The Hard Sell

Cannes Shah

Sitting in the shadow of Liverpool – here’s Wirral Council’s chief this week in Cannes.That’s him – the one in the blue shirt on the bottom right. Surely you didn’t think we meant that useless sack of potatoes top left?

It’s been the week of the Wirral hard sell.

The figure £1 billion has been bandied about about how much investment is heading to Wirral (or rather ,Birkenhead ,which is being branded ‘the capital of Wirral’) with slavish Liverpool Echo screaming headlines  ‘£1 BILLION VISION FOR WIRRAL’

Wirral’s ‘leaders’ touting their tawdry wares in the South of France and Downing Street and according to the newly launched ‘Wirral. Well made.’ ( who thought that branding was a good idea?) aspiring that Wirral become the ‘Brooklyn of the North West’ – is that to Liverpool’s Manhattan?- with the dullest promotional launch ever. This would appear to be the brainchild of Sally Shah who apparently is ‘Lead Commissioner: Place and Investment’ – so yes, yet another highly paid public asset stripper on the Wirral Council payroll.

And then we have the Peel Holdings (up) gegging in with its ‘university of the sea’ plans for Wirral Waters with hundreds of jobs and sunshine,lollipops and rainbows for everyone!- again accompanied with the obligatory artist’s impression and yet more Echo headlines

And it doesn’t end there here comes the ‘asset transformation strategy’ and the formation of the Wirral Growth Company.

Wirral Growth 011

The hard sell meets the big sell off.

The Common People

rich-pickings

Rich pickings for the Basnetts and friends.

Now you all know we are totally non-judgemental at Leaky Towers so when we refer to the common people we are talking more about some of the people we discussed in yesterday’s post  who seem to have a lot in common.

They call it partnership working / networking – we call it cronyism and empire building at the expense of the ‘little people’ .The rich enriching themselves and their friends by accessing scarce public resources …..and with Grant Thornton being the common denominator when it comes to auditing there is very little chance of any awkward questions being asked.  We note that the late-to-the-party Daily Mail follow up their own concerns on the matter by belatedly bringing to their readers attention the Peel Group and particularly group director Robert Hough.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4003918/Ban-fat-cats-secret-deals-says-MPs-demand-action-Mail-exposes-old-pals-club-doles-public-money.html

Fortunately our own consultant Dr Robert B Smith has been able to remedy any ‘information deficit’ our readers may have when it comes to the following local contacts and connections that have increasingly caused us so much concern :

Board Games (of recent times)

Liverpool City Region (LCR) Combined Authority committee members

ex-Chair Cllr Phil Davies; Leader Wirral Council -, now committee member
Asif Hamid; The Contact Company – committee member

Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) 

Chair

Robert Hough; Peel Group (previous Chair until end of June 2016)
Asif Hamid; The Contact Company – previously Vice-Chair, now Chair

Board members 

Cllr Phil Davies; Leader – Wirral Council

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company
Neil Sturmey; Head of Office & Partner, Grant Thornton

Mark Basnett; LCR – LEP (Executive Director in attendance)

Mark Basnett additional company directorships:

Merseyside Special Investment Seed Fund Ltd.
Merseyside Special Investment Venture Fund Ltd
Merseyside Special Investment Venture Fund Two Ltd
Merseyside Special Investment Mezzanine Fund Two Ltd
Merseyside Special Investment Fund Ltd
Merseyside Special Investment (Small Firms) Fund Two Ltd
Merseyside Small Loans For Business Investment Fund Ltd
Small Business Loans Ltd

Wirral Council

Cllr Phil Davies; Leader – Wirral Council

Kevin Adderley; ex-Strategic Director for Regeneration and Environment

Paula Basnett; ex-Investment Manager
Independent Auditor, Grant Thornton

Wirral Chamber of Commerce (WCofC)

Chair

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO

Board members

Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO (ex-Investment Manager at Wirral Council; ex-head of Invest Wirral; ex-Manager of Egerton House; ex-Wirral Business Partnership CEO).

