North London Ltd. – an enigma wrapped in a mystery?

A name that crops up in the context of the E11 BID Co. fiasco is North London Ltd. (NLL), a company that was launched in 2004 and apparently went into compulsory liquidation ten years later, put there by its creditors.

According to a press release of 2013, NLL was ‘the sub-regional business support agency for North London’ and worked ‘to accelerate business growth and development and attract inward investment into the area’ – reminiscent of the corporate gobbledygook that made Dave Brent so famous. Scattered information elsewhere suggests it sometimes traded as North London Business (confusing, because there was a related, though dormant, company of the same name); employed a staff that fluctuated between three and ten, and included Mr. Gary Ince of Leyton Olympic Market fame (covered in a later post); and was funded by the London Development Agency, together with various councils, including Enfield, Haringey and…Waltham Forest.

In fact, according to a Freedom of Information Act deposition, LBWF paid NLL no less than £455,297 between 2004 and 2012, with the majority of the payments occurring between 2008 and 2012.

Quite what NLL achieved in terms of outputs is an interesting question, because, as can be readily verified by a quick Google check, it has left a surprisingly light footprint – reference to a conference here and there, a business directory, and not much else.

And regrettably, directly questioning LBWF throws little further light on the matter, as was pointed out in a previous post – our local authority just does not know.

It is said that NLL ‘ran’ local business boards, and it is true that Mr. Ince turned up at some (but by no means all) E11 BID Co. board meetings, though of course in the light of recent revelations, the latter is not something that many people would necessarily want to boast about.

If the question of outputs is a dead end for the time being, some interesting nuggets about NLL’s governance and finances can be gleaned from the eight annual accounts it filed at Companies House.

Six reveal only the basics, as they are in small company format, but the other two, for 2005-06 and 2006-07, are more thought provoking.

NLL, to repeat, was dependent entirely for its ‘earnings’ on grants and contracts from public bodies. It is therefore interesting to discover that in its first year of operation, when it turned over £646,753, and made an operating profit of a mere £32,112, it nevertheless paid out £161,387 in directors’ ‘remuneration and other benefits’; and that in the two succeeding years this generosity continued, albeit in reduced form, with the equivalent figures being £66,810 and £86,700 – a total of £314,897, or 15 per cent of total turnover.

This is more than a little surprising. After all, it is not as if NLL had a solid and well established record of success, nor were the directors having to go out and find money on the open market – far from it. So it would be interesting to know how the sums paid out in remuneration were justified. Perhaps NLL felt it had to attract ‘the brightest and the best’. Perhaps the directors worked very hard. Perhaps this was just what everyone in receipt of London Development Agency monies did. What we do know is that some of the directors – in fact probably a large majority – had other jobs or board positions, meaning that their input to NLL was by no means full-time.

Its nice work if you can get it, as the old song goes.

See also: