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Mayor's own cabinet member urges rethink over Meadows sale

Biting winds don't stop party mood at Sefton Park

Written by . Published on April 2nd 2013.


Mayor's own cabinet member urges rethink over Meadows sale
 

A MEMBER of Mayor Joe Anderson’s powerful cabinet has called for the sale of the Sefton Park Meadowlands to be halted.

Cllr Laura Robertson-Collins, Assistant Cabinet Member for Employment and Skills, has joined forces with fellow Labour Councillor James Roberts in urging politicians from her own party to think again.

Laura Robertson Collins with the chiefLaura Robertson-Collins
with the chief
It is the first time a Labour member has publicly broken ranks over the controversial proposal, revealed here, which would see the historic public space to be sold for luxury housing.

The hope is that sale of the land, considered by most to be a crucial part of Sefton Park, will swell the council’s diminishing coffers by as much as £10m, with the cash used to pay for improvements in the city’s parklands.

On Thursday (April 4) Liverpool City Council's regeneration select committee will discuss the proposed sale of the six acre Meadowlands – described in the Mayor’s reports as “incidental open space in Park Avenue”.

The meeting takes place at 5pm in the council chamber at the Town Hall and campaigners are calling on opponents to demonstrate outside.

Crowds brave cold for Easter Monday picnic at the MeadowlandsCrowds brave cold for Easter Monday picnic at the Meadowlands

Meadowlands falls within the Greenbank ward and the two Labour councillors who represent it will be setting out their stall for for it to be spared.

Sefton Park Protests 2013 %2811%29
In their “call-in” plea, Cllr Robertson-Collins and Cllr Roberts state: “This land is valued by local residents as a natural habitat, extending the green space available for residents and for wildlife in the area. We are calling in the report to give more time to look for alternative means of generating income, instead of losing green space.”

Meanwhile (writes Angie Sammons) biting cold winds didn't stop crowds from turning out to a Bank Holiday “picnic” in protest at the proposed sale of the meadows yesterday – with organisers vowing that the fight will go on to halt it.

Hailing the event a major success, campaigners, including Green politicians and local residents, claimed as many as 500 supporters had shown their faces on the site throughout the afternoon although other estimates put the figure at more like 200-300.

39301_129405133910534_1726568934_NProtesters tell Mayor Joe
what they think
They included cross-party speeches from Green Party Councillor John Coyne and Liverpool Lib Dem leader Richard Kemp, along with petition signings, music from Liverpool rock n rollers Bolshy, several barbecues and free tea, to keep the Easter Monday chill at bay, dispensed by the drivers of a VW Camper van.

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson, who was only to be seen on caricature placards, has said the land, which is not classified by English Heritage as part of Sefton Park, “seems to be used for little but dog fouling”.

An online petition against the sell-off has so far attracted more than 1,200 signatures.

Liverpool's bid to be the Green Capital of Europe

Select committees do not have the power to block or overturn decisions by the Mayor, but they can attempt to influence decisions.

Regeneration Cabinet member Cllr Malcolm Kennedy, who is expected at Thursday’s meeting, has already made it clear he is right behind the sale of the Meadowlands. 

Malcolm KennedyMalcolm KennedyIronically, Liverpool City Council is backing an initiative to see the city crowned Green Capital of Europe. One of the key figures behind the project is Cllr Kennedy.

Among a raft of proposals which include improved recylcling and greener, cleaner buildings, there are ambitious plans for an office building in Vauxhall Road that will be powered by a combined heating and power plant.

“It already has planning permission. Basically, we want to re-power North Liverpool," says Councillor Kennedy.

“But this stuff is not tree-hugging stuff, it’s a practical focus around creating skills, jobs and investment."

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43 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Angela FieldApril 2nd 2013.

City councellors should remember that they are employees who should be working in the best interests of all Liverpudlians. I'm sure, if asked, that the majority would want to save this land from development. Too much of our heritage has already been destroyed by short-sighted city councellors.

1 Response: Reply To This...
John BradleyApril 2nd 2013.

Oh well if you sure, actually I'm sure the opposite is true.

Anne TrevorApril 2nd 2013.

Liverpudlians should look at ALL the Council's planned sell offs, objections have to be in by 17th April. In west Derby the Margaret Beavan School, a grade II listed building in a Conservation area has been included!www.liverpool.gov.uk/…/…

1 Response: Reply To This...
John BradleyApril 2nd 2013.

and you object to this why?

AnonymousApril 2nd 2013.

Carry on like this John Bradley and you'll be getting the freedom of the city. People are perfectly entitled to want the land to remain as open space. The land belongs to the city NOT to the councillors. I'm not an outsider, I have walked the short distance from my home, most often to Sefton Park and say without a shadow of doubt it is considered part and parcel of the park and its environs. Just like the cricket clubfields. I think people know were you are coming from Mr Bradley and they'll politely give your views the due consideration they deserve. But please remember, our land, our parks are not for sale.

1 Response: Reply To This...
John BradleyApril 2nd 2013.

"Our" includes me, and it is.

Jonathan WalkerApril 2nd 2013.

