A major trade union is facing a £70m loss over a controversial hotel and conference centre it built in Birmingham, HuffPost UK can reveal.
Unite spent nearly £100m on the project, but two independent valuations have put its worth at less than £30m
Sharon Graham, who became the union’s general secretary last August, ordered a QC-led inquiry into the project shortly after taking over from her predecessor, Len McCluskey.
HuffPost UK understands that Graham told a video call with Unite officials last week that an initial valuation of the hotel and conference centre had come in at £27m. A second valuation was then ordered, which puts its worth at £29m.
A union source said those on the call were left “shocked” by the figures.
The hotel project was built under the orders of McCluskey, who last year described it as a “sensible investment of members’ money, resulting in a world-class facility that will return an income for our union for generations to come”.
But a Unite source said: “Sharon Graham feels like she has been handed an unholy mess and now she needs to find out where the £70m shortfall has gone.
“She is a new broom who owes nothing to the old regime.”
In a statement, Graham said an audit of the hotel and conference centre had given the accounts “a clean bill of health”.
But she added: “A recent expert valuation has now estimated its value as being considerably lower than the costs incurred in developing the site. This represents a potentially significant loss to Unite and has to be investigated.”
She said an independent inquiry, led by a QC, will “review the costs incurred and address the question of how and why this difference has arisen”.
Graham added: “These questions need to be answered in a timely fashion and in order to ensure transparency the outcome of the inquiry will be made public. I will also be doing everything possible to recover all monies due back to the union.
“This inquiry is of course important but it will not detract from our absolute focus on the jobs, pay and conditions of our members.”
Last week, Graham threatened to withdraw all of the union’s remaining funding from the Labour Party over a pay dispute involving bin lorry drivers in Coventry.
Unite currently pays £1m to Labour as an affiliation fee, plus thousands pounds more in political donations, making it the party’s largest funder.
A Labour spokesperson said: “These sort of threats won’t work in Keir Starmer’s Labour Party. We would have hoped that Unite would have got the message that the Labour Party is under new management.”