Drain the Swamp!

Well, well, well! The arrests of Joe Anderson, Derek Hatton et al have really stirred up a hornets’ nest; but who should be surprised? We have all been aware that there has been something rotten at the heart of Liverpool City Council for a very long time. Yet, as with Donald Trump, there were so many gutless people in positions able to do something about it who chose to remain silent. Let us see where this latest twist in the sorry tale of Liverpool’s own Tammany Hall takes us.

National media are biting on this latest revelation because of its sensationalist nature, involving high profile “personalities”. Where have they been when the extensive series of property scams were revealed? I know that some of those scams are still subject to various on-going investigations; and because of their size (think of New Chinatown) some do attract wider, if passing, attention. Yet all of these scams have shared features which include – the involvement of known career criminals; the fleecing of contractors and of investors; and the failure of the council to fulfil its duties towards them. Perhaps it is worth looking again at some smaller council ventures to gain an insight into how the council operates (generally in the dark!).

For example, the council owns the riverside arena and convention centre, along with its associated hotel. In fact, there are two separate companies involved, one for the arena and convention centre and one for the hotel. To all intents and purposes, they are one and the same, with the same board of directors. Both companies have been highly profitable with what are, to the layman, confusing accounts (are not they all, you might say?). For example, the last published accounts for the arena company show total payments to its six directors of £501,493. Two of these directors are Mayor Anderson and his deputy Cllr Wendy Simon. Neither of these lists any payment in their register of interests so we might discount them from the directors’ pay equation. Similarly, council chief executive Tony Reeves is a third director, and is also presumably content with his hefty council salary (more than that of the Prime Minister). That leaves us with three remaining directors.

These are company CEO, Bob Prattey; his deputy, Faye Dyer; and commercial director, Max Steinberg (formerly a long-term senior adviser to the mayor). The accounts show that one of these three received from the directors’ pot in the last financial year, the sum of £266,120, together with £27,658 in pension contributions. That leaves £235,373 between the other two. Remember that these are payments as directors. Whether or not they are also paid as senior executives by either company is wholly unclear.

Complicating the ability to cross reference with the hotel company is the decision of the directors (the same six people) to decline to publish a directors’ report (as company law permits). However, the published accounts for the hotel note the payment of £224,626 to “key management personnel”. Who exactly are these? Are they the directors identified above? A little chink of light is shown by the pension contributions on behalf of the hotel’s 65 employees which amount to £32,000.  Not the highest paid group of people and reflective of the huge disparities between a select few and the mass of workers under the council’s wing.

Let us look at another council-sponsored initiative which shows the council’s Byzantine approach to its responsibilities. Liverpool Foundation Homes was set up in 2018 as what many saw as a job creation project for beaten councillor and mayoral favourite, Frank Hont (who has since departed from the company). It was given a kick start grant of £750,000, followed by a further grant of £170,000. In turn, this was followed by a loan of £1,717,690 with which “to buy property”. This flying start was so dynamic that by 09/08/19, Companies House had it listed as a dormant company. Its three directors are Mark Kitts of the city council; Angela Forshaw whose background is in sports centres; and Darrell Mercer who Companies House ties in to fifteen other companies, fourteen in London and one in the north-east!

This company employs eight people as far as I can ascertain, including Kitts on a salary of between £110,000 and £115,000. His deputy, Charles Jarvis, gets between £90,000 and £95,000. Below him, Louise Davies and Liam Knowles are in the £76,000 to £79,000 range. Finally, there are four juniors on good salaries for their respective roles. The question must be: what do these people do for their comfortable salaries? What is the evidence of “the development of building projects and the construction of domestic buildings” which is claimed to be its raison d’etre? Nothing that I can see, but I am happy to be corrected.

