Don’t Get Fooled!

About twenty months ago, yet another new company – Astutus – was formed (it has since been dissolved). The only thing of note about it was the fact that within TWO DAYS of its formation, it had secured an agreement with the Mayor of Liverpool for developments within the Cunard Building. Amid much publicity and photographs of its principals with the Mayor, Cunard Building was to be transformed by two major, high-class restaurants.

Last week, it was quietly announced that neither will go ahead. The two restaurant chains concerned have pulled out, concentrating instead on Edinburgh, London and Manchester. Promises of “world class dining” and 150 jobs have gone out of the window. It is suggested – again – that the mayor’s chum, former bankrupt Lawrence Kenwright, may fill the gap.

I only mention this tale of commercial contortion as a caution to apply to all of the hyperbolic hype surrounding the Bramley Moore proposal for EFC. Anyone who says they have a sure fire arrangement at this stage, is talking nonsense. Like all major projects which are proposed, there are so many questions which need to be answered. Peel and EFC are private businesses, and have their own priorities; but there are particular concerns for Liverpool council tax payers, with a knock on risk for the other boroughs. For example, the Mayor has said that there will be a rail station built. Paid for by whom, one might ask? Transport arrangements are in the court of the new metro mayor and the Combined Authority. What would an extra station (other stations have been prioritised for investment in the other boroughs) mean for the rail system? What effect would the cost have on transport budgets and tunnel fees?

Frankly, it needs a lot more than we have heard to date, to justify any transfer of risk on behalf of a private company with a billionaire major shareholder.  Too many PFI projects were sold on a false prospectus, and have ended up costing a fortune to the tax payer. What will be the real cost to council taxpayers? What is the true risk? Are we really meant to believe that Liverpool City Council will have first call on Everton’s income streams?  I find that hard to believe. What I have read seems to be built on a highly optimistic set of assumptions. Tellingly, EFC have said little compared to LCC.

There are other issues, including planning, which an incoming metro mayor will need to consider. The effect on traffic in the north end of Liverpool and Bootle will be immense. There is already a major problem concerning docks traffic. This proposal will make it worse. The new Metro Mayor may also want to consider the application of S.106 to this project. This arrangement allows for a local authority to levy charges on a developer for infrastructure improvements. Listening to Mayor Anderson, Liverpool City Council has things back to front! They are planning to put millions into associated infrastructure in the area, and the developers (who are they anyway – EFC? LCC? the Special Purpose Vehicle??) are presumably paying nothing for those necessary infrastructure improvements.

As an Everton supporter, I agree it would be good for EFC to have a modern stadium; but I am unconvinced that this is the right site. It would have the river on one side, and industrial and commercial premises on the other. It will cost a fortune to relocate these – and their jobs – if that is the plan. At Stonebridge, the motorway is very handy, as is the East Lancs Road. It is a site which could catalyse the job situation in Croxteth, Kirkby, and Norris Green. As the proposal stands, it seems the only beneficiaries are Peel (leasing off a chunk of land) and EFC (a subsidised stadium). Once again, the council tax payers are at the back of the queue.

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