John, what is the proper place of neutrality in journalism? I would say an attempt at objectivity is always important, but too much journalism today is rehashed press releases from PR departments and spin-laden reportage...

It's nice to see some gutsy coverage of important local issues. Your objection to the piece seems to be that you disagree with the people who disagree with the council and don't think their views are relevant. Perhaps you'd prefer a council press briefing's account. Just contact their press officer....

1 Response: Reply To This...
John BradleyApril 2nd 2013.

No space for people who do agree with the council though. It portray simple as council V a small group.

Jonathan WalkerApril 3rd 2013.

John, there is a petition for those who agree with the council...

Sign it and share it, and find a journalist who gets excited enough by it to write a positive story about a brave and visionary council who overcome the petty and irrelevant views of the unwashed plebs to green light an exciting new private development...

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 3rd 2013.

Er, John Bradley started that petition...

John BradleyApril 3rd 2013.

So if journalists only write what exits them then your damning all journalists as biased.

Alex KingApril 4th 2013.

Personally I see no real issue with building here so long as the results are not some more blocks of hideously overpriced & ugly flats. The problem (as far as i am concerned) is more what the council will do with the cash they generate and suspicion that they will not get a decent price in the first place.

Yaffle ChucklebuttyApril 5th 2013.

So the objections were completely ignored last night and the council cabinet tries to push on with the sale regardless. No surprise there, we should be used to the "
I want to hear your views, we are listening" meaningless claptrap. And as usual Joe does his turnaround routine, you tell me where I am going to find the money from, he says. This is the money from the sale of the Meadow that he doesn't even know how much he can get for it. A figure of up to £10 million has been bandied about. A bit like Peel Holdings creating "up to" 25,000 jobs. Doesn't mean much.

Well assuming they do ignore the people who actually value our green spaces and the sale goes ahead, it will require a reserve sale price so it does not get flogged off cheap to yet another developer taking the city for a ride.

Once again there is no analysis, just figures plucked out of the air. How many houses at what estimated purchase price for each one? That should be a simple and reasonable calculation for assessing the value of the land. Then some account of anticipated generated revenue in council tax.

Then a programme to ringfence and fix any income from the sale of the land, which must reach the reserve price based on the analysis of the housing value.

What we also need is a guarantee that the surrounding trees wil be protected and saved from the developers.

I would estimate that this land in this location with 4/5 bedroom properties ahould be valued at around £15-20 Million.

However, if Joe really wants to find an alternative way of finding the money, here are two things he could do.

1. It was shown that Liverpool Direct were overcharging the council by about £10 million since the contract started. But no attempt has been made to recover the money. Times how many years is that? It went on for at least seven years. Why are you doing nothing about it?

2. Cancel their services and end the ridiculous joint venture. It is costing us ay least £63million a year to have somebody answer the phones. We still don't know what we are paying for and therefore still don't know if we are being overcharged.

Why are you prepared to axe vital services, cut jobs, put people at risk, sell off green spaces and listed buildings and take, as some say, these hard but courages decisions but there seems to be complete cowardice in tackiling the disgraceful rip-off that has been blighting our finances and laughing at our stupidity and weakness for over a decade.

You need cash? Well get it back from them. Publish the secret KPMG Report and order a new external audit or public inquiry. Or ask the people if they are happy to pay BT and Liverpool Direct twice the amount of the next round of service cuts?

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Yaffle ChucklebuttyApril 5th 2013.

cue Mr J Bradley......
.

John BradleyApril 5th 2013.

John BradleyJust a moment ago. Do you know the name and date of the KPMG report I'll start the FOI process. I'll do it via https://www.whatdotheyknow.com or you can then the answer is public and can easily be appealed to the ICO if anyone can work out how to make it a DPA then that can be appealed at the County Court which is quicker.

Katie54April 6th 2013.

Alternative ways of finding the money that Joe could try:

1) insist that LDL produce proper clear pricing information, and does the financial benchmarking it's supposed to. They have a catalogue - publish it.

2) stop procuring all sorts of goods and services through LDL - the contract explicitly states that it isn't exclusive. If LDL really are cheaper, fine - if not, look elsewhere.

3) resign as a director of LDL, and make Fitzgerald resign as well. You both have conflicts of interest.

4) if you remain a director, find out what your duties are and then do it properly. Start by making sure that LDL prepares proper full accounts that actually show all the company's income and expenditure. The Micky Mouse small company accounts they produce at the moment are a joke.

5) when all the 3rd party income goes through the books properly, make sure that the expenditure does too - and that LDL pays properly for the premises, equipment and staff it uses to actually carry out this work

6) appoint a proper Authorised Representative to make the decisions that LCC has to make as a shareholder. Better yet, do this yourself: you were elected to represent us so represent us.
If you prefer being a director, which means putting the interests of the company first (by law, you have to), then please don't appoint Fitzgerald, he has far too much form (Rotherham, Lancashire etc.)

Yaffle ChucklebuttyApril 5th 2013.

How silly of me. Of course the Echo finally got hold of most of the secret report they wanted to hide from people and published it on their website as linked by this article. The real questions remain...how much of the KPMG estimated £19million historical overcharging has been paid back?
And what has changed in relation to transparency and accountability. We are still paying out tens of millions with no proper scrutiny and getting not a single penny back from work carried out for other organisations by our alleged joint venture partner.

