Roosting Chickens

It is over two years since I raised the issue of the mysterious missing receipts from the car park established on the site of the old Anfield Comprehensive school. No-one at the council has, as yet, satisfactorily accounted for these – all enquiries hit a brick wall. Now the matter has resurfaced, involving some familiar council names and their non-councillor familiars. Moreover, it has emerged that a similar question has arisen concerning receipts from another car park, on the site of the old Major Lester school.

These match-day earners were supposed to provide a significant boost to those communities around the football grounds in desperate need of investment. However, there is no evidence that these extremely remunerative enterprises have returned but a fraction of their income to those communities. The question is: where did the money from these council owned properties go?

This entirely unsatisfactory situation appears to have been a major factor in the departure of Cllr. Frank Prendergast from the Liverpool Council Labour Group. He is a long-standing and vastly experienced elected member, who has served as council leader and as Lord Mayor. He was, until recently, the chairman of the council’s Audit and Governance Committee. In that role, he has been asking searching questions for a long time about these car parks without getting the responses which they merited. So persistent was he that he was apparently seen as a danger to the cabal of senior councillors embroiled in covering up whatever occurred with regard to these matters. This resulted in him being ousted as the committee chairman.

Another senior councillor – Dave Hanratty – who is also chairman of the city-region’s Fire and Rescue Authority, is about to relinquish his council seat at the forthcoming May elections. Whilst he has not (yet) been forced out of his role, as Cllr. Prendergast was, he must have concluded that the tone and direction of the city council was no longer for him.

These are the obvious signs of the pressure building up within the ruling Labour group, with senior council officers either suspended or leaving, and ever more power being vested in the erratic control of an increasingly despotic mayor and his small group of cronies. It is little wonder that former mayoral sidekick, developer Lawrence Kenwright, should declare political intentions this week. He presumably sees the council as a huge opportunity for a man of his inclinations.

Speaking of developers, another springs to mind – Elliot Lawless – given the Elliot Group signs defacing much of the city centre. Less than a year ago, one of his companies went into liquidation, leaving behind mega debts. Still, when you can claim thirty directorships, I suppose that is small potatoes. Merseyside cannot have too many thirty year old multi-millionaires.

Meanwhile, moving into the realm of billionaires, a thought occurred to me concerning the proposed Bramley Moore stadium. When LFC were planning a new stadium, councillors were warned in no uncertain terms by the then District Auditor not to discuss the issue, even in closed party meetings. It gave rise, they were told, to a conflict of interest if they were an LFC season ticket holder, or even a supporter.

Now we have a mayor who is a rabid supporter and season-ticket holder for EFC, publicly and repeatedly pushing for a financial deal to assist EFC (and Peel) in their ambitions. He also appears to be re-organising regeneration and planning priorities in order to fit in with his own predilections on the matter. Given that he has embraced de facto the roles of chief executive, finance director AND head of planning, it strikes me that there is something of a conflict of interest for him and his duties to the council tax payers of the city.

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