Like most people, I have been absorbed in recent months by two equally, inexplicable phenomena – the pandemic and the American presidential election. Whilst neither is yet finished, it appears that resolution of these two incredibly problematic situations is on the horizon. As a former politician, I have been particularly taken by the sheer gall of Trump and his acolytes – lies, false accusations, fake news, and corruption. Watching events in the USA kept bringing me back to home, given, as we have said before, that “all politics are local” (I do not forget our own mendacious and inept prime minister).
Yet, once again, speaking of fake news, and coming right down to our own city-region, the “Echo” has been missing in action, publishing, without question, any old rubbish given to it in the form of press releases churned out by favoured business contacts or “public relations” oddities. One such example of the latter styles itself “Save Our City” – for whom it speaks is not quite clear – nor can we tell what is its basis for suggesting it has any kind of authoritative voice to speak for anyone. However, it appears to see redemption of the mountain of failed developments in the city, in the hands of the same people who put us into the development mire in the first place. This body – Save our City – reminds me of the American PACs (political action committees) which bedevil American politics, usually for business ends. God forbid that such faceless entities, given an open publicity ride by our local media, should continue to proliferate here. Some believe that this particular group is part of a wider and surreptitious campaign to hamstring the city’s chief executive in his efforts to root out high level corruption at LCC. Time will tell.
In all honesty, there is a problem in sections of local government across the city-region, whereby self-serving individuals operate in conjunction with local cabals of self-defined “businessmen” who are themselves closely linked to habitual criminals. At one end of the scale, the costs to the council taxpayer of the way business is done are relatively low (although still scandalous). To pay £1200 per day for a steward to push the button on a regulated crossing (Byrom Street) is surely outrageous. Yet there are the aforementioned failed developments which have cost millions to both LCC and to private investors. Meanwhile, other questions remain without obvious answers. An example would be the curious dealings of King Construction/Knowsley Construction with both Liverpool and Knowsley councils.
Naturally, problems occur regularly. Right now, Sefton is facing the loss of hundreds of jobs due to the HMRC relocation policy, leaving ever more vacant office space in Bootle. Halton has a stiff challenge in recouping in excess of £23 million in unpaid bridge fees. Liverpool is belatedly chasing up through the courts millions in unpaid s.106 monies. As if the trials and stresses of covid19 were not enough, Goodwins Construction – working in the Baltic Triangle – has gone belly up, shedding at least another thirty jobs. At this rate, the Baltic Triangle will be renamed the Bermuda Triangle given the losses associated with it.
Then up bobs what seems to be good news – of sorts – in Liverpool. There has been a low key announcement of yet more plans for the International Garden Festival site. Central government has put up £10 millions of seed money, but there have been several false dawns concerning this eyesore. This time, there are two major players involved in a partnership with LCC. One is developer ION, formerly Neptune. Headed by local developer Peter Hynd, it does have a track record of delivery, such as Queen’s Square. The other is a French-owned company (VINCI) with strong links to tax haven, the Seychelles. The oddity is the third partner, known as Midia.
This company is odd in that it appears to be unable to decide on its name, whether it is Midia or Granite Turner. The latter are the surnames of the two principals. What caught my eye was a coincidence with the name Mark Turner. There was a Mark Turner born at the same time and in the same place as this “developer”. This other man spent eleven months in an American prison after fleeing fraud charges in Manchester. He was to later spend time as a guest of HM prison service having been convicted of fraud. Are they related in some way? I am sure that as LCC processes its due diligence procedures, they will put our minds at rest.
Meanwhile, spare a thought for Liverpool Foundation Homes. You may recall that this was set up by the mayor with all sorts of high hopes. The board included mayoral crony Frank Hont and disgraced regeneration boss, Nick Kavanagh. These are now both ex-directors. I can find no evidence of any meaningful work done by this company, which is now dormant. Would you not think that something could be done to find it something productive to do?