Surely pressing ahead with the Lichfield Masterplan will increase the likelihood of a repeat of the failed Friarsgate project? The reason funding never materialised before was because the economic fundamentals of both the council and the project were unsound; to investors, it was a risk not worth taking. Amid a government-induced economic depression with the threat of local lockdowns and ever-present social distancing, why is the Lichfield Masterplan more likely to attract the funding than Friarsgate that went before it? The answer is simple – it isn’t.
The council has proven that it can’t create businesses and can’t create jobs…Christopher J. Wilkinson
In recognition of this, the council is now pushing for increased expenditure for the project to be sourced from local taxpayers and borrowing, not from commercial partnerships. In other words, the liability has been shifted from those who could reasonably be expected to pay to those who cannot. As a city, Lichfield is living way beyond its means. The wasteland that forms our city centre should be sold off to property developers at the earliest feasible moment so that we have the infrastructure in place to make the most from the economic recovery. Patches of soil and grass don’t make for good revenue-earners, but office space and small-to-medium sized shops do. The council has proven that it can’t create businesses and can’t create jobs, but the private sector can.
This Conservative-run council is facing defeat, but in its hubris, it refuses to accept the reality.Christopher J. Wilkinson
Despite all this, Lichfield District Council seems to have developed quite a habit of devising ridiculously expensive infrastructure projects only then to find every reason possible not to go through with them. For Friarsgate, it was the 2008 Financial Crisis. For the Lichfield Masterplan, it’ll be COVID-19. As Councillor Little has said ‘…we need the support from commercial and legal experts to aid us in that process as we haven’t got that expertise within the council to ensure proper governance.’ – after over two decades of dither, delays, excuses and abandonment, there could not have been a finer statement to emblemise the white flag rising over the council office. This Conservative-run council is facing defeat, but in its hubris, it refuses to accept the reality. Maybe it’s time to give business a fair go instead?