Posted by: John Brace | 27th November 2019

What was in the due diligence report to Wirral Council councillors about a proposed £26 million loan to developers for the Hoylake Golf Resort?

What was in the due diligence report to Wirral Council councillors about a proposed £26 million loan to developers for the Hoylake Golf Resort?

                                   

ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) logo

ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) logo

In late June I made an information request to Wirral Council for the reports to councillors that had later led to the Cabinet decision against a £26 million loan to the Nicklaus Joint Venture Group. I received no reply. In early September I asked Wirral Council again to do a review as to why this request hadn’t been responded to. Again no reply.

A fortnight ago I flagged this up with ICO (the Information Commissioner’s Office who are the regulator) and yesterday Wirral Council provided (albeit in parts redacted) 56 A4 pages of information (although some are blank or duplicate pages).

The first ten pages are a report of Shaer Halewood to the cross-party Business Overview and Scrutiny Committee. This Committee discussed their recommendation to Cabinet about whether to make a £26 million loan to the Nicklaus Joint Venture Group in private on the 27th June 2019 (see video below).

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Business Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Wirral Council) 27th June 2019

Their unanimous decision was to recommend to Cabinet not to go ahead with the loan.

Cabinet decided to agree with their recommendation not to loan the developer £26 million at a special meeting on the 8th July 2019 (see below).

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Cabinet (Wirral Council) 8th July 2019

However pages 11-56 of what was released yesterday includes a “Strictly Confidential” due diligence report to councillors about the Hoylake Golf Resort (or Celtic Manor Resort) project. The due diligence report was about the Funding and Phasing Plan in relation to the loan decision.

If I have read the report correctly (see page 22 and 2.19) it appears that the company that is Wirral Council’s auditor (Grant Thornton) also did work for the Nicklaus Joint Venture Group in preparing the Funding and Phasing Plan that was submitted to Wirral Council.

The report also reveals that “McCarthy and Stone” are part of the project as an “apartment partner”.

In relation to the controversial matter of the proposed new link road running through the greenbelt and who pays for it (Wirral Council have already asked the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and been turned down) it appears a request has been made to central government for the £millions it would cost.

By the timetable in the due diligence report a planning application is expected next year in March 2020.

Other than that – the released information puts more detail in the public domain about this controversial project. Especially as since May 2019 the constituency committees have been abolished so there has been less opportunity for the public to ask questions.

The information revealed also highlighted proposed changes to the existing development agreement between Wirral Council and the Nicklaus Joint Venture Group. The aims of the one of the proposed changes were to reduce SDLT (Stamp Duty Land Tax) liabilities.

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Responses

  1. As Wirral Council is already £7 to £12 million over budget so far for this year, so next year they will be making more cuts, [ is there anything left to cut?] how can they have £26 million lying around to lend?
    We need to do away with Council’s

    • Thanks for your comment.

      The vast majority of the £26 million was going to be borrowed money (I think around £24 million) and would be from their capital budget (rather than the revenue budget which has the projected £7-12 million projected overspend).


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