Liverpool Council officers have reassured investors in key projects that the authority is a “sound partner” – and maintain that “confidence remains”.
The council’s chief executive Tony Reeves addressed councillors on Tuesday night following last week’s arrest of mayor Joe Anderson.
As part of Merseyside Police’s Operation Aloft – an investigation into building contracts in the city – Mayor Anderson was one of five men arrested on Friday.
Speaking to the council’s Audit and Governance Committee last night, the first meeting since Mayor Anderson’s arrest, chief executive Tony Reeves said officers had reassured investors that the council was a sound partner with whom to carry out projects.
Answering a question from Lib Dem councillor Andrew Makinson about how the arrest may affect investor confidence in Liverpool, Mr Reeves said: “First of all we are, as you would expect, in detailed discussions with the major developers and investors for all the big schemes in the council.
“They are absolutely assured that governance at the council is sound and confidence in those projects remains.”
The council has a vast number of schemes currently in progress or development across Liverpool, including regeneration projects in the Knowledge Quarter, Paddington Village and the Ten Streets.
Mr Reeves also said detailed discussions had been taking place with the government since Friday, including a meeting with Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick on Monday.
He said that while “all options remain open” to the government, up to and including sending commissioners to run council departments, Mr Jenrick appeared satisfied not to take any of those actions now.
They have instead sent a letter to the council, published by the Liverpool Echo yesterday, detailing a series of documents that must be sent to MHCLG for examination by Friday afternoon.
Mr Reeves said there would also be weekly meetings between council and government officials as the case develops.
The council’s auditors also briefly addressed Mayor Anderson’s arrest, confirming that the council’s accounts would not be signed off for the fifth year in a row.
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Andrew Smith, from auditors Grant Thornton, said: “Clearly our report was published prior to the developments on Friday. What the report does not reflect is the work that we will now be doing in response to the new information that has come out of Friday.
“As referenced in the report, our audit risk assessment did identify the concerns arising from Operation Aloft, particularly around asset management, and we identified that as a significant value for money risk.
“We have carried out additional work already this year but, as the report states, and I’ll go into detail later, we are unable to conclude our work in this area.
“What this does mean is that we are not going to be able to certify the audit as complete until those investigations are concluded and the facts are known.
“This, as you may be aware, has been the case for the past four years due to Operation Sheridan, which of course also remains ongoing.”
Mr Smith said he would not be able to comment extensively about the case but said further work would now take place as part of the audit.
Mayor Anderson was not in attendance at the meeting.