There are huge risks in turning this barren dockland into a new stadium for EFC. Does the Mayor understand the risks?
So once again the Mayor of Liverpool is talking about the possibility of the Council investing in some way in EFC. I don’t think that he is doing it because he is an Everton supporter. That is not the problem – he just does not appreciate the difficulties of this deal nor the moral imperatives that should lie behind such a move into what is basically a private sector venture. He should do because he has been warned about this both by independent body CIPFA and in the published report of the independent auditors to the Council. Both of these reports urge caution as the Council puts so many eggs in one basket.
Once again, I must make clear that we are delighted with the idea that Everton should get a new stadium. The question is, “What should the council’s role be in assisting them?” Clearly there is much that the Council can and should do in terms of planning permission and infrastructure work around the stadium. That, though, is very different than a huge investment in the stadium itself.
Indeed, at this stage we do not know whether or not Everton now want a financial deal with the Council. Originally the Mayor expected the Council to be scrutinising a report in May. Since then Everton have indicated that they may be looking at different routes for finance. That is hardly surprising as the Mayor’s estimates of the interest rate that they would pay for a loan in relation to the amount that we would pay for a loan are clearly highly unlikely. In practice an established Company with a strong cash flow should be able to borrow at little more than the Council. That leaves EFC paying out a lot of money for little return on the model outlined by the Mayor this week.
I was also surprised by another comment that he made which was that owner of EFC was only prepared to find the money for players. That’s a bit like saying, “I’ll pay for the walls of a house but not the roof!” EFC need good players and a new stadium not one or the other.
I also know that the Council has ignored a proposal from another potential developer to find funding not only for the stadium but the infrastructure around it without which the stadium cannot function. After 4 months of fruitless requests the consortium moved on. They are, however, willing to talk to both EFC and the Council if there was a willingness to look at things in a different way.
That is why I have demanded that the Council hold a full debate on the possibility of involvement of the Council in the EFC stadium deal following the latest statements made by Mayor Anderson.
In response to an e-mail from Mayor Anderson in early April I wrote to him on behalf of the Liberal Democrat Group. I set out three principles that we would need to agree before we could get involved in the scrutiny of the deal:
- That the Council should fully debate both the principle of having such a big involvement in a private sector company and debate the amount of borrowing that it would be wise for a council to have.
- The scrutiny should review all aspects of the deal including all the infrastructure costs which would need to be paid for by the public sector outside the immediate environs of the ground itself. Let’s not forget that the physical infrastructure of the docks was last looked at more than 150 years ago.
- Thirdly there would need to be as full a disclosure of the facts to the people of Liverpool as possible.
All this became more important when it became clear that at this stage Chelsea, with similar ownership problems, were pulling out of a proposed redevelopment of their stadium.
At the moment the people of Liverpool do not like this deal. Even Everton fans, whilst wanting the stadium, question the Council’s involvement. We must debate these issues clearly and publicly in Council. Currently we have not even had a reply to this letter from the Mayor
The full text of the letter to Mayor Anderson is attached below.
Cllr Richard Kemp CBE
16, Dovedale Road,
Liverpool L18 1DW
Mayor Anderson OBE,
7th April 2018
Re: Everton FC and the new Stadium Proosals
I was in the process of setting out this letter last night when I got side-tracked by a journalist ringing me about your suggestion that plan B for Bramley More and EFC would be for us to provide all the capital. This would be entirely unsatisfactory to us and we would oppose that under ANY circumstances.
However, on Thursday night my Group colleagues did discuss your Maundy Thursday e-mail to me.
We suggest that a way forward in which we could be involved would need three steps:
- A full debate about the principles of the Council’s involvement at any level in what is essentially a private sector matter in a club and on land owned by wealthy companies/individuals. This deal is not approved of by the vast majority of people in Liverpool. It is continually being raised on the doorstep throughout the City in terms of both incredulity and disapproval. Presumably your Labour door-knockers are picking this up which has lead to the calls from two CLPs for an Open Meeting.
This could either be at a Special Council Meeting or unusually as a special item on the agenda of the Annual Meeting of the Council
- A scrutiny system which will look at:
Current proposals for borrowing for the Stadium
Current proposals for building the infrastructure outside the ground i.e. transport and wider service infrastructure
Proposals for dealing with the gap in the County Road area which will be left by the closure and then demolition of the current ground
In our mind all three matters go together and the total costs to the public and private purses must be considered together as this will have a huge impact on our council borrowing levels and potential risks.
- A debate will then need to be held in full council at which a report was presented which presented to the Council and public all but the most commercially confidential of items.
The amount of disclosure would need to be jointly agreed with EFC and the legal and business advisers to the project.
I hope that this way forward will be acceptable and that we can consider how this will be taken forward.
Cllr Richard Kemp CBE,
Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats