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MPs voice concerns over park sell-off

In an open letter to The Challenge The Rt Hon George Howarth MP, Maria Eagle MP and Marie Rimmer MP have voiced their concerns regarding Knowsley Council selling 10% of parks and green spaces for development.

The leter reads:

Since 2010, when the Conservative Lib Dem Coalition came to power, Knowsley has been the hardest hit Local Authority in the country by government grant cuts.  We fully accept for that reason, the Council has reluctantly had to look at options for the future of services such as parks and greenspaces.

Since the announcement of the proposed sale of 17 parks in Knowsley to developers, we have been contacted by constituents who have expressed concerns.  We share their concerns.

We believe that there are still a number of key questions which need to be addressed.

First, what consultation has taken place over the proposed new service model?  And with whom?  Our Trade Union colleagues will argue that any consultation should also take into account the impact on jobs, and we agree.

Second, the new model proposes that the proceeds of any such sales (estimated at £40m) would be used to establish a trust.  The annual revenues from investing the £40m endowment will be used to administer the running of the parks.

It is clear that there now needs to be extensive due diligence to confirm how such a sum could be generated and whether it would be sufficient.

In addition, we understand, that a private limited company has been registered with Companies House – Knowsley Parks Service – the only named Director of which is an officer of Knowsley Council.  The Certificate of Incorporation for the Company gives no information as to its purposes.

A further private company limited by guarantee, has been registered with Companies House – The Knowsley Parks Trust Ltd.

It may well be that these companies have been established for precautionary purposes.  There is, however, a legitimate concern on the part of our constituents that they signal a fait accompli.

Third, we have been informed that seven of the parks listed for proposed sale, are actually leased to Parish or Town Councils.  There is, as far as we are able to ascertain, no certainty that those Councils have either been consulted or signified any agreement to surrendering their leases.

At this stage in the process, the concerns of our constituents have not been addressed.  Before any final decision is taken by the Council, we believe that the issues we have identified need to be carefully examined and, also, the possibility of other options needs to be examined.

We call on the Council to keep an open mind on other options and in moving forward on this issue, to take into account all of the concerns raised by constituents before any irrevocable decision is taken.

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