Cllr Phil Davies; Leader – Wirral Council
Kevin Adderley; WCofC Group Managing Director (ex-Wirral Council Strategic Director for Regeneration and Environment)
Sue Higginson; Principal, Wirral Metropolitan College
John Syvret; CEO, Cammell Laird (Peel Group)

Wirral Investment Network (Management) Ltd

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO, Director

Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Director
(No other Directors)

Egerton House (Wirral) Community Interest Company

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO, Director
Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Director
(No other Directors)

The Lauries Ltd

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO, Director
Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Director
Kate Eugeni; Head of Training and Education at Wirral Chamber of Commerce

Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Secretary

Lauries Events Ltd

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO, Director
Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Director
Kate Eugeni; Head of Training and Education at Wirral Chamber of Commerce

Wirral Metropolitan College – Governors

Sue Higginson; Principal, Wirral Metropolitan College

Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO
Richard Mawdsley; Director of the Peel Group
Grant Thornton (Auditors in attendance)

Join the dots

The Hive – Wirral Youth Zone

John Syvret; Chair (CEO, Cammell Laird [Peel Group])
Cllr Phil Davies; Leader – Wirral Council
Kate Eugeni; Head of Training and Education at Wirral Chamber of Commerce
Phil Garrigan Deputy Chief Fire Officer of Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service

Saughall Massie Fire Station proposal

Could this be the trade-off for the Birkenhead site for The Hive/Wirral Youth Zone between Wirral Council and Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service…?

Wirral Waters

Peel Group
Wirral Council

Egerton House (WCofC)

Pacific Road (WCofC)
The Contact Company 26.03.2015 Liverpool Echo – The Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership and Wirral Chamber of Commerce have also provided Asif Hamid’s company with additional support. (£11m reported costs, at least 75% reported as public funding)

Wirral Metropolitan College Wirral Waters campus for Construction and the Built Environment (£8m public funding)
Tower Road ‘A’ & ‘C’ Bridge replacements to service Ro-Ro Ferry £7.12m all public funding incl £712k from Wirral Council – Peel £0

Now join more dots…..

Who was ‘instrumental’ in the failed £175m International Trade Centre as part of a move to kick-start the £4.6bn Wirral Waters project.

Who went to China to meet Stella Shiu?

Who met Stella Shiu when she visited Wirral?

Who went to Reno?

Who went to the Isle of Man?

Who was responsible for administering and investigating the Business Investment Grants (BIG), Investment Start Up Scheme (ISUS), and Working Neighbourhoods, schemes?

 

Homes Under The Hammer

FLOG-IT

A housing boom is coming to Wirral whether we like it or not – every piece of land and every building that remains standing seems to be up for grabs in the council’s everything must go slash and burn sale.

In an ingenious ploy to make money for  property developers , who must be rubbing their hands in venal glee ,  there goes the old Lyndale School site and we  presume the Girtrell Court site to follow shortly after. Indeed poor Saughall Massie looks set to become more concrete jungle than green belt – what with the fire station proposal and the residential development and barn conversion planning application for Diamond Farm :

https://planning.wirral.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=_WIRRA_DCAPR_99836

The further desecration of the green belt for the benefit of property developers continues unabated with Wirral Council  ploughing on with Hoylake Golf Resort despite increasing local opposition . They are intent on speculating a further £600,000 of your money in an attempt to ensure this project doesn’t end up in the bunker . Although this particular Cabinet decision is subject to a Special Meeting to be held next week  we predict the call-in will end up like all others – with the ruling Labour group driving down the fairway and avoiding the rough  by using the biggest club they have  in the caddy – an overall majority . As we’ve said all along the only way the Hoylake Golf Resort stacks up financially is courtesy of the high priced executive homes. Indeed we think Hoylake Golf Resort should be more accurately described as a housing development with a golf course attached (or should that be linked?).

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=758&MId=5899

Meanwhile it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that the Wirral Waters project is finally no more. As Wirral Council goes chasing government Housing Zone money to try and build more residential properties on the Peel Holdings site it seems the piecemeal development of Wirral Waters looks set to continue – a Department of Education funded building here, a contact centre there, a housing development over there. Might we suggest that the infamous artists’ impression of ‘Shanghai On The Mersey’ might need a bit of re-touching.

Now that Neptune Developments plans for revamping Birkenhead town centre has been thrown overboard it would seem Wirral Council are attempting to avoid another Wirral Waters , where they were left floundering on the China Seas , by talking about setting up their own development company .

