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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Blue’s Fans Query MP’s Role in Desperation Kirkby

The curious late intervention by the MP for Walton, Peter Kilfoyle, in which, in a letter to Baroness Andrews, he appears to display desperate support for the departure of what he previously described as “the cultural institution that is Everton Football Club”, has raised many eyebrows. Whilst many of his constituents have condemned his last-minute intervention, not a single constituent has gone on record to support his views. His extraordinary letter to Baroness Andrews was followed by what has been described, by appalled fellow MP’s, as his scurrying around the Houses of Parliament, on Monday 21st July, in a anxious bid to garner support for Tesco’s planning application. KEIOC have decided to contact the Baroness, Hazel Blears, GONW, Grosvenor, ING and other interested parties in a bid to clear up this confusion and prevent a possible perversion of the planning process.

Peter Kilfoyle has previously indicated to his constituents that whilst Everton leaving the Walton area for the ill fated Kings Dock project would represent the heart being ripped out of the area, that he was unable to intervene and oppose the Tesco application as Everton are a private business, that the impact on the local economy would be minimal and that in any case Everton were unlikely to be in a position to finance any move in the foreseeable future due to their precarious financial situation. Peter Kilfoyle is now proclaiming that the development in Kirkby will be a benefit to the Fazakerley community sector of his constituency whilst it won't affect Walton Road - not exactly the same view taken by Knowsley Council when they opposed and prevented Tesco's planned development in Croxteth citing the adverse impact it would have on businesses in the Kirkby Town Centre.

For quite some time the executive of the campaign to Keep Everton In Our City (KEIOC) has been concerned over a series of meetings that the MP for Walton attended in January 2006 and his apparent floating view of Everton Football Club's worth to the community. KEIOC and others are in possession of the notes taken at the time of these meetings. Peter Kilfoyle has since admitted making the notes and that they were little more than an aide-mémoire but couldn't remember the meetings or why he'd written David Henshaw's name down. Strangely David Henshaw also couldn't remember the specific meeting but admitted that he had regularly talked with Peter Kilfoyle about what he described as the “Everton Problem”

For those not familiar with the notes and the reason KEIOC have them in their possession the notes were sent to a KEIOC supporter when, after contacting Peter Kilfoyle, his assistant, Gary Booth, responded and mistakenly sent the wrong document containing the MP's notes and thoughts on this series of meetings held in January 2006. Mr Kilfoyle firstly attended a meeting with the then Chief Executive of Liverpool City Council, David Henshaw, during which he ascertained that the CEO had no objection to Everton leaving the city, that a potential move to the central docks was no longer an option, that the CEO was unaware of any other potential sites within the city limits and that whilst the CEO conceded that a rebuild on a reconfigured Goodison Park was a possibility, he did not believe that this was commercially viable. A possible alternative site, Gerrards Lane in South Knowsley, was discussed; land on which LCC stood to make, on disposal, a capital receipt.

Peter Kilfoyle's next meeting was with Ronnie Round, leader of Knowsley Council, Sheena Ramsey, Chief Executive Officer of Knowsley Council and Knowsley Member of Parliament, George Howarth. Evidently, as the Knowsley delegation had a site in mind, Kirkby Town Centre, the agenda for the meeting was clearly defined and all participants must have been aware of the purpose of the meeting in advance. Peter Kilfoyle appears to promote three preferred sites, all in South Knowsley. It's apparent from his notes that he identifies that a threat to the plan would be the possibility that Knowsley could be used as leverage to force Liverpool City Council to give Everton (described as “them”) a site within the city.

In summary, Peter Kilfoyle demonstrates the need for clarity surrounding one of the four potential sites, three identified by Peter Kilfoyle in the meetings and the fourth identified by the delegation from Knowsley, the opportunity for the involvement of Tesco, as a prerequisite to the success of any development, and the requirement to assure Knowsley that “you are deadly serious” He concludes with a list of those that need to pull together to make this removal of Everton Football club from the City of Liverpool a reality, namely KMBC, LCC, EFC, Tesco and Gerry White, the Wirral based multi-millionaire.

