UNITE the Union boss Len McCLuskey – a staunch Corbyn ally – gave over £74m of the union’s cash to his pal and close associate to build a hotel that should only have cost £35m.
An emergency meeting was called by the union, which collects millions of pounds from hardworking Brits across the country every month.
Yet the overspend isn’t the worst of Mr McCLuskey’s problems, after it was revealed that the cash he signed over was shockingly given to his friends and associates, while he rewarded a multi-million-pound contract to the since-arrested son of former Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson, who is currently on bail after been charged over the suspicious project by anti-fraud police.
The contract to build the 170-room hotel and conference centre was awarded in 2015 to the Flanagan Group, a Liverpool company run by a close associate of McCluskey, who is the union’s general secretary.
A note contained in a leaked Unite document says: “Included in land and buildings above is £74.0m (2018: £42.6m) of assets in the course of construction for the National Education and Conference Centre & Hotel in Birmingham. No depreciation has been charged on these assets on the basis that they are not yet available for use.”
The document also states that “the conference centre and hotel is operated by Blackhorse HCC Ltd which owns 76%”.
McCluskey and four executive council members of the union have now been revealed to be the directors of Blackhorse – hence he has funnelled an enormous mound of cash essentially into his own pocket.
The Flanagan Group is under investigation by Merseyside police in connection with Operation Aloft, an inquiry into the sale to developers of council-owned land in Liverpool. The group’s boss, Paul Flanagan, was arrested in September on suspicion of conspiracy to commit bribery, with Joe Anderson and his son David arrested on the same day.
The revelation of ‘shady deadlings’ could just be the tip of the iceberg, as McCluskey also authorised huge sums of cash over to The Flanagan group for construction work for Unite on buildings in Swansea, Stoke and Liverpool.
Seemingly attempting to distance itself from a company run by McCluskey’s chums, Unite said it was false to suggest that ‘the Flanagan Group is somehow a preferred contractor’. Yet this claim does not ring true taking account the following testimonial by Unite on the company’s official website:
“The Flanagan Group is our go-to firm for the maintenance and modernisation of Unite premises across the UK.”
Interestingly, despite an initial spat between McCLuskey and Anderson, the Unite boss officially backed pal Joe Anderson during his successful election campaign, and the two were suspiciously fast to ‘go into business’ together – with Anderson using the council’s cash, and McCLuskey the Union’s.
The huge overspend into the Birmingham project is now being looked into – with eyebrows raised over how a construction that he had direct financial interest in ‘conveniently’ ended up with over £35m more than budgeted.
Gerard Coyne, a Keir Starmer supporter who narrowly lost to Corbynista McCluskey in the 2017 bid to run the union, said this month that he would stand again – with the Unite chief having announced that he will be stepping down next year.
Coyne, who was sacked by rival McCluskey, said: “Spiralling costs, poor reporting and contractual questions mean there must now be a full, externally-led and published review into Unite the Union’s Birmingham conference centre and hotel project. If this had been a public sector build then unions would have been making the same demand.”
McCluskey has since been exposed as exploiting the union to run another ‘racket’, by using the company’s database to encourage its millions of members to use financial services run by another of his friends – with it speculated that McCLuskey himself has an arrangement to financially benefit from any resulting business.
Companies promoted by Unite include one promising “exclusive access” to the “best possible equity release deal”. Another offered to “see if you are eligible for a tax refund” – with the promoting company also having links to McLuskey, and keeping 30 per cent of any money refunded.
Shockingly, each of the companies is owned by yet another of McCLuskey’s close pals, Howard Beckett, who is expected to takeover as General Secretary upon his departure.
The dubious dealings have raised serious questions as to whether his decision to step down is the result of ‘dodgy dealings’ that could land the socialist behind bars.
McCluskey was previously slammed for taking £400,000 from Unite the Union to buy himself a posh pad in London.
‘There’s a lot of people now thinking that he’s been directing cash into his own companies and pockets, and taking huge backhanders’ one source connected to disgraced mayor Joe Anderson told VoteWatch. ‘What else explains why he’s handed millions of pounds of member’s money over to his chums and to people who’ve now been arrested for fraud, bribery and intimidation? At best it sounds like cronyism and mismanagement. At worst it could well be embezzlement. ‘