Cllr Phil “Power Boy Pip” Davies today launched yet another plan outlining this particular proposal. This new 4 year plan is to help raise the cash to cover a £132 million hole in HMS Wirral Council before it sinks without trace.

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/14937580.Wirral_Council_plans_radical_reforms_and_warns_of_tax_hikes_to_cover___132m_budget_black_hole/

Unsurprisingly this further extension of  Wirral Council’s ‘New Operating Model’ will include the old standbys  ‘Improving Efficiency ‘, ‘Redesigning Services’ (aka  ‘Redundancies’ and ‘Privatisation’) and ‘Generating Income’ . The latter will inevitably include a Council Tax rise and ‘plans are also being progressed to increase how many new homes are built in the borough.’ As we can see above  , those plans seem to be well underway and so with the Labour Cabinet lead for regeneration being Cllr George Davies with his unorthodox way of doing deals , what could possibly go wrong?……..

 

 

The Bonfire of the Vanities

fireworks-river

Artist’s impression : River of Light  (nb : we got the same crew who did the ‘Wirral Waters’ artist’s impression)

‘Bonny Night’ always leaves us feeling more frazzled than dazzled, especially as we consider that the Gunpowder Plot was a missed opportunity!.

Therefore it seems inevitable that Wirral Leaks was going to piss on the bonfire but when the front page of the first edition of Wirral View screams : “WIRRAL SET TO DAZZLE IN FREE FAMILY SHOW” and reports of the  November  5th ‘River of Light’  suggested it ended with more of a whimper than a bang we consider it our solemn duty.

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/14846223._River_of_Light__fireworks_display_blasted_as_damp_squib/

Our ire for the fireworks was irked by the fact that Wirral Council’s contribution to the display apparently cost council taxpayers £56,000 so was hardly ‘free’ and the cancellation of traditional bonfire displays elsewhere on Wirral seemed a cynical ploy to herd the masses down by the river for ‘ The Pip and Joe Show’. Although we understand there was such a local outcry in Bebington that the Mayer Park display  was reinstated at the last minute.

As we predicted ,  for Wirral Council and Liverpool Council leaders Phil “Power Boy Pip” Davies  and Joe “No – Metro Mayor” Anderson respectively , this was always going to be a bread and circuses vanity show – a dazzling distraction for the masses. A few “oohs” , a few “aahs” and cries of  ” has it started yet ?” , a trudge back to the car and home for sparklers with the kiddiewinks to make up for the disappointment.

And so yet again more public money goes up in smoke in the name of  our vainglorious leaders . As always promising more than they can deliver – Pip and Joe are the very definition of hubris. Foolish pride and dangerous over confidence ending in ignominious failure (see also the  Pip endorsement for Joe’s failed Metro Mayor nomination).

Responding to the criticism from local resident Edna Welthorpe (Mrs)  that the #riverofshite event was “all my arse” Pip and Joe have already promised that they will personally ensure that next year’s event will be a more accurate reflection of economic circumstances.

fireworks-up-yer-bum

 

Year of Flogging A Dead Horse

Under the table

Peel Director Lindsey Ashworth (left)  fondly remembers the table that he claims  Hong Kong bankrupt Stella Shiu could drink him under. Power Boy Pip (allegedly left) looks on gormlessly.

We’d like to thank the perplexed readers who contacted us about a couple of stories that have been published on consecutive days this past week in the Liverpool Echo. They’ve asked us if we could throw some light on the stories.  The first thing we’d like to say is that the Echo is certainly living up to its name. These  two stories appear to us as being not so much published as regurgitated – and much like vomit – equally sickening.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Echo

So let us do this chronologically  – firstly on 14th March we get this previously reported story about Peel Empires Inc – having quite reasonably given up on the Stella Shiu  No-Show – moving on to Plan B ( B for bullshit)  and now want to throw up ( there’s a theme here) residential units on the site previously earmarked for businesses ,offices and the International Trade Centre.

