In a letter to the “Echo”, Mayor Anderson states unequivocally that it is not the business of the council to get involved between private companies. For once, I find myself in agreement with him on this issue, but with one caveat. That is, that what he says and what he does are entirely different -even contradictory – matters. On the basis of his letter, it is difficult to tell whether his odd take is down to stupidity, incompetence, or both. After all, this is the man who has regularly paraded himself as an entrepreneur and a facilitator, passing smoothly between the public and the private sectors.
There is no better example of his confusion than his eager involvement in the proposed new Everton Football Cub stadium. Essentially, this is a private sector deal between EFC and Peel, both private companies. That is, until the mayor plonked himself in the middle, offering to facilitate cheap finance for the project with the Liverpool council-tax payer carrying the risk. He needs to decide once and for all where his priorities lie – as mayor, having consolidated extraordinary powers within his role, this is no small matter.
If the Bramley Moore stadium is a goer, it is reasonable for LCC and the Combined Authority to see how they might help the project with ancillary works, like road access. Any support must be within the existing parameters within which those two bodies operate, and in accord with other demands and priorities. It is neither reasonable nor responsible for LCC to be placed as the fulcrum for such a private sector project if there are more pressing demands facing the local public sector.
This issue arises as the BBC’s “Panorama” programme goes to air on Wednesday. It will be raising the sorry state of failed developments within Liverpool and elsewhere; and, remember, what happens in Liverpool reverberates across the city-region as a whole. However, I suggest a note of caution. I believe the programme’s prime target is the Tory notion of a Northern Powerhouse. Looking at the scam artists who have been at work in Liverpool is only a part of their brief. That is sad for us as Liverpool seems to have suffered far worse than elsewhere at the hands of the crooks behind the massive frauds involved – perhaps as much as ninety million pounds! – and this raises more questions.
For example, why is it that the scale of developer dereliction is greater in Liverpool than elsewhere? Why are the fraudsters responsible so blatant and seemingly confident here, in their repeated efforts to fleece gullible people with Liverpool- based scams? What action has been taken by Merseyside Police and the district auditor to look into these matters? Why has the local media been so reluctant to publicise the sorry state of affairs which passes for governance relating to planning, development and regeneration within the city?
Mayor Anderson knows full well that the council has responsibilities in these areas of fraud. LCC freeholds are involved, and the council has dealt repeatedly with serial scammers who pose as legitimate developers. He knows that due diligence ought to be exercised, to ensure that the council is dealing with fit and proper persons. Instead, LCC has given a nod and a wink to companies bought off the shelf, with no track record, and run by people with records of bankruptcy and criminality.
I have said it before, perhaps more in hope than expectation. There will come a point when the appropriate authorities (flawed as they may be) will have no choice but to take action and intervene in the management of the city of Liverpool. It might be the hitherto ineffectual district auditor, the police, or even central government, but it will happen. When it does, mealy-mouthed excuses and Pontius Pilate-like prevarication, will cut no ice. Personally, I believe that the sooner that day arrives, the better.