Back to where we came in. I often wonder what happens to many people at the top of the council tree. Lots end up stigmatised as they bring the city into disrepute. The latest round began with the arrests of former chief executive Ged Fitzgerald along with former senior council officers Phil Halsall and David McElhinney under police investigation Operation Sheridan. Next came director of regeneration Nick Kavanagh, lifted along with developer Elliot Lawless. Now we have Mayor Anderson together with deputy planning and highways chief, Andy Barr. Coincidentally, abrasive former city head of regeneration, Charlie Parker, along with former staff he recruited from Liverpool, is highlighted in the current issue of “Private Eye”. Now chief executive for the Jersey Government, he has been forced to resign over his lucrative moonlighting (£50,000 p.a.) for a property company, on top of his £250,000 salary. You can take the boy out of Liverpool…..

It is some years now since I took my concerns about the council to the relevant authorities who, I thought, might do something about it. I went to the then chief constable, John Murphy; to the district auditors, Grant Thornton; and to the now invisible police commissioner, Jane Kennedy. Nothing was done, and things grew progressively worse as the major players in this situation became ever more emboldened, thinking they were beyond being brought to account. Perhaps my timing was wrong or perhaps the authorities were just not interested; but there can be no dodging the harsh reality of corruption now.

Drain the swamp!

9 thoughts on “Drain the Swamp!

  1. Some interesting points here on the corruption of the militant tendency that continues to blight our modern metropolis.

    However you really should obey the first rule of journalism: substantiate your claims, some of which are libellous and defamatory, before making wild speculations about private citizens who are not elected politicians.

    A quick Google, for example, of the staff at ACC Arena reveals you have named the personnel incorrectly (http://www.boxofficeechoarena.com/about-us/the-team)

    And your “boy out of Liverpool” closing comment stinks of 1990s anti-Scouse prejudice and stereotyping that befits our city’s worst detractors, such as one Boris Johnson PM.

    Shamefully written, you’re usually better than this PK.

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  2. Dear Mr. Kilfoyle

    I always find your blog interesing and thank you for the time and effort you take with your postings.

    Some simple questions: can you explain to me why this Labour council prefers to share its bed with the corporates such as the Peel Group and Redrow Housing, rather than taking the climate and biodiversity crisis seriously? Can you tell me what the criterion/criteria actually is if one is to be elected as a ‘preferred developer’ by a local council?

    As an attendee who sacrificed personal income in order to attend the Allerton Priory public inquiry, I tried to imagine what the late Bessie Braddock (RIP) would have said at the point when the council couldn’t produce a 5 year housing supply figure and the inspector instructed the two barristers – both of whom came from the same chambers – to meet in secret after the inquiry was closed, in order to derive an acceptable figure. Doesn’t that mean the inquiry wasn’t, by definition, public? I couldn’t understand why the inspector didn’t even insist the barristers provided evidence to demonstrate how they were experienced and qualified in data analysis, especially relating to housing supply figures, given how pivotal this issue was to the decision. As you’re probably aware, the housing shortage in Merseyside does not fall within the £500K+ bracket.

    Second, as I walked along the beautiful Oglet Shore area the other day, I was humming the late George Harrison’s unplugged version of: ‘While My Guitar Gently Sleeps’ to myself, because I imagined it was the perfect environment to compose such a sensitive and emotionally flavoured song. I wondered what Mr. Harrison would have said if made aware that a Labour Liverpool Council was supporting its proposed destruction. Can you explain why an airport with around £78m of observable debt – and hosting 3 shell companies – could possibly qualify for a £34m LCR ‘loan’, without stating the terms and conditions of the ‘loan’ to the public? Could it be that the land is the real attraction for future housing? Can you explain why this doesn’t appear to concern any of the local Labour councillors?

    I am aware that you’re a former government minister and so I doubt if my questions present an onerous task.

    Thank you in advance.

    Vixmagnetics.

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  3. Peter,

    Angela Forshaw’s background is in housing to be fair, she moved from the Council to LMH when the Council stock was transferred, I do believe she had the correct credentials to lead the formation of Foundation Housing! As for Frank Hont…….this rings of the 80’s when the infamous Hatton & co gave jobs to their mates whether or not they had the appropriate experience. It’s appalling what’s been going on in Liverpool over the last 10 years, ignored by the media for reasons only they know!

