Call for Transparency: Metro Mayor Must return £10,000 donation from City Developer

30 Apr 2024
Rob McAllister-Bell

In light of revelations reported by The Telegraph on 29 April 2024, there is a growing demand for Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram to address potential conflicts of interest.

 It has come to light that Mayor Rotheram accepted a £10,000 donation from a developer just two weeks before Liverpool’s Labour-run council facilitated the sale of land to the same firm.

Further complicating matters, The Telegraph also highlighted that TJ Morris Ltd had previously donated £20,000 to Mr. Rotheram in June 2023, as recorded by the Electoral Commission.

This donation preceded TJ Morris’s planning application (Application Reference Number: 23F/2153) on 07 August 2023 for a seven-storey building intended for student accommodation in one of the accelerated development zones emphasized in the panel’s final report.

These donations, totalling £30,000 within a 12-month period, were made while Mayor Rotheram chaired the Liverpool Strategic Futures Advisory Panel, a body established to rebuild public trust and ensure integrity in the city’s development processes.

Despite a spokesperson for Mayor Rotheram stating, "The Mayor had no prior knowledge of the application and no role in the council’s planning process," concerns persist due to the significant role to took on when he accepted the chair of the panel, agreeing to work with the leader of Liverpool council, the cabinet, and wider partners, including the commissioners—all of which do fall under his area of influence.

Today, formal letters were sent to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, and Lead Commissioner Mike Cunningham, calling for a comprehensive review of the panel’s recommendations to ensure they remain untainted by potential conflicts of interest.

Councillor Robert McAllister-Bell, representing Mossley Hill and also vying for the Metro Mayor seat, expressed his concerns: "Steve Rotheram’s acceptance of not just one, but two sizeable donations from a developer involved in significant planning decisions is a glaring lapse in judgment. This isn’t just about poor decision-making; it questions the very integrity of our city’s leadership. While The Metro Mayor does not himself have a personal vote on individual planning applications his leadership of the Liverpool Strategic Futures Advisory Panel, established to guide the city’s planning during a government-directed intervention, places him in an influential position over the city’s planning landscape.

The panel’s final report, mapping out accelerated development zones include areas of direct interest to developers, which could raise further ethical and transparency concerns by then accepting donations from a developer.

In my view accepting donations from a developer while in such an influential position is at best a terrible look. Most people of Liverpool will rightly see it as a clear conflict of interest.

Leaders have a responsibility to set high standards of integrity and trust which is why he must return the money.

Given these developments, I call on Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram to return the donations received and to issue an apology to the people of Liverpool and to his fellow panel members, whose recommendations could be tarnished.’’

It is essential for the city’s leadership to demonstrate accountability and to rectify any actions that could undermine public trust. There is no indication or belief of wrongdoing from TJ Morris Ltd, but serious questions arise about why the Metro Mayor in his role as chair of the panel would think accepting the donations was proper.”

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