The Liverpool City Council soap opera would be absorbing if it was not so sad for the city. After the arrest of developer Elliot Lawless and City Director of Regeneration Nick Kavanagh, we are now being told that Lawless expects to retrieve the near £350,000 that the police had confiscated. It reminds me of the case of a well-known underworld figure – Philly Glennon – who had buried £1million in his garden, only for the police to find it and confiscate it, only to eventually have to return it.
Hot on the heels of this “development story”, fresh questions are being raised concerning the site of the new police headquarters. The deal was presumably signed off by the Police Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, on the basis of due diligence. The significant piece of land involved in this proposal was owned by the North Liverpool Regeneration Company. Closely linked with this outfit are current councillors George Knibb and Barry Kushner, and former councillor and Hatton associate, John Nelson.
Ah, well, said I, what else is there to add? Then I thought of the disgraceful decision to hire out the Liverpool Arena for an international arms fair. There can be few more despicable occupations than trading in the tools of death and destruction, often to third world despots, for use against their own people. I never thought that I would witness a Labour council, no matter how cash strapped, welcoming these dreadful people to our city-region.
Make no mistake – it is down to the mayor and the city council who uses the arena. The Arena and Convention Centre Group (ACC) is wholly owned by the city council. It is well worth looking at the background to this very profitable company. I have in the past, but drew something of a blank about its details. Still, there is enough information available to give us an idea of yet another facet to the council which deserves close examination.
The ACC has a board of six directors – Robert Prattey (CEO); Faye Dyer (Deputy CEO); Max Steinberg (Commercial Director); Tony Reeves (LCC Chief Executive); Mayor Anderson; and Cllr Wendy Simon. Until last year, Steinberg had a major role in Anderson’s administration (I do not know if he still has a role), and now he chairs the board of this company. Joe has a habit of putting his confidantes into choice positions – do you remember Frank Hont’s pension of a new housing company for him to chair when the electorate kicked him out? I assume that Prattey, Dyer and Steinburg are all full-time employees of the ACC, and paid accordingly.
This is important when you look at the most recent official accounts, lodged with Companies House. These set out the “emoluments” paid to the six directors. They specify that the highest paid director was paid £266,120 last year, together with a pension top-up of £27,656. The total amount of “emoluments” paid to the directors totalled £501,493. Somebody is making good money, but exactly who, we are not told. We do not even know if these amounts are on top of salaries in the case of the three ACC employees.
However, there is another dimension to this. The Arena and Convention Centre Hotel is an entirely separate company with separate accounts. The same six people sit on its board of directors. Who gets paid what by which company is impossible to see. Last year, according to Companies House, it did not file “a directors’ report, statement of income and retained earnings, or the audit report”. Apparently, this is legal under the Companies Act, but I should point out that £224,626 was paid out to “key management personnel” as some kind of bonus. One wonders whether or not we are talking here of manager/directors. Demonstrating the Hotel’s generosity, pension contributions on behalf of their sixty five staff (a figure which includes the six directors!) were paid, totalling £31,944. Omit the directors and then do the maths: one board member gets £27,656 in pension contributions, whilst fifty nine workers get £31,944 between them at best. Where is the socialism there?
Naturally, I went to see what Mayor Anderson and Cllr Simon registered as interests in all this. The answer was nothing. Rather, Cllr Simon registered seven worthy directorships of charitable causes and the like, but Mayor Anderson has no interests which he feels merit inclusion on his register of interests. Companies House list five active directorships in his name, including the Liverpool Land Development Company. This is curious in so far as it has had thirty directors but Joe is the only one left standing. On another, Joe gives his occupation as a “social Inclusion manager“. I have never come across that one before!
One can only speculate on the webs woven, and the reasons for the failure to be fully transparent. At the very least, such a situation frustrates, and denies people their full rights of access to information about what is being done in their name, with their money, and by whom. At worst – well, make your own mind up.