IN FOCUS | Can Liverpool’s property industry survive latest storm?
The arrests of mayor Joe Anderson and four others on suspicion of bribery and witness intimidation could deter some investors but it still offers ample opportunities for growth and returns, according to commentators.
One commentator, who asked to remain anonymous, said that many people that work and live within the city were not surprised when the news of the arrests in connection with Merseyside Police’s Operation Aloft corruption investigation broke on Friday.
However, “if you are sat in your office in Chicago or Shanghai without full knowledge of the facts just reading a headline it looks awful,” the commentator added.
News of the latest arrests could therefore negatively influence the attitudes of prospective investors and others not based in Liverpool.
However, the commentator added that it would be less likely to affect the thinking or judgement of those already invested in the city, who have “done their due diligence and are aware of the good stuff going on”.
Others agreed that Liverpool still has a great deal to offer investors, particularly in terms of life sciences developments in areas such as the Knowledge Quarter and the university districts.
One comment from a Place North West reader said: “What is so very frustrating in all of this is that Liverpool is bursting with really good entrepreneurs in the likes of hospitality, tech and digital sectors. In many cases the council has let them down with and limited outlook at local level.
Adam Hall, director of Liverpool-based architect Falconer Chester Hall, told Place North West that the news does not change his attitude towards working in the city.
“Liverpool is a great place for investment and development activity and whatever is going on in the press or the council won’t change the way we approach each project at FCH and our relationship with council planning officers,” he said.
The anonymous commentator added: “Sometimes you have got to put the past behind you. It’s like one of those old spaghetti westerns when you have to clean up Dodge and move on.”
But before Liverpool can move on, it must count the cost of the ongoing investigation into the award of building and development contracts in the city, which has claimed 11 arrests since it launched more than 12 months ago.
“Whatever the outcome I think [this latest turn of events] has set us back by a year,” said Cllr Richard Kemp, leader of Liverpool’s Liberal Democrats.
Anderson is one of many to have been arrested in relation to the investigation, but Kemp said he believes the mayor’s arrest will do more to damage Liverpool’s reputation among investors than “100 arrests further down the line”.
Kemp said the news of Anderson’s arrest could make developers and the Government think twice about spending money in Liverpool.
“For the last two years, the chief executive of [Liverpool City Council] has worked hard to bring about good links with the private sector and quality developers, but that was all lost in the space of an hour on Friday,” he said.
Kemp added: “We have got a coherent Liverpool Covid recovery plan. Roughly, we are asking for £1 from the Government for every £5 of private sector investment. But we are asking for that at a time when senior officials in Whitehall must be asking ‘what the hell is going on?’
“We are not now going to be the first for public money and that will affect private investment as well.”
With Liverpool’s economic recovery from the Covid-enforced slowdown potentially at stake as a result of last week’s news, there have been calls for Anderson to step down as mayor to soften the impact on the city.
If he did, deputy mayor Wendy Simon would take the reins until the election, which is scheduled for May 2021. Anderson, who has now been barred from the Labour Party, is not permitted to stand again in May.