Sefton Council

Sefton Searches for Source of Strand Stamp Duty Slander

Top level enquiries are being made within Sefton Council as to how the BBC came to publish false information about the Council’s offshore tax haven purchase of the Bootle Strand shopping centre. Questions are being asked as to who speaks officially for the Council – politicians or senior officers.

Southport and Formby councillors are enraged at the BBC saying they had agreed to the £36 million offshore purchase when they hadn’t done and had in fact been deliberately kept in the dark . Independent and Lib Dem councillors have both made strong representations to council chiefs about how this untruth found its way to the BBC. Council officers say that they are trying to find out how the untrue statement was attributed to Sefton Council but no one is ‘holding their breath’ for the answer.

The BBC story on ‘North West Tonight’ said that the Council’s purchase of the Bootle shopping centre had “all Party support.” whereas Sefton Labour Party press statements quote Council leader Ian Maher as saying that: “leaders of all the opposition groups were involved in the purchase discussions.” and Ainsdale Labour Party activist Mhairi Doyle as saying that the Bootle bosses’ politcal opponents were “part of the purchase discussions” when they were clearly not. Apparently , three hand-picked opposition councillors were given a short private briefing on the matter after the d e sicion ha d been taken but   opposition c ouncillors were thrown out of the actual Sefton Cabinet Meeting when the purchase decision was officially made.

Former Council Leader Tony Robertson is adamant on his blog that somebody or other in the council is not being ‘straight’ with the public. He writes:

“The Times article says:-

An email seen by The Times from the Labour leader of Sefton council confirmed that the structure of its purchase of the Bootle shopping centre helped to avoid tax. It said: “It is true that one of the important considerations for purchasing the company rather than the asset is that the council would not have to pay stamp duty land tax. This is a widely accepted tax-efficient way of completing the purchase.”

Yet since that article appeared a spokesman for Sefton Council has said this to the Liverpool Echo:-

A spokesman for Sefton council said: “In no way has there been any avoidance of tax relating to the purchase of the Strand Shopping Centre.”

So which is it? Was Stamp Duty tax avoided or not avoided?

It appears that senior Sefton Council officers are saying one thing but the ir political bosses in Bootle are saying another.