to its creditors, all of PHD1’s employees were transferred to Bilt. Its offices remained the same, and, to all intents and purposes, Bilt was being directed by Peter McInnes from his new base in Dubai. At the time, the trigger for the demise of PHD1 was believed to be the publicity surrounding the court case at which Peter McInnes was named by police.

Still, it seemed as if business was to carry on seamlessly, including major projects in Liverpool like those at Pall Mall and at Chinatown. Note that at that time, the construction trade press described North Point Global (NPG) – the developers for these projects – as “the development arm” of PHD1. NPG was in the news for a different reason last summer when a listed building on a prestigious site it was developing in Woolton, was mysteriously subjected to arson.

Now the Bilt group has gone the same way as PHD1, after just over 12 months in existence, leaving projects at Pall Mall, Chinatown, and the Baltic Triangle in limbo. It remains to be seen who is owed what! NPG said that Bilt was replaced as contractor on the sites last December, due to Bilt’s lack of progress, “investors’ concern”, and suppliers not being paid. Six months on, they tell the website “Construction Enquirer” that they are (still!) “talking to several contractors” about completing the work. Favourite to pick up some of the pieces is Manchester-based Your Housing Group (YHG).

How, you might ask, does Liverpool City Council allow dodgy people with their dodgy firms (Bilt was only formed in February 2016; NPG was formed in April 2015) to get hold of such massive projects, worth hundreds of millions of pounds? What due diligence is done by either them, or by risible district auditors Grant Thornton? How is it possible that the authorities in this city are either incapable or unwilling to recognise what they are dealing with?

We must look to the city’s mayor. He is fond of reminding us of his authority, and how nothing happens within the council without his imprimatur (unless another cock up surfaces, whereupon some other mug is delegated to explain the inexplicable). He is also keen to tell us he has been elected for a four year term. Why, then, is he so anxious to secure a parliamentary nomination in Walton if and when it becomes available?

The city faces bankruptcy in 2018, he has insisted, and perhaps he does not wish to be around the council at that time. I would have thought the opposite – he should be focussed on clearing up the mess of the PHD1/Bilt/NPG debacle and others like it, given his fondness for developers, rather than seeking a parliamentary bolt-hole. This is quite apart from his unsuitability for the role of Member of Parliament. Believe me, having been privileged for nineteen years to be the proud representative for Walton, I can think of no-one less suited to that role than Mayor Anderson. Instead of a Westminster ego trip, he should be concentrating on cutting out the spin, and cleaning up the council’s act!

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