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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Tom Houghton

Apprentices working on stalled city centre schemes 'gutted' as they face redundancy

Apprentices from one of Liverpool's biggest colleges face redundancy due to stalled works at two prominent Elliot Group developments following December's high-profile arrests.

Young people on apprenticeship training with contractor Vermont and supported by the City of Liverpool College working at Elliot Lawless' Infinity towers and Aura sites are "likely to be issued with their redundancy notices" over the coming days, the college has said.

It comes after Mr Lawless and council regeneration chief Nick Kavanagh were arrested last month on suspicion of fraud.

On Wednesday, the further education college's principal and chief executive Elaine Bowker issued a rallying cry for employers seeking young people with these skills to contact them urgently - with the apprentices facing losing government funding if they do not find another scheme within 30 days.

Ms Bowker said: "They are gutted. I am calling for employers looking for talent in engineering and construction to get in touch with us.

"We would be able to provide them with a talent pool and make sure these absolutely excellent individuals stay in work and continue their training."

It's understood 10 apprentices from the college are affected - but that number may rise.

The news comes in the middle of National Apprenticeship Week - an annual event celebrating the impact of apprenticeships on employers and the economy.

City of Liverpool College supports 700 apprentices, and Ms Bowker added: "Sadly, you don't hear enough about opportunities like apprenticeships, which are so valuable in Liverpool's growing construction sector.

"The UK is so geared up for traditional A Levels rather than professional qualifications, but these are brilliant opportunities, available in many areas of industry in all sorts of firms from big companies to smaller startups."

The affected apprentices were working on two schemes run by the Elliot Group - Aura, which is set to deliver more than 1,000 student housing units in Islington, and the £250m Infinity towers project - a landmark development on Leeds Street centred around three huge buildings set to soar to 27, 33 and 38 storeys high.

Mr Kavanagh was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and misconduct in a public office back in December with Mr Lawless, one of the city's leading property developers, also arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud, bribery and corruption.

Mr Lawless denies all allegations against him, while Mr Kavanagh has not spoken publicly since his arrest.

Elliot Group's crane for the Infinity Towers project (Colin Lane)

Neither Mr Lawless nor the council official have been charged with any offence, with both subject to a continuing investigation by Merseyside Police.

It was revealed in January that the two prominent city schemes were suspended while funding was found.

In a letter obtained by  the ECHO , Mr Lawless told investors that Maslow Capital, the preferred debt funder for the Aura project, had pulled out.

That led him to ask for earlier repayments from the investors, and it's understood a similar letter was sent to investors in the Infinity towers scheme.

Click here to see the full list of every crane on the Liverpool city skyline

Mr Lawless’ letter said that while the funding for that is raised, work on the site would remain suspended for four weeks.

Vermont previously said it will continue works once sufficient funds have been secured, but the City of Liverpool College says the apprentices are likely to receive their redundancy notices this week.

Vermont was contacted for a comment, while a spokesman for the Elliot Group said it would not comment on "internal matters" at a third party.

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