Liverpool City Council has been accused of “misleading” the city over a deal in which it claimed to have gained control of the city’s markets for £1.
In 2016 the Council bought Geraud Markets Liverpool Ltd, the company that managed the city’s markets. At the time the council said they only paid £1 for the company, which was renamed Liverpool Markets Limited (LML).
Councilor Malcolm Kennedy, then a cabinet member for regeneration, described the deal as a “watershed moment” for the city. However, it has emerged that the deal included the council waiving a large debt from Geraud.
CONTINUE READING: ‘Shock’ at Liverpool market company’s multi-million dollar collapse
Annual accounts for LML published in Companies House explain that £515,073 has been written off to allow for the purchase of the shares. The Council has said “old” problems around the management of the markets will be examined.
The document, published in December 2018, reads: “Geraud Markets (UK) was the parent company until September 2016. The exceptional charge included in the Statement of Comprehensive Income in the prior period includes £515,073 in respect of balances owed by Geraud Group, which were written off by the Company as a condition of the purchase of the shares held by Geraud Markets (UK) Limited.”
The report was signed by Darren Hardy in his capacity as Director of LML. Mr. Hardy was also an area manager in the Urban Renewal Department at the time.
LML managed well-known markets such as St. John’s in the city center and Great Homer Street in Everton. The company went into liquidation in May 2019.
Colin Laphan, chairman of the Liverpool Markets Traders Association, said: “Market traders across Liverpool were stunned to find that the council had misled people by falsely claiming they had withdrawn the ‘markets’ for £1.
“When they were already aware that part of the deal was to write off over £500,000 in debt.”
Last week, ECHO revealed that LML owed millions of pounds to the council following its collapse.
About Companies House Records The company was incorporated in 2003 and Liverpool Council took control of the company in 2016 and bought all the shares. December 2015 accounts showed a deficit of £965,330.
This deficit increased to £2,398,077 in March 2017. The latest figures, released earlier this month, show that LML owes the community £3,469,896.00.
Mr Laphan expressed renewed concern at the way the company had accumulated so much debt in recent years.
He said: “Tens of millions have been raised by the market society in recent years but there is no transparency as to where this money has gone. We’ve been asking about service charge plans for over 15 years.
“This is just one example of the lack of accountability and foggy conditions surrounding market revenues. Great Homer Street probably took in around £500,000 a year.
“As traders, we’ve all had broken promise after broken promise. The people in office seem to have forgotten their basic obligations to the community and need to be kept at a higher level.”
Liverpool City Council announced the £1 deal in 2016 when a spokesman said: “The City Council today paid a nominal £1 to take over Geraud Markets Liverpool Ltd and will now run all day-to-day market operations with immediate effect. ”
Speaking on behalf of the then council, Cllr Kennedy, who resigned as a council member in October 2021 after moving to Spain, said: “This deal marks a turning point in the history of the Liverpool markets and ensures they once again become a great asset in our thriving retail sector .
“As a city government we are investing millions in upgrading facilities and it was time to regain full control of operations.
“As a result of this new deal, we will be able to host, manage, promote and deliver the markets in-house and ensure a standard of quality to match the new facilities we are investing in.
“With this new approach, existing tenants, prospective retailers and customers have a single point of contact, enabling us to enhance market offerings across all areas of farmers markets, international markets and Christmas markets.”
Councilor Harry Doyle, Cabinet Member for Culture and Visitor Management, said: “Any legacy issues arising from the management of the markets are scrutinized by officials and no stone is left unturned.” That is why I have called for a review to be put on our relationship back to dealers in the future.”