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/…/…

1 Response: Reply To This...
John BradleyApril 5th 2013.

Put in an FOI request via WhatDoTheyKnow then at least we can all see their excuses.

Katie54April 6th 2013.

Mr Bradley, if you want to see excuses, procrastination, lies and generally appalling behaviour, have a look at some of the 70 odd questions asked on whatdotheyknow about LDL since the contract was finally released in January 2011, two and a half years after the initial FOI request (www.whatdotheyknow.com/…/liverpool_direct_bt_contracts…).

Chucklebutty is referring to some of this - it's not just gossip, which you appear to think.
For instance. we now know that although the contracts explicitly require LDL to provide information to LCC, and, indeed, to operate "open book" accounting, in reality LCC does not get much financial information on LDL. And what it does get, it is not allowed to keep, as for some strange reason LCC accepts LDL's demands that any and all information it provides is destroyed, because it "belongs" to them. Even detailed invoices.
They shred everything, and/or destroy emails and documents. So no-one knows anything at all about the many third party customers of LDL, even though most of the work is done by LCC staff, while they are being paid to actually do stuff for us. And we know there are 200 LDL people in the basement of Millennium House working on a contract for the Security Industry Authority worth £8 million a year, Liverpool City Council knows nothing whatsoever about it - and certainly receives none of the money. Which doesn't appear in LDL's accounts either.
LCC doesn't know anything about anything.
They didn't bother getting any external advice (legal, financial, etc.) on the £56 million that LDL claimed LCC would have to pay if the refresh didn't go through. They didn't even ask LDL to substantiate this. They just accepted it (and if that alone isn't grossly unprofessional negligence and/or maladministration I don't know what is).
Anderson and Fitzgerald do presumably know a bit more about all this, as they are directors of LDL - but they get verbal updates only and have to shred any papers after each board meeting.
This ridiculous rubbish, and a lot more, is all on Whatdotheyknow for all the world to see.
The problem is getting someone to do something about it.
People are trying, using FOI. There are four requests in the pipeline for Information Tribunals.
Eventually there will be enough to force the District Auditor (now Grant Thornton, since they abolished the Audit Commission) to undertake a proper and thorough investigation. Then the sh*t really will hit the fan.
For starters, look at requests made by Julian Todd, Jenny Griffin, Cathy Madigan, John Smith and Katie M.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
John BradleyApril 6th 2013.

Where did I suggest I disagreed with the Professor on LDL, I have simple suggested where he can go to try and get the docs or expose their hiding of then. You'll also not a few requests by me, related to the councils IT policy. Ask for explanations of their technical incompetence and desire to make Microsoft even richer, while buying more powerful PCs the necessary to cope with MS's bad software. That the area I'm qualified to investigate not the financial mismanagement, which I'll leave to the prof.

John BradleyApril 6th 2013.

www.whatdotheyknow.com/…/all…

Katie54April 6th 2013.

I wasn't suggesting you disagreed. I was merely pointing out that people have been doing what you suggest already.
LCC know very well that the ICO has a backlog of complaints, which then take ages to be investigated, and they take advantage.
Then, when we do finally get some pretty shocking information, no-one does anything about it...

AnonymousApril 6th 2013.

Excellent comments from Katy54 (above) about alternative ways the Mayor could raise money. But has anyone the guts to do it? What is everyone so scared of?

3 Responses: Reply To This...
John BradleyApril 6th 2013.

Just because there are other ways doesn't make this one any less of a viable move.

Katie54April 6th 2013.

The comment below is an attempt to answer the question - what is everyone so scared of?
Apologies for putting it in the wrong place.

AnonymousApril 6th 2013.

Quite right John but it is Mr Anderson that has thrown his hands in the air with the desperate plea, Tell me where else I can raise money? Well this is a very good place to start.

Katie54April 6th 2013.

I used to think they were scared of the CEO - who seems to have a penchant for browbeating, ranting, etc etc. This may be part of it. But they will also have been told that LDL is a success that has created jobs, and they won't want to jeopardise this by investigating too closely.
The irony here is that if the Council actually enforced the contract and made sure that the 3rd party work actually went through the books, the jobs would be safeguarded. At the moment they most definitely are not: BT could move the entire SIA operation somewhere else (Preston, perhaps?) and LCC could do absolutely nothing. Be entitled to nothing. The company would also be worth more - at the moment, the whole thing is worth just £10,000, so Liverpool's share is £4,000. If there are proper 3rd party contracts, their value increases the value of the company, and Liverpool's share of this. All clearly spelt out in the contracts.
I suspect Joe himself hasn't read this bit - and whoever summarised it for him neglected somehow to mention it.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
John BradleyApril 6th 2013.

Didn't Liam Artyfog get a place on the board.

AnonymousApril 8th 2013.

He did and hasn't been heard from since.
Suggest we dig up the basement of Millennium House.

AnonymousApril 7th 2013.

Joe Anderson is out of his depth, I am afraid.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 8th 2013.

Yes, but look at his width

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