To those of us who take an interest in civic affairs across the city-region, the recent spate of arrests linking local business personalities with senior council figures, comes as no surprise. The only question for most of us is why it has taken the police so long to act. This is more than can be said for the local rag – the Echo – where its resident clown prince, in true Trumpian style, seeks to credit himself and his colleagues for exposing issues which they have studiously ignored for literally years.
This is truly culpable on their part. The readership, dwindling although it may be, has been denied the true extent of the corrupt practices which have been dominant in Liverpool in recent years, as they have been left in the dark over calls for Mayor Anderson to go. Indeed, the unwary reader has had a rosy picture of everything which Mayor Anderson and his developer friends have done or said. So much which needed to be said has been airbrushed from the record. The recent case of the concern of local taxi drivers over an influx of “out of town” car hire drivers has been ignored. I am unaware of other than superficial coverage of the catalogue of complaints from stall holders in St. John’s Market. The true picture of the scams of developers has been skirted around. However, the recent arrests – covered extensively by national media – was obviously too big to ignore.
To recap – Merseyside Police is investigating city council activities, including property deals. Similarly, Lancashire Police remain deeply committed to Operation Sheridan, in which, among others, the former council chief executive and the mayor have been involved. There is yet to be an announcement on the case involving Liverpool Direct and the role of senior officers. Meanwhile, the Serious Fraud Office, the North West Serious Crime unit and Greater Manchester Police are all involved in the property scams which have proliferated in Liverpool, and have spread from here to Manchester and elsewhere. Now, I am told, local trade union figures are being pulled into the investigations. All of this during Mayor Anderson’s term of office.
Quite apart from this appalling record of alleged corruption and criminality, we should remind ourselves of the general inefficiency of the city council within its “Invest to Earn” policy. We were told that this is the way forward for a modern council; but its history in Liverpool says something else. That is, that people with no knowledge or experience of the pitfalls of investment programmes should not be let loose on the civic purse. It is akin to setting a first aider to conduct a brain operation. Let me remind you of a few examples.
Money has been invested in Peel’s airport despite it losing money. It ranks alongside Edinburgh Airport across all UK airports for unused, excess capacity. What will fill that gap? What about the absurd proposal to borrow hundreds of millions to lend to Everton FC? Do you recall the purchase of the Cunard Building for use as a passenger terminus for the proposed new cruise liner terminal? We can now add to these (and many others) the three new care centres, closed down after less than a year in use.
You may now wish to consider the council’s partnership with Robin Hood Electricity. This company has a similar partnership with Nottingham Council. After a report was published on their enterprise, the council leaders were profuse in their apologies for the venture’s performance. This was not surprising, given that council’s £34.4 million losses and the potential liabilities of over £60 million. This came into the public domain via a scathing report by the council’s district auditor, Grant Thornton. This is the same firm which has refused to sign off the accounts of LCC for five years. Goodness knows what they could report on our own entrepreneurial mayoralty.
The overall financial situation at LCC can be partly attributed to the massive government cuts which have occurred, but not the examples quoted above. It is illuminating to think that the city council of thirty five years ago was held to account for a notional loss of £106,000. Forty nine councillors were surcharged and banned from holding office for five years. Will we have a repeat performance?