Fierce row after demolition of council-owned West Lancs housing corporation

A homebuilding company behind new residential developments around Skelmersdale and West Lancashire is to be wound up by the Borough Council that owns it, following a ruling by Conservative councilors and others.

The decision angered some Labor advisers. Some claim that more than £1million of public money could now be wasted winding down the business and that 1,000 locals are on waiting lists for new homes.

Tawd Valley Developments Ltd is 100% owned by West Lancashire Borough Council, which is the sole shareholder. The company has been told to immediately halt all development in and out of West Lancashire, apart from ongoing housing projects, following debate and a vote at the final plenary meeting of West Lancashire Borough Council.

Now a committee of Conservative, Our West Lancashire and Labor councilors is to be set up to oversee the liquidation process and report to other borough councillors.

The liquidation decision was taken at the end of the last plenary meeting of the board. The motion was to be held in private, without public or press. This arrangement is permitted in certain circumstances, such as when discussing sensitive or confidential business or personal details, if councilors vote to hold the discussion in camera.

Tawd Valley Developments has been the subject of political debate in recent months at West Lancashire Borough Council, where Labor is the largest political group and holds the main cabinet roles, but cannot beat all the others parties together.

Opposition advisers from the Conservative and Our West Lancashire groups have raised various questions about the housing company’s business plan and ambitions, after Tawd Valley Developments was included in a broad risk assessment covering all services and Borough Council activities.

Some Labor councilors claimed the Tories were politically opposed to affordable or council-led housing projects and exaggerated their fears about any potential risk in the business plan for their own political advantage. However, this has been denied by opposition groups.

At the last full council meeting, Conservative councilor David Westley, backed by Our West Lancashire councilor Adrian Owens, tabled a motion to end the operations of Tawd Valley Developments Ltd. This was then adopted in a vote.

Earl Westley’s motion stated:

  • That with immediate effect, Tawd Valley Developments Ltd (TVD Ltd) halt all development outside the borough.
  • That with immediate effect TVD Ltd stop all developments in the borough, other than those already underway.

  • That a committee of member shareholders be set up to make recommendations to the board, to implement a gradual and controlled winding-up of TVD Ltd, consisting of two Labor advisers, two Conservative advisers and an adviser from Our West Lancashire for the taking of decision and delegated review of TVD Ltd.

After the meeting, Our West Lancashire councilor Adrian Owens said: “Some of the comments about it on social media are completely untrue. We have not canceled social housing construction programs. We have approved and supported the construction of 50 new social housing units in Fairlie. It was we at OWL who campaigned for three years to secure Skelmersdale’s next revival project. It is finally happening with an initial £9million project and nearly 90 new social housing units to be built.

He continued: ‘I was the portfolio holder who built the council houses at Elmstead in Skelmersdale, which at the time were the first to be built in 15 years. I also delivered the revival of Firbeck. These and other projects show that we don’t need an expensive home building company to do this job.

The housing corporation required £400,000 of capital investment annually from municipal taxpayers. He doesn’t have a decent pipeline of development sites and instead wanted to evict tenants from municipal garages to tear them down and build private homes in their place. Recently, she also wanted to build on a much-loved and rare public open space in Ormskirk.

“It’s an expensive way to deliver much-needed homes that is shrouded in secrecy. We would have to build the houses ourselves as we have always done, in the traditional way, by contracting directly with a construction company. Our West Lancashire look forward to bringing forward and supporting more council housing and estate regeneration projects in the years to come. »

But the move sparked a violent political backlash elsewhere.

Labor councilor Adam Yates said: “After several months of trying to work with opposition parties (at my instigation) to agree a council budget for the next financial year, I am horrified that the Tories and Our West Lancashire conspired to stop the council’s development. company, Tawd Valley Developments) to the full board.

“Over the past few years, West Lancashire Borough Council has had a budget deficit of around £1.2million. This was the direct result of the Conservative government’s cuts and the complete lack of ambition shown by the former Conservative administration of the council. While in control, they didn’t try to find ways to bridge that gap – their response was simply to cut services, including laying off more than 50 staff and closing the Skelmersdale Sports Center.

“This labor administration wanted to be able to offer more to our residents, while making us less dependent on government funding, so we launched a total council restructuring and set up Tawd Valley Developments to generate revenue and offer best housing developments in the borough. . Thanks to these decisions, we closed the budget gap this year and we did not have to cut services to do so.

“The choice of the Conservatives and Our West Lancashire to close Tawd Valley Developments is purely political and will significantly harm the council. Not only will closing the business be likely to cost upwards of £1.2million, but this council will also lose all future revenue – putting services at risk – and we will be heavily criticized by our listeners for wasting the money taxpayers in a company that we invested and then closed unnecessarily. Your money.

“Having closed our budget gap, the Tories and Our West Lancashire have now deliberately and maliciously created a new one.

“Tawd Valley Developments has already delivered a number of high quality housing developments. We have just had an external review of the business – which the Conservatives and Our West Lancashire have requested, at an additional cost to the council. This did not raise any concerns about excessive risk to the board, but did suggest that we review the business objectives to be absolutely clear on the benefits it brings.

The site of the first Tawd Valley Developments housing estate

“These benefits could be, and would have been, huge: Tawd Valley Developments would have helped advance the council’s green agenda and improve the sustainability of the new housing stock. It is said to have created employment and training for local people through its use of local businesses and good practice standards. And it would have helped meet the needs of the thousand people currently on the waiting list for housing, through a real planned program of building social housing – something we haven’t had since before the 1980s. .

Earl Yates added: ‘It is not ‘an expensive development company’ as Our West Lancashire has tried to make it out to be. If the council chose to contract out the construction of houses rather than using Tawd Valley Developments, they would still be paying the developers’ fees, often well in excess of those charged by Tawd Valley Developments – but this is a hugely expensive decision to make. close at this point. point in time.

“Property developments take time, so we knew we had to invest in the early years of the business for it to succeed. The council, as the sole shareholder of Tawd Valley Developments, invested nearly £1million in equity to set up the business and ensure it could survive long enough to become profitable. That taxpayers’ money will be lost for good if the company is shut down without being allowed to complete its current business plan, all in an effort to score cheap political points before an election.

“To date, neither the Conservatives nor Our West Lancashire have offered any suggestions as to how they will replace lost revenue from Tawd Valley Developments.

“Last week they made it clear in their budgets that they had no intention of replacing this lost revenue and that they would be wasting council reserves to cover the huge cost of closing the business.

He added: ‘Our West Lancashire has tried to mislead the public with false claims about how much the company charges for building social housing, when in truth they are doing it at a cost of less than that of any commercial developer, but never elaborated on why they think generating the necessary funds for the council without taxing local residents or businesses is such a bad thing.

“The closure of Tawd Valley Developments is a terrible decision for the borough and an obscene and irresponsible waste of taxpayers’ money.”

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