Whenever one attempts to shine a light on the activities in Liverpool which have gained such notoriety, one must be extremely careful. It is not just the potential for libel actions, but also the right of natural justice for people who might anyway not be to one’s liking. Sometimes the people in question in my blogs are not known personally to me, but many are. Take two names from my last blog.
Angela Forshaw of Liverpool Foundation Homes does have some background in housing, I am told, although she is listed with Companies House as being involved with sports centres. Likewise, Frank Hont is a former union official with no background in housing. Nor was it germane to my piece, as some of his former council colleagues suggested, that he had recently moved into a Redrow home. The point of my blog was to show how the council did its business.
It does not stop with the council. Obviously, there is a slice of the private sector which is not too fussy about the people with whom they deal. I am always mindful of one local big investor who told me some time ago, that he had not invested in Liverpool for over seventeen years. When I asked him why that was, given his loyalty to the city, he replied that he did not want to sit in the same room as some of the people who would necessarily be involved.
There is no doubt that the city’s reputation is being tarnished. New Chinatown and other failed projects illustrated just how badly our reputation has been damaged internationally. Meanwhile, other cities like Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham have taken up the slack. Speaking of Birmingham, another curious mention of Liverpool companies came to my attention recently.
The Unite mega-union has a national executive. We all know that its current general secretary is scouser Lennie McCluskey. His predecessor from the Wirral, Tony Woodley, is now in the House of Lords. There was a seamless transition from one to the other. Now there is an intra-union battle on for who succeeds Lenny. I believe that this is where Liverpool has been dragged into the current scheming.
At a recent meeting of its executive, the London region raised questions about the participation of two Liverpool companies in the vastly inflated cost of a new union education centre built in Birmingham. These two companies are consultants Purple Apple and builders, the Flanagan Group. These were recruited by former general secretary Woodley. How they connect with the Liverpool political scene is through Mayor Anderson. Electoral records show that in his run-up to power in the city, these two firms were the biggest contributors to Anderson’s campaign funds, donating many thousands of pounds. A recently circulated photograph was taken at a Labour Party fundraiser, with Anderson, Derek Hatton and Flanagan’s principal, Paul Flanagan, having a convivial time. Mr Flanagan is a regular at Labour events in the city.
However, when the two companies were named at the Unite executive meeting, it was ruled out of order by national Unite chairman, Tony Woodhouse. Mr Woodhouse, brother of Liverpool councillor General Woodhouse, is very close to both Woodley and McCluskey. What is going on, I can only speculate, but the last thing Liverpool needs is to be dragged into the union’s mire.