Exclusive: Gerard Woodhouse was investigated over allegations of ‘financial irregularity’
The County Ward councillor denies all accusations of wrongdoing
Dear members — last August, we published a long-read about County Ward councillor Gerard Woodhouse that turned out to be one of our most popular pieces. In it, we looked at Woodhouse’s propensity to tell tall tales in the local and national press, often in the form of exaggerated stories of poverty. It mattered, we argued, because Woodhouse’s Liverpool Six charity receives a lot of money from private donors and public funds — in particular from the Mayoral Neighbourhood Fund. What we didn’t know then, but do now, is that Woodhouse has already been investigated by the council for possible misuse of the fund, including accusations that he personally funnelled money into organisations he was linked to. We’ve got our hands on a copy of that investigation, never made public by the council. Woodhouse strongly denies all of the claims.
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By Jack Walton
Last month, a tipster sent me a report leaked from the council. Marked on each page of these crumpled sheets of paper was the word “CONFIDENTIAL” in giant capital letters. They were stamped over an internal report alleging that a prominent Liverpool politician might be misusing public funds. Dated November 2019, Liverpool’s internal audit team said it had received “a number of whistleblowing referrals” raising concerns about Gerard Woodhouse, a Labour councillor for County Ward. The substance of the report was interesting to say the least.
Let’s recap. You might remember our investigation last year about Woodhouse, a well-connected, media-friendly politician who runs a charity in Everton called the L6 Community Association. It has a food union, a baby bank and a school uniform service, and it clearly helps many very vulnerable people. In our story, we documented how Woodhouse has exaggerated the impact of his charity. He claimed, for instance, that young mothers were having to leave their babies on maternity wards because they couldn’t afford car seats — a claim debunked by Liverpool Women’s Hospital. A number of Woodhouse’s far-fetched stories have been credulously reported by the BBC, ITV, and most frequently, the Echo. The substance of our article was this: the false stories Woodhouse puts into the media are worth investigating. He receives a lot of money from taxpayer funds and private donors, some of whom may have been moved by his implausible statements about poverty, so his organisation deserves proper scrutiny.
Woodhouse has since been forced out of the Labour Party and will be running as an independent in the May elections. According to Labour, he hadn’t been pulling his weight on the campaign trail, a claim he denies.
But this audit report, which has never been made publicly available (one councillor, speaking off the record, tells us it was “suppressed” to avoid embarrassment, and “should have been published years ago”) may get closer to the truth of why Woodhouse was removed from the party. When we reached out to Woodhouse himself for comment, he told us that he had never been shown the report. In summary, the report alleges that Woodhouse:
May have accepted Mayoral Neighbourhood Fund money on behalf on organisations he was linked to, in breach of the rules
Acted as a trustee for an organisation that was not legitimately constituted but took £20,240 in public money
Sent £19,824 of council funds earmarked for County, the ward for which he is councillor, to organisations beyond his boundaries
Failed to adhere to proper book-keeping practices, creating issues in tracing how money is spent
Woodhouse vehemently denies all of these these accusations, and in a statement to The Post said his charity is properly administered.
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