Liverpool City Council’s auditors are Grant Thornton, the bean counters of choice across most of the city-region. On September 21st last, they sent a report to the council’s chief executive, Tony Reeves, seeking an enormous amount of information about the council. I welcome this although I have two reservations. Firstly, it seems to be focussed on the last two years of the council’s operations, when we know that its problems go back much further. Secondly, the Grant Thornton letter contains an extraordinary statement on page 3 of its queries, and I quote:
“…since the governance and alleged bribery and corruption came to light in 2019”.
This is patently untrue. A range of concerned citizens have been flagging up the situation at LCC for years prior to 2019. For example, I met with two senior executives of Grant Thornton over six years ago (2015), to alert them about the issues which have “come to light”. At the same time, I met with the then chief constable and the then police and crime commissioner about the same matters. No-one saw fit to do anything.
Incidentally, whilst trawling through my records, I could not miss the name of the ubiquitous Peter McInnes. This man has been repeatedly associated with some of the biggest property failures/scams in the city in recent years. He was also named in open court in Preston by the police as a man involved in the laundering of drug money. Thus, I was surprised to see that one of his interests involved the Eldonian community organisation via a company called SABP(Eldonians) Ltd.
I noted this because of a series of allegations which have been circulated regarding the business affairs of the Eldonians. The group has been held up for forty years as an exemplar of good practice of a community in action. However, it is now alleged that parcels of land belonging to the community have been sold off arbitrarily for as little as £1 each. Worse still, it is charged that the property in question have been sold to off-shore companies with strong connections to leading lights within what has long been billed as a member-led co-operative. I am currently trying to make sense of the situation.
I am not surprised at this new outbreak of controversy within the area. For far too long, there has been a stench emanating from north Liverpool political circles. I am, of course, aware that the Eldonians have long been synonymous with the Labour Party in the Vauxhall/Kirkdale area of the city. Next door, we have the unanswered questions concerning the North Liverpool Regeneration Company (NLRC). I have written about this entity before with regard to the £3 million receipt from the sale of land to Merseyside Police for the site of its new headquarters. There was also the question as to how the NLRC acquired from the council new premises in Mount Pleasant. This is a body, remember, whose training arm was rejected by government inspectors after an Ofsted inspection found that it was doing nothing discernible of worth.
The same familiar names are involved in one way or another. Ex-councillor John Nelson, former bag carrier for Derek Hatton; Pauline Connolly who runs the nearby Vauxhall Neighbourhood Council; current councillor and paid consultant to NLRC, Barry Kushner; and key man, councillor George Knibb, another acolyte of Derek Hatton. What qualifies Kushner to advise on anything is a very moot point whilst Knibb is now in the background of the NLRC, but is thought to still be the controlling influence.
Whilst councillor Knibb is said to remain a guiding light for the NLRC and its off-shoots, his brother Phil has also taken the community route to sharpen his business skills and build up quite a portfolio of interests. Although a new generation of Knibbs is coming through, Phil’s interests are what we might call extensive. He has had sixteen appointments to various boards, covering farming, property, pubs, catering, social care and education. These range from Walton hall Park sports centre to Randles Bridge farm in Knowsley, to an educational business in the Ribble Valley! A busy man, you might say….
Meanwhile, two more developments in the London Road/Islington area, have gone bust, owing £7.2 million. Ah,well….