North Shore Framework Liverpool
Anderson was arrested on Friday alongside four others

IN FOCUS | Can Liverpool’s property industry survive latest storm?

Dan Whelan

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.

Anderson was elected mayor in 2015

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.

“Let’s hope things get back on track as we have some real pluses to look forward to like the film studio project on Edge Lane, more work at Paddington Village , the cruise liner terminal and hotel, and so on.”

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. 

Municipal Buildings WBHO

Falconer Chester Hall has designed the planned hotel conversion of the Municipal Buildings

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. 

 

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Many of the “investors” circling Liverpool over the past ten years haven’t been worth having, quite the opposite.

If real investors are to return to Liverpool, confidence in the place needs to be restored.

Make no mistake, this is a test of the UK as a whole. Either the UK reclaims the city and turns it around, or the problems here will spread. Failure is not an option.

By Mike

We can thrive after this! Replace the city mayor with a leader and allow our Metro Mayor to take over unhindered to lead the wider city into the next phase of our development as a world leading city.

By Roscoe

Combine the arrests of the Mayor of Liverpool, a former Deputy Leader of the City Council, an Assistant Director of Highways and Planning, and the Head of Regeneration along with the former Chief Executive of the City Council and two other former senior Council Officers then the conclusion is that this looks to an outsider a pretty corrupt place to do business. The Police and the Crown Prosecution have not yet taken any of these individuals to Court but significant damage and harm has been already been done to Liverpool.

Restoring the confidence of investors, house-builders, developers and those who want to see the city succeed will take strong leadership and the determination to repair a tainted reputation.

By Anonymous

Survive?.. yes of course. Thrive ? Things were bad enough and likely to get worse in the coming years as interest rates head north as they must, and the next great recession hits. We are all going to be clobbered. Investigations on this scale alone even if they came to nought are not going to do our reputation with investors any good at all. All things pass though and this too will go away. I suspect it will be quite some time though.

By JohnP

Totally agree, I never got the reason why we have a mayor for a ‘bit’ of Liverpool. If the region is to do better, it needs to work together as a region….

By Anonymous

Liverpool needs to move on – and quickly. At an officer level, the council has to get itself on the front foot, being proactive and decisive as far as its relationships with investors and developers are concerned.

The worst thing that can happen now would be a period of stasis while a fearful officer class gets its head down. This is a real test of Tony Reeves’ leadership: he needs to rally the troops and investors need to know that help is available to them to ease their investment through whatever due process is required.

By Sceptical