What supporters of Everton, Walton Constituents and probably every councillor in Liverpool would like to know is:

  • Why is an MP, whose primary responsibility is to his constituents and businesses in that constituency, holding meetings with individuals with the apparent objective being to aid and abet the removal of a business that he once described as “the cultural institution that is Everton Football Club”?
  • Why is an MP discussing the involvement of Tesco Stores Ltd in the possible relocation of Everton Football Club some twelve months before shareholders and fans of the club and elected officials in the City of Liverpool were informed?
  • Who is Peter Kilfoyle acting on behalf of during these meetings?
  • Which organisation is being asked to confirm that they're being “deadly serious” with their proposition? • Who are the people involved with these other sites and why is Peter Kilfoyle apparently lobbying on their behalf? Clearly Knowsley favoured Kirkby Town Centre, as there is a real need and desire for regeneration, job creation and an anchor store in this area but what is the relationship with these other sites?

Here's the verbatim communication as received from Peter Kilfoyle's office:


Note on meetings 16/1/06

1. Chief Executive of Liverpool City Council, David Henshaw

David Henshaw raised no objection to the possibility of EFC moving to Knowsley. He indicated that the Central Docks was no longer a potential site, nor was he aware of any other suitable site within the city limits. Indeed, he believed that only a rebuild on a reconfigurated Goodison Park was a possibility. However, he did not believe it to be a commercially viable proposition given the nature of the site.
NB: LCC stand to make a capital receipt on the Gerrard's Lane site.

2. Leader and Chief Executive of Knowsley Council, and George Howarth MP

The first issue here was to clarify which site the council was considering. They had – for reasons which remain unclear – thought that the site in question was in Kirkby town centre. I put it to them that the three preferred sites were in the south of the borough – the International Centre at Cronton, and the academy and stadium (potentially) near Halewood. They did not flinch at this.

Of course, we are talking about planning again on a greenfield site, with many hurdles to jump; but they were not perturbed by this. Their principal concern is that they were not being used as a smokescreen whilst other sites were marshalled for inspection, and LCC manoeuvered into giving them something which they have not got.

Therefore, three key points:

1) There needs to be clarity about the site in question.

2) Its greatest chance of success would involve a Tesco superstore as a flagship at the proposed stadium site.

3) Reassurance to Knowsley that they are not being used in a game of pressurising LCC - i.e. that you are deadly serious.

It can be done if the various players – Knowsley, LCC, EFC, Tesco and Gerry White – all pull together. It will not be easy, but it is a possible option.”

In his recent letter to Baroness Andrews, Peter Kilfoyle speaks about the presence of EFC in Walton in a shocking manner. He also condemns LCC for their failure to provide EFC with any alternatives, which would enable them to stay in the City. However, it is abundantly clear that Peter Kilfoyle, whilst until fairly recently adopting a “hands-off” approach and a market forces attitude to his constituents, played a pivotal role in facilitating this relocation to Kirkby. This makes his criticism of LCC rather hollow; his secret meeting with David Henshaw and the Knowsley Council hierarchy in January 2006, was not made known to LCC's elected representatives until 16 months afterwards, by which time the club was locked into its infamous exclusivity agreement with Tesco thereby preventing LCC from developing an amicable alternative that met Everton's requirements.

Just to recap:

Peter Kilfoyle stated that if EFC moved to the King's Dock, Walton's economy would suffer;

In January 2006, he sounds out the Chief Executive of LCC as to whether LCC would be concerned if EFC were to relocate to Kirkby. Having received assurances from David Henshaw that this would not present LCC with a problem, he proceeds to meet with his fellow Labour MP, George Howarth, together with the Leader and Chief Executive of Knowsley Council. He achieves what he sets out to do and sets the Kirkby train on the track.

From March 2007 until his recent letter to Baroness Andrews, Peter Kilfoyle continued to express a neutral viewpoint, repeatedly telling concerned constituents that EFC is a private company and therefore, the proposed move is entirely a matter for EFC. He expresses doubt as to whether EFC could raise their cash contribution towards the Kirkby project, having failed miserably to raise the requisite contribution for the Kings Dock. This view is oft repeated, both to constituents and through his regular column in the Weekly Star. At the last minute, he launches a wholesale effort in support of a move to Kirkby, whilst appearing to lay the blame at the door of LCC for one of the City's oldest businesses leaving the City.

Let's pray that the Government call for a public inquiry into this latest chapter of democracy Knowsley style and that the forthcoming EGM will allow all Evertonians and other concerned stakeholders to obtain the answers to certainly the most theatrical and arguably the most questionable period in Everton Football Club's long history.

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