Like many people, I have often asked myself whether the many scams being perpetrated within the public domain on Merseyside, are down to avarice on the part of some of those in positions of authority, or simply ineptitude coupled with sublime ignorance. The recent farce involving the appointment to a senior post in Wirral Council, of an individual who only days prior had invoiced the council for large sums on behalf of a dissolved company, is an example of what might fall under either explanation. If it was not for the tendency of councils to be so secretive, many such scandals might be nipped in the bud. Transparency can make such a difference.
Look at Knowsley and the Kirkby town centre debacle. The preferred developer is a long established company, St.Modwen. However, the latter have failed to date to progress the long-overdue redevelopment of the town centre. My information is that the company have tried to off-load the job back on to Knowsley council. The council has, in turn, imposed a blackout on any information for Kirkby residents, undoubtedly with an eye on this week’s elections. I cannot see how an embargo on meaningful information to those residents will do anything for the council’s standing in the town. Thursday may indicate just how disgruntled Kirkby electors are.
Meanwhile, councillors elsewhere also face the electorate across the city-region. Like their colleagues in the Wirral, they have all seen “development” and green space emerge as a major issue. The same vexed question led, last time out, to the election of an independent in Rainhill (St Helens). Will it raise its head again? In Sefton, there are a range of proposed housing projects which have aroused the ire of electors. Even normally placid Halton has a stake in this widespread challenge, given the activity of pressure group “Save Oglet Shore”.
Naturally, Liverpool is the daddy of them all. The recent forced relocation of residents of Fox Street Village, is just the latest in a long line of failed projects, organised and criminal rip-offs, and blatant compromise of health and safety – all in the name of “development”, and all approved by the city council. Bear in mind that the Mayor setup up a scrutiny panel last year, under the chairmanship of Cllr Jane Corbett, designed to get to the bottom of this succession of scandals which have besmirched the good name of the city and of the council. This panel has met at least five times, but there have been no minutes, reports or information emanating from them. Again, I understand that there is an election due, but this is nothing less than a disgraceful abdication of civic responsibility to the people of Liverpool.
It is not as if it is the only inquiry in the council which has maintained a Trappist silence. Cast your mind back to the controversial issues raised in relation to the match day parking facilities. This was what triggered the resignation of highly respected former council leader and Lord Mayor, Frank Prendergast, from the Labour group on the council. The Mayor also set up an inquiry, to be led by the city solicitor, into the affairs of two of the parking sites. The third – the biggest and most valuable (since leased to LFC, I believe) – was left unquestioned, for reasons one can only surmise. Once more, there has been no report back, nor an explanation for the omission of the Priory Road site from the inquiry. Is it any wonder that so many electors have such a jaundiced view of the Mayor and the council?
Meanwhile, the Echo says nothing – the three wise monkeys have nothing on our local comic. Online, it spouts about the major issues facing local politicians on Thursday. “Development” does not get a mention. I would suggest that the Echo looks at the latest manoeuvre involving Mr Kerry Tomlinson, a pivotal figure in the narrow circles of local “development”. One of his companies – Strand Plaza – is the freeholder to Mersey House on the Strand. That company has issued what are known as Section 5 notices to the leaseholders with properties in that building. The total asking price is £866,000. This is a legal requirement to give existing leaseholders first refusal on purchasing the freehold.
Meanwhile, it is worth noting that a London finance house – Amicus Finance – holds four charges against Mersey House whilst being itself in administration. Furthermore, Strand Plaza is way overdue in submitting to Companies House the legally required financial returns. I hope that I am wrong, but I wonder if I can see a perfect financial storm in the making.
If only Liverpool Council – and its cheerleaders at the Echo – got their act together, they just might provide a lead across the city-region in negating the image of cupidity and/or stupidity which has characterised so many local plans and activities in recent years.