    Maybe that’s about to change, but I won’t hold my breadth as I am sure scapegoats will step forward.

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  4. Investors in previous Elliot Group projects would love to know how the company is still operating, still getting projects approved, and still planning a new 50m development in the city when it owes millions to those who bought units in the likes of Wolstenholme Place, Infinity, Victoria House (Leeds) and numerous others.

    It would also be instructive to know why LCC continues to give planning consent to a company with a track record of defrauding investors and also registering its projects in tax havens to a) avoid tax and b) avoid legal action brought by those same investors.

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  5. It’s funny the unite Woodhouse /Anderson / Woodhouse love triangle Councilor Woodhouse works for the L6 centre and is paid handsomely along with his payments as L4 Councilor and sits on another paid committee . If you look at the charity’s accounts. The Steve Morgan foundation ( yes Redrow ) paid his wages through a “Donation “ It’s all there to see

    He tried unsuccessfully to have me removed from the Labour Party and after a email exchange with the Labour Party with my evidence of bullying and anti sematiam in the local Walton Clp I was I shocked to see Alan Gibson the man running the local Corbyn fan club suspended . I unfortunately have had the pressure of payment requests from Liverpool’s regeneration director and the grubby group of old school Councilors. Hanson / Gladdon….. when we came to Liverpool we were warned ….. foolishly I thought this was 2000s and these rackets were a thing of the past …. how wrong was I.

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  6. The never ending A565 North Liverpool Key Corridor. (Dock Road) road improvement
    Questions regarding Andy Barr, Liverpool City Council, King Construction and possible corruption bribery
    I have been watching the developments at the council with interest and it’s no surprise that Andy Barr is involved. I was employed for a period By Amey on a contract to carry out road improvements on the A565 north of Liverpool.
    This contract was awarded to a company called Osborne in April 2017 for a value of £18.7million pounds and was due to be completed in April 2019.
    Unfortunately, the scheme was delayed for over a year due to Liverpool City Council not obtaining the CPOs (Compulsory purchase orders) in time to allow the contractor to widening the road on the east of the A565. I have never been involved in a contract where the council employs a contractor to a tight programme of works and then fails to allow them access to the site to do the works as the land is still owned by the original tentents. This cost the taxpayers of Liverpool millions of pounds in delay costs. This was poor management by the council.
    Osborne had employed a local firm King Construction (owned by Mark Doyle & connected to Steven Gerard through his water company angle Revive) to carry out the main works as a subcontractor and it clear that Kings had a ‘special Relationship’ with members of the council and the council even gave them land to set up an ‘tarmac academy’ at Brunswick Place. This area was never used as a training facility and its fact was used as a contractor compound free of charge. The council also asked Osborne to pay kings’ additional money through the A565 to ‘help with cash flow’ this was a very usual practice that I had not seem on any other contracts before.
    Due to the delay by LCC in securing the CPOS the scheme completion date was revised to March 2020 but in November 2019 Liverpool city council made a strange decision and removed Osborne from the scheme and employed King Construction to complete the remaining works. This was a breach of contract and I believe Osborne have taken the Council to court over this. A contract worth over £4million awarded to Andy Barrs favourite contractor without having to tender for the works?? The council said this was to save money but as the scheme is still not finished to this day (18 months late!) and to my estimation the current costs will be in excess of £26 million (a mouth-watering £7 million plus over the budget). This needs to be investigated. Andy Barr has employed Kings without a fair procurement process, the scheme has been not completed and the taxpayers of Liverpool are paying for Liverpool City council highways dept gross ineptitude and shocking performance.
    The scheme is going into its 4 christmas and there are still areas of unfinished tarmac , Traffic signals to be commissioned and traffic lanes into the city closed.
    With recent developments it looks like the main players in the council were taking back handers of King Construction to obtain council contracts.
    Another question I have is how was the Churchill flyover demolition scheme tendered?
    Was there a fair procurement process for a scheme that is worth over £8 million? Again, I believe this was awarded without a fair tendering process to a company called Grahams from Ireland under Andy Barr direction.
    Please look in to this

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