The year 2017 flickered out on a sour note for Liverpool City Council. The courts had found against them in an action brought over the disastrous New Chinatown debacle. All hoped for a happier 2018, only to be disappointed at the outset by the ACC car park fire. Only time will tell if questions on outdated building regulations – specifically, a requirement for sprinkler systems in such public facilities – will be positively answered.
Yet already there appears to be the potential for possible problems for the council. As the owners of the car park, there will be a huge cost involved in its demolition and replacement. Will insurance cover this? In addition, the lawyers seem to be circling – who knows what they will come up with. Such are the perils which face large organisations in times like these. We can only wait and watch.
However, as the ACC is owned by Liverpool City Council, I checked over the company. It gave me an interesting insight into the way in which major public projects are run, and by whom. I began by looking at who sat on the board of directors. These total eight in number.
The chairman of the board is Mr Ian Ayre, a familiar name to football fans across the city-region. Mr Ayre resigned as chief executive of Liverpool FC on the 24th of February last. Five weeks later, he took up the role of director – and chairman – of ACC on April 1st. Curiously, he gave Companies House his place of residence as “Germany”. Alongside him on the board are Mr Ged Fitzgerald, suspended chief executive of Liverpool City Council, and the former chief executive of Lancashire County Council, Mr Phil Halsall. Both of these gentlemen are currently on police bail, facing charges of conspiracy and intimidation.
Of course, there is no show without Punch – Mayor Anderson has a seat on the board, along with Councillor Wendy Simon. The composition of the board is completed by the ACC’s chief executive, Mr Robert Prattey, and two “professional” directors, Mr Gerald Andrews and Mr Gregg Stott. Bear in mind that all companies of this nature require a board to run it. It is standard practice to split representation on it between the public and the private sectors. It is, after all, a substantial commercial enterprise.
In its annual report for 2017 filed with Companies House, ACC listed an annual turnover of £25.8 million, although a loss for the year of £582,000 was recorded. Like many financial reports, that of the ACC bamboozled an accounting ignoramus like myself. I suspect that there are many who, like me, come over all faint when considering such documentation – in this case, 42 pages long. So I look to the professional auditors for their approval or otherwise. In this case, they are Grant Thornton, who are also the district auditors for LCC amongst other councils and public bodies on Merseyside.
I did manage to pick out two very interesting entries – interesting to those who value “transparency and accountability”. The first of these was listed as “directors’ emoluments”- that is, wages to you and me. For 2017, they added up to a glorious total of £521,847. Before you gag, note that £264,224 of this went to “the highest paid director”. Who this is, we are not told; but, whoever it was, also picked up £23,858 in pension contributions.
Once the highest paid director is taken out of the equation, we are still left with an average “emolument” for each of the remaining directors, of about £36,800.It is hard to believe that this is actually the case, but that is what the published figures say. Indeed, further on in the report, it is noted that £1,662,777 was paid to “key management personnel”. The ACC promotional video lists eighteen people as senior managers in the chief executive’s team. Are these the recipients of this magnificent largesse? If so, it would average out at £92,390 per head.
There are not many on Merseyside making such money, particularly with an employer like the ACC reporting a loss. Can anyone out there enlighten the rest of us on this phenomenon?