How did Liverpool City Council turn a beautiful idea into an omnishambles?
By John Brace (Editor)
First publication date: Monday 21st November 2022, 12:14 (GMT).
This is a brief summary about how a “beautiful idea” went horribly wrong and ended up becoming an omnishambles.
In 2014 a new community interest company was registered called the Beautiful Ideas Company North (CIC). The regulator for community interest companies is called the Office of the Regulator of Community Interest Companies (who as part of their remit investigate and take action on complaints about community interest companies).
The objects of the Beautiful Ideas Company North (CIC) were stated in its articles of association as follows:-
“to carry on activities which benefit the community and in particular (without limitation) to:
1 Run a collaborative partnership of public, private and community organisations, with political support, delivering local services. Beautiful North CiC brings together the Mayor, councillors, key agencies and local businesses in a voluntary partnership, giving leadership, pooling resources and identifying and responding to community priorities,
2 Create positive partnership for area regeneration. Major housing and stadium redevelopment works will be levered to give community regeneration opportunities which the CiC can respond to, providing a social enterprise offer and views and
3 Runs a series of revenue-earning projects, which both employ local people, and earn surpluses to re-invesrt in local enterprise. The CiC Pane will work closely with councillors and local partners to invest in start-ups, service innovation and enterprise.”
Skip forward eight years and on the 2nd September 2022 the regulator for Freedom of Information requests ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) published a 23 A4 page decision notice (IC-104047-G8Z7) requiring Liverpool City Council to publish a number of internal audit reports into the Beautiful Ideas Company North (CIC).
Then (with some redactions) Liverpool City Council published a 2015 internal audit report into Anfield Car Park, an internal audit memorandum (with recommendations) from 2017, a further internal audit memorandum from 2017 and a further internal audit report from 2019.
The published reports raise a lot of unanswered questions about the governance and running of the Beautiful Ideas Company North (CIC). The elected Mayor of Liverpool Joanne Anderson has made complaints alleging breaches of the Code of Conduct or Nolan principles involving 5 Liverpool City Council councillors connected to the issues arising from the publication of those reports.
An extraordinary meeting of all Liverpool City Council councillors is to be held on Wednesday, 23rd November 2022 starting at 4.30 pm in the Council Chamber at Liverpool Town Hall to discuss the following motion moved by councillors in the Liverpool Community Independents group who are calling for an independent investigation.
The motion, tabled by Councillors Alfie Hincks, Anna Rothery, Alan Gibbons, Sarah Morton, Rona Heron, Sam Gorst and Joanne Calvert is as follows:-
“This Council views with concern the content of the 2015, 2017 and 2019 Beautiful Ideas Community Interest Company (CIC) internal Audit reports.
We note that issues were raised about record-keeping, non-payment of business rates, VAT registration, independent verification of takings, non-distribution of funds to the community, failures in the scoring system of the selection body, remuneration of directors and conduct of the company by the Board including any council appointed Director.
We note that it took the intervention of the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) to bring some transparency to the operation of the Beautiful Ideas CIC and the involvement of councillors.
Council believes serious questions of governance are raised and that there should be independent participation in a full and rigorous inquiry into the company and its relationship to Liverpool City Council.”
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