Caller report: Businesses call for rebuilding of trust

Private sector leaders have declared Government intervention into Liverpool City Council’s operations as an opportunity to improve the public-private sector relationship in the city for the “betterment of its people”.

Max Caller, engaged as an independent consultant by the Government to examine affairs including property management, regeneration and highways procurement by Liverpool City Council, reported his damning findings last week.

The report, billed by Secretary of State Robert Jenrick as dealing with “a politics that for too long has been rooted in a pervasive and rotten culture,” stopped short of recommending that Liverpool be taken fully under central control.

However, Whitehall-appointed commissioners will support chief executive Tony Reeves by taking over certain functions for three years.

An open letter on behalf of Liverpool’s Chamber of Commerce, its BID Company, Professional Liverpool, Downtown in Business and Liverpool@MIPIM – collectively representing more than 2,000 businesses – said that while the groups are “deeply concerned” about Caller’s findings, they are “grateful that the sanctions imposed are proportionate”.

The groups declared their confidence that under the leadership of chief executive Tony Reeves, “the required corrective actions will be successfully delivered”.

The letter said: “There is now an opportunity for the partnership between the public and private sectors in Liverpool to be changed and improved for the betterment of our city and its people.

“We believe that Liverpool retains its attractiveness as a place of business and one with immense growth potential in the years ahead. Catalysing the future potential of Liverpool will require yet further collaboration between businesses and local government and we have absolute confidence that it will be businesses at the forefront of growth and leading this relationship.”

The groups pointed to the success of Paddington Village in the Knowledge Quarter, named as “an exemplar of good investment” and said that Everton FC’s Bramley-Moore Dock stadium project “further exemplifies how the city’s private and public sector can stimulate economic growth”.

The letter concluded: “Our message to Liverpool-based businesses who are already here and those looking at Liverpool from afar is that the future of our city is exciting, world leading, groundbreaking and presents a strong opportunity for growth and investment. An ambitious economic recovery plan will be achieved by the contribution of our business community in the city.”

Reeves last week told Place North West that, while much of the wrongdoing under investigation took place prior to changes being made by his administration from 2019 on, he recognises there is “still a lot to do”.

For his part, Caller said that developers had believed things in Liverpool to be “sewn up“, adding that “the road to recovery will be hard, as it is inevitable that more bad things will emerge”.

Mark Lawler, managing director of Baltic Creative CIC, said: “We believe a new open, honest and transparent approach to planning, assets management, regeneration and development in Liverpool will benefit the Baltic Triangle.

“We hope this new transparency will lead to more diverse and inclusive development, with a refocus on community and community ownership, which better serves the businesses and residents within this part of the city.”

Alan Bevan, managing director of City Residential, told Place: “We’ve been saying for many years that Liverpool needs investment from local, regional, national and international stakeholders/investors.

“Previously, and as indicated in the report, many of the non-local parties have been reluctant to invest or commit time and money due to the perception that the city has been ‘stitched up’ to suit the locals. Whilst the findings of the report and subsequent government actions are somewhat distressing, we strongly believe it may well deliver the opportunity for the city to become more attractive and transparent to the non-local investors.

“It may take time and we are most definitely in the ‘last chance saloon’ but the city still offers huge opportunities if we can put the past behind us.”

Elsewhere, individual businesses have largely been reticent in offering their views on the matter, although one described the process as a “welcome catharsis” for the city.

Another stated the view that although at one time critical, the council’s importance to the city is over-stated, and that “a large employer with an internal culture problem that needs sorting” wouldn’t hold business investment back.

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