Monday, November 03, 2008

Civic Chaos: A Case Study

Fresh from the farce over the McCartney concert, Liverpool City Council has again demonstrated its ability to look after the city's coffers responsibly. A final settlement has been reached on the court case involving the council & Bill Davies' Walton Group, &, guess what, Davies has walked away with a cool £2m in his pocket, courtesy of the city's civic comedians ( ):
"The Daily Post can reveal Liverpool's taxpayers will end up paying 80 times the £25,000 which Mr Davies's Walton Group paid the council in 1996 for a disputed option to develop Chavasse Park."
Some background detail is necessary here. Davies took out an option on the Chavasse Park site if the council's plan for the area, a "National Discovery Centre", set to mark the millenium, fell through. It did, of course. Davies set about devising his own plans for the site, a major shopping complex, employing architects to draw up plans. However, in 2002, the council went to court to win the right to allow Grosvenor to build the Liverpool One development on the land.
It's worth recalling that Davies' Walton Group owned a number of properties in the city centre which had been allowed to fall into disrepair & neglect, one such property being the old Post Office site in Whitechapel. The local media's attempts to interview Davies were always rebuffed, creating the image of the Walton Group as secretive & unconcerned about the city's regeneration. The reality was & is more prosaic: Davies is a hard-headed businessman who bided his time, knowing that the council's negotiating team was no match for his retinue of assiduous lawyers. Davies also owned the Aintree racecourse at a time when the future of the Grand National was seriously questioned.
The Daily Post article dredges up some pretty embarassing memories for the city fathers:
"Back in September 2005 the council pledged to 'strenuously' resist Walton's demand.
"Cllr Mike Storey, then leader of the council, said at the time: 'The Walton Group has become a byword for inactivity and failure to help the regeneration of this city. I think the people of Liverpool will be shocked at the sheer cheek of this claim.'
"It is understood the council had set aside £1m to fight a court case which was due to start in January 2009.
"Sources said the council had been sure it had a 'water tight' case. However, this opinion seems to have changed given the level of the pay-out."
To paraphrase Mike Storey, I think the people of Liverpool will be shocked at the inept, inattentive & spineless way in which the council has capitulated to Davies, costing the city dearly.

No comments: