Liverpool City Council to repay millions after jobs target missed

A council is to give millions of pounds back to the government after a jobs target for a waterfront regeneration project was not met.

Liverpool City Council has blamed a car park fire for the inability to create hundreds of jobs on Kings Dock.

An opposition councillor said it was "unbelievable" the authority had failed to develop the site on the waterfront.

The government said the repayment followed the council's "failure to meet the job creation targets".

In 2012 the authority received £25m from the government to deliver an employment scheme in the north of the city, which was expanded to include King's Dock in 2016.

Planning permission was granted in 2017 for a development which did not happen.

A council report said the parties involved could not agree on terms and a decision was taken not to proceed.

A fire destroyed a multi-storey car park on the site on New Year's Eve in 2017.

Only a portion of the jobs intended for Kings Dock was met.

Leader of the Green Party group at the council, Tom Crone, said he did not accept the car park fire could have completely scuppered investment on a prime site.

"It is unbelievable that for over a decade Labour have been unable to encourage investment into one of the world's most iconic waterfront locations," he said.

"The area is bustling with tourists all year, yet they missed their job creation target by a mile."

He also criticised the government who he said was, until recently, "promising to 'level up' [and is now] demanding their money back from a city which urgently needs investment".

A spokesman for the Department for Levelling Up (DLUHC) said: "Our officials have been working alongside Liverpool City Council to resolve the outstanding recovery of their Regional Growth Fund programme money.

"This follows their failure to meet the job creation targets set out in the terms of the funding and their decision to sell King's Dock which was funded by the programme.

"Discussions on the closure of this programme have not yet been finalised, and the full financial liability for the programme remains with the council until a decision has been taken."

The council's cabinet has agreed to partially close down the scheme and repay a portion of the money, £4m, back to the government.

The scheme was meant to assemble land and deliver new infrastructure, which had previously limited private sector investment.

The report said: "The overall objective was to move people from unemployment into employment."

The expectation was for 875 full-time jobs to be created, along with 7,000 sqm of office space.

In February 2023, the council wrote to DLUHC saying the verified average number of jobs delivered was 249.

As the funding was performance related in terms of jobs created - this meant potential clawback of funds from the government, could have amounted to £18m.

In 2022, the council agreed a new management plan for King's Dock, funded by a grant from Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.

An agreement has been reached between the council and the government that despite being almost 70% below the jobs target set, it would not be forced to repay back the full £25m.

It will set out a proposal to hand over any proceeds from the planned sale of land at King's Dock, up to £4.1m, to repay the original allocation.

Councillor Nick Small, cabinet member for growth and economy, said the authority was waiting for final agreement from DLUHC before it would confirm the exact amount to be repaid.

He said: "The City Council is awaiting a decision from DLUHC on the settlement of a funding arrangement regarding the historic investment from the Regional Growth Fund."

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