Senior Lib Dem councillor Iain Brodie Browne has called for answers from Sefton Council Leader Iain Maher about precisely how much the council has shelled out to professional advisors over the controversial £32 million purchase of the Bootle Strand Shopping Centre.
He has submitted a formal written question to this Thursday’s council meeting to be held in Southport Town Hall.
Labour-controlled Sefton Council has come in for criticism recently for acquiring the Bootle property by purchasing the shares in a Luxembourg-based company, rather than the property direct. It is understood that this avoided £1.6 million in stamp duty.
“I’ve received information that the total paid to advisors could be over £500,000, which is a truly staggering figure,” says Birkdale’s Cllr Brodie Browne.
“I’m calling on the Labour Leader to come clean on how much has been paid to which professional firms, and, most importantly, what the fees were for.”
He understands that a significant part of the total could be payable to leading tax accountants Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC). It was PwC who came in for heavy criticism from Parliament’s influential Public Accounts Committee in February 2015 for its Luxembourg based tax avoidance scheme.
At the time senior Labour MP and Chair of the Committee, Margaret Hodge, said:
“This is the second time we have had cause to examine the role of large accountancy firms in advising multinational companies on complex strategies and contrived structures which are designed for no purpose other than to avoid tax.
We believe that PricewaterhouseCoopers’s activities represent nothing short of the promotion of tax avoidance on an industrial scale.
Contrary to its denials, the tax arrangements PwC promotes, based on artificially diverting profits to Luxembourg through intra-company loans, bear all the characteristics of a mass-marketed tax avoidance scheme.”