On the same day that news of the Liverpool City Region Devolution Agreement was being splashed all over the place like champagne on a Grand Prix podium there was an extraordinary report published in the Financial Times on November 17 titled ” Liverpool Goes After Chinese Investment” which appears to have evaded any scrutiny or comment from the local press.
This is particularly surprising as the report concerns Wirral Waters and the elusive Ms.Stella Shiu.
Usually the mere mention of Wirral Waters and/or Ms.Shiu and the Liverpool Echo whips out the artist’s impression to splash across the front page and they’re telling us that we’re all going to be rolling about in yuan for eternity.
Now as we all know Peel Holdings ,the multi-billion property group behind the long touted and much anticipated Wirral Waters development ended a joint venture with its putative Chinese development partner Sam Wa “by mutual agreement” after frequent flyer trips to China proved fruitless.
Sam Wa was founded and chaired by the mysterious Stella Ching Yim Shiu , who acquired a new name after being declared a bankrupt in a Hong Kong court in 2008 for failure to repay a loan…..like you do.
However whilst Peel are now looking towards potential investors elsewhere the FT reports:
” The Labour local council is pressing ahead regardless .It has agreed in private to sell a patch of former Ministry of defence land in Birkenhead to Sam Wa …….The deal was approved by its cabinet on November 5 , without public scrutiny as an “exempt item”.
The all new open and transparent Wirral Council told the FT that “commercial confidentiality” meant it could not discuss the deal publicly.
Also discussed in secret was the fact Wirral Council has borrowed money to set up their own £16m investment fund for Wirral Waters to “kick start construction”.Selectively leaked council papers proposing the fund also state: “There are a number of barriers to development ,in particular that end values are far less than the end cost of development”.
Which basically means that if land prices fall then Wirral Council will make a loss. This means that the allegedly cash-strapped Council are gambling £16 million of YOUR MONEY to get this vainglorious pipedream up and running.
No wonder they want to be twinned with seedy gambling town Reno !.
Now for a bit of number-crunching : According to a leaked document seen by FT the site being sold to Sam Wa was valued at £2m in 2013 and funnily enough at the cabinet meeting held earlier this month it was agreed to delegate to its leader, Power Boy Pip Davies ,the power to approve asset sales up to £2.5 million !.
Well fancy that!
Meanwhile in an attempt to confront the Chinese dragon in the room the FT reminds us that several companies registered under Ms.Shiu’s former name have been dissolved in China. However the elusive Ms.Shiu is not responding to their emails about this issue or the proposed momentous sell-off.
Under the circumstances we can’t speculating about those publicly funded trade delegations/shopping trips to China involving Wirral Council officials and exactly what went on to convince them that a bankrupt with an apparent penchant for drinking potential business partners under the table was an attractive business proposition?.
I think we should be told.
But we’d bet £16 million of public money we won’t be!………