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/business/peel-seeks-investors-partners-build-11039885

Yes ! –  23,500 more buy-to-lets! –  just what we need in the Liverpool Economic Partnership area (which includes Wirral) and which the English Indices of Deprivation indicates is the worst in England and bottom of the league when it comes to employment, income, health deprivation and disability.

Wirral – deprived and with a declining population that is becoming increasingly elderly and dependent .What an attractive proposition to investors!

Then on 15th March we get this follow up desperate “news”story :

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/wirral-trying-make-international-trade-11034120

Talk about late to the party !. It was 5 months ago we covered this bogus story about desperate Wirral Council leader Power Boy Pip Davies maintaining his blind faith in Hong Kong bankrupt Stella Shiu by flogging off some land miles away from the Wirral Waters site when it was first reported in the Financial Times :

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2015/11/20/chinese-takeaway-1st-dibs-2nd-course/

Presciently we commented :

  • The  FT report appears to us to have been a “controlled leak” via a national newspaper with a niche market . Who authorised this leak and what was the motivation to leak the jubilant news of the Sam Wa / Stella Shiu hook-up rather than being heralded as a “good news” story in the likes of the Liverpool Echo ?

Clearly in hindsight this was an early example of Wirral Council’s PR amateur Martin Liptrot’s early work  which he followed up months later with the  lazy / compliant local mouthpiece that is the  Liverpool Echo.

As Her Ladyship commented : ” Wasn’t it a Chinese New Year recently – what was it?  – The Year  of Flogging A Dead Horse ?”

Wirral Waters - Artists Impression

Wirral Waters – the latest artist’s impression.

A Sobering Story

frontpageecho

We were sent a copy of last Thursday’s print edition of the Wirral Echo last week but the front page story – or rather front page fantasy – deals with a matter that came up at tonight’s Wirral Council Cabinet meeting.

Looking at the screaming banner headline : ” WE’RE IN BUSINESS”  and  the news of “£47m INVESTMENT PLAN FOR WIRRAL DOCKLANDS” over the ubiquitous artist’s impression we were rather excited at Leaky Towers that departing Super Duper Director Kevin Addled had reciprocated the substantial leaving gift he received from Wirral Council and cleared his in-tray and sorted out the Wirral Waters development before he departed.

So imagine our disappointment that when we turned to page 13 (unlucky for some) and we saw a picture of some gormless government policy wonk in a hard hat and hi-vis jacket talking hot air.

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/new-investment-fund-wirral-waters-10348634

Therefore we had to read the council report on which the Echo story was based and we have to say the report gives a rather more sober take on events than the high octane hyperbole dramatically portrayed on the front page of newspaper.The council report discussed at tonight’s meeting sought councillors approval to establish something called a Wirral Waters Enterprise Zone (EZ) Investment Fund.However when we tried to get to the bottom of the £47million investment plan all we could fathom was some blather about re-investment of business rates and that potentially £47 million could be realised by 2037!. So yes – basically a figure plucked out of the air that may or may not materialise in a quarter of a century! But hey! – “WE’RE IN BUSINESS!” screams the Echo. 
Overcompensating somewhat after the Stella Shiu debacle the phrase “due diligence” appears half a dozen times in the above council report . There’s even a “rigorous due diligence”.

Let’s hope Wirral council’s future “due diligence”  on matters pertaining to the Wirral Waters are more “rigorous” than their development partner Peel Holdings. Lindsey Ashworth, Peel Group development director, once  joked “that he picked Ms Shiu as a partner because of her ability to drink him under the table.”

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f6e8dda8-582f-11e3-82fc-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3qeNUpBP9

The quote comes from a report in the Financial Times which has consistently reported on how Britain is so keen to sign new business deals with China that it is failing to carry out enough due diligence on prospective investors.

Under the circumstances and especially after the Stella Shiu no-show we would expect more sober reporting from the Echo when it comes to Wirral Waters

However we can’t help feeling that the close working relationship that Wirral Council’s Spinmeister General Martin Liptrotsky has struck up with the Echo is already reaping rewards – see also the recent 75 things to do in Wirral before you die article.
Frankly contrasting the hype emanating from Wirral Council and the continuing false dawns surrounding Wirral Waters we whittled the list down to 1 thing to do – leave.
The drinks are not on Stella!

The drinks are not on Stella!