These are unique times, given the coronavirus pandemic and its incredibly far-reaching effects. From the Prime Minister and the royal family, down to the most humble of households, this insidious infection has found its way into families across the nation. It has struck all parts of our national life. I cannot speak of all of the boroughs within the city-region, but with regard to Liverpool City Council, there have been a number of signs of the effects of the virus on the Liverpool borough. Council tips are closed and the green bin service has been suspended. The council’s telephone service centre appears to be totally overloaded. Such is the price that one branch of local government in our region is paying – a further diminution of services with all which that entails.
This is as nothing when compared to the effects being suffered by individuals and families hit directly by this deadly disease. Nor does it help those who have lost their income because of the lock down decreed in order to prevent the spread of the virus; or those unable to access a regular food supply due to panic buying. I was, therefore, all the more surprised to receive one of Mayor Anderson’s public relations sheets, put out in the name of the Labour Party – an “update” as he describes it.
In this email, with exquisite timing, the mayor says: “Like others, I have been concerned by the sight of many building sites where construction continues, despite Government advice”. I mention timing as today, in a rare excursion into investigative journalism, the “Echo” has published an account of developer (and friend of Mayor Anderson) Elliot Lawless, and his activities with his Seychelles-registered company, the Equity Group.
The mayor seeing all these busy building sites around the city suggests that he has been out and about during the lockdown. Yet by his own admission in his email, he is one of those who should be staying at home. Is this a case of “do as I say, not as I do “; or is he so indispensable, that he must go down to the Cunard Building to do I know not what? More priceless is the “Echo” report on Lawless. As his property and development empire has sunk into the mire, many building workers have lost their jobs, and sub-contractors have been crippled. Intriguingly, the “Echo” hints at a conspiracy when it says: “Mr Lawless launched the Equity Group at the request of a business associate around six years ago”. It does not take a genius to work out through Companies House records who this “business associate” might be. I would put my money on a seasoned property developer well-known to police and local government, a man who likes to keep a low profile.
I would have thought that, notwithstanding concerns about coronavirus and men busily at work, we might anyway have heard from the mayor about men out of work and out of pocket due to the incredible cost and number of property scams in the city. Unlike the virus, this is something which he can do something about on a large scale. For example, in recent days, one of the charlatans involved in the New Chinatown fiasco – Mr David Choules – has been banned as a director for seven years. When will the mayor have something to say on these matters? Although coronavirus has pulled all attention its way, government carries on, including local government (as well as criminal activity!). At some point, the Liverpool mayor/council must make a full declaration about the huge reputational damage continuously being inflicted on the city and its wider hinterland.
Incidentally, I have been asked whether councillors across the city-region are in total shutdown. If not, who is monitoring council activities? Who makes the decisions? If they meet, what form do meetings take? Are they video-conferencing, or meeting two metres apart from each other? Are they still holding surgeries? Are they being penalised financially under the current coronavirus regime? Many electors would be keen to know.