It is always a pleasure to hear from ‘The Prof’ and here he tells us :
I just read your ‘A Fear of Green’ piece on Wirral Green Space Alliance attempts to get information out of the council on green belt activities. One of the requests asked for details of the work commissioned by the council from Liverpool University on Wirral housing needs under the local plan. The council answer was that the work is ‘not yet completed’. You might therefore be interested in the reply (dated 08.05.19) of professor Alex Lord of the Dept. of Planning to my own inquiry on this work. As he says clearly, the work was completed and sent to Wirral council ‘several weeks ago’.
This is work we paid for and it should be available for public scrutiny.
And indeed here is the aforementioned response from Professor Alexander Lord (how’s that for a name btw?) :
Dear Professor Gregg,
Thanks for your e-mail. We (a small group from the University of Liverpool and a colleague from Manchester) were commissioned to carry out a small piece of work for Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council. One aspect of this related to projected household formation. As part of this process we took into account the submission that I understand you made along with ONS measures. Our work was submitted to the local authority several weeks ago now. As this was a commissioned piece, the details of the report are the property of the local authority and so I am sorry to say that I have been advised that I am not permitted to share it.
I know from discussions with the local authority that they take public consultation very seriously. I am sure that they would welcome further engagement with you on this question and in relation to the development of the local plan more generally.
Professor Alexander Lord
Lever Chair of Town and Regional Planning
Department of Geography and Planning
School of Environmental Sciences
University of Liverpool
We’ll leave that there for your delectation.
But before we go a couple of comments from us. First, Prof Lord is the Lever Chair of Town and Regional Planning at the University of Liverpool . So , should any conflicts be declared here? And secondly he appears to have a particularly keen sense of humour. Apparently he thinks Wirral Council take ‘public consultation very seriously’. Might we suggest (like ‘The Prof’) it is as seriously as sharing information which the council tax payers of Wirral have paid for and yet somehow aren’t allowed to read?…
We are grateful to yet another correspondent with an enquiring mind who has sought refuge at Leaky Towers. This instalment in the Wirral Chamber of Commerce/ Wirral Council shenanigans concerns itself with Egerton House. This is another property which somehow landed in the burgeoning Chamber portfolio .
Our correspondent asks whether he has to stick to the Wirral Leaks party line and launch into some ‘scurrilous criticism’ of certain individuals to get published. Absolutely not! there’s enough of that on here and anyway we appreciate and encourage independent thought and debate – unlike some other institutions we could name !
We just ask that you read for yourselves and make your own mind up although we do say amen and halleluljah to the view expressed about Kevin Adderley!
Egerton House – where has the cash gone?
Egerton House was the first redevelopment on the docks and was owned jointly by Wirral Business Enterprise Limited and CEWTEC, the training and enterprise council. Wirral Business Enterprise Limited owned its fifty percent outright after a grant from the rump of Wirral Task Force funds and CEWTEC’s share was in part funded by the Department for Employment. Essentially the purchase and re-development of Egerton House was publicly funded. When the Training and Enterprise Councils were abolished the Department for Employment reluctantly agreed that its loan would be cancelled subject to assurances on board structure and activities and Egerton House could remain as a resource for Enterprise development on Wirral. To avoid a substantial tax bill the two companies then offered Egerton House to the University of Liverpool, Wirral Metropolitan College and the Local Authority with an option to lease it back. All pitched to take it over and the two boards of directors chose the Local Authority. A lease was granted back to Egerton House (Wirral) Limited – during negotiations over the lease the Local Authority sought assurances that one elected member of the authority would be on the board with an Officer as observer. The directors of Egerton House (Wirral) Limited adopted a very cautious policy, fearful that they might lose their largest licensee and amassed very substantial cash holdings peaking at over £600,000. It is difficult to see how this caution allowed an imaginative contribution to the development of Enterprise on Wirral. Following the ‘merger’ with Wirral Investment Network the old board left, apart from Dr David Prior and Asif Hamid became chairman and Paula Basnett joined the board along with others. At this point Wirral Leaks might require me to stick to their party line and launch some scurrilous criticism of these two individuals. I would prefer to say that Asif has managed to draw together the most credible board of directors that Wirral Chamber of Commerce has ever had and through his membership of the LEP and connections to central government strives to do the very best for Wirral. Paula Basnett has consistently worked hard to bring together the diverse players in business support and with help from Phil Davies (who I also admire) rescued the Chamber from exiting Wirral. BUT In its latest published accounts Egerton House (Wirral) Community Interest Company lists amongst its contributions to the community; a Dr Bike day to have ones bicycle checked out, a Macmillan bake off day, ‘Shower Grants’ in case you get a bit hot and bothered riding your bike to work and hosting a steering group on Enterprise mentoring. In fairness it also lists all the core activities at Egerton House that are in support of business and for the good of the community. Its latest Confirmation Statement (Annual Return) notes persons with significant control as Asif Hamid and Paula Basnett. Not surprising since they are the only directors of what holds itself out to be a Community Interest Company. What the accounts as at 31st March 2016 don’t explain is why cash at bank after so many years of being over half a million pounds is a mere £2518 down from £336,816 on 31st December 2014 with debtors up from £86k to £344k. At the same time in the Chamber’s accounts for the same dates cash at bank has gone up from £59,734 to £302,000. Would it be reasonable to suggest that rather than hearing about a Dr Bike day we as taxpayers who paid for Egerton House might be more interested in whether Egerton House has lent around £300,000 to the Chamber and if so on what terms and if not who has the cash? Your correspondent has no problem with Egerton House funding the Chamber as long as it is secure and public and not spent on Kevin Adderley and no wish to call upon other busy people to volunteer more time by sitting, pro bono, on the board of Egerton House (although the Local Authority should be present on the board as required in the original negotiations on the lease). In an ideal world Egerton House might be fully integrated into the Chamber along with its lease and the Chamber should then aim to publish the fullest possible accounts to its members and the whole Wirral community. Until then perhaps they could make a start by explaining Egerton House’s disappearing cash at bank.