Image of the gates of Liverpool Cathedral

John Kelly

Oration

Presented by: Professor Frank Sanderson

Honourable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting John Kelly for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.  

John Kelly joined Liverpool City Council in 2001 as an Assistant Director with responsibilities which included oversight of EU and UK regeneration grant programmes. 

In 2007, he assumed the role of Executive Director Regeneration with responsibility for the city's number one priority: growing the city's economy. With a brief which included infrastructure, investment, trade, culture, tourism, transport, business development, and major regeneration projects, he played a pivotal role in Liverpool's economic renaissance, and can take pride in the fact that over the last decade many thousands of new jobs have been created in the city, representing a 14% rise in resident employment. 

He also can be justifiably proud of his role in ensuring that Liverpool Capital of Culture 2008 was the most successful event of its kind ever. After ten successful years, John left the Council in August of last year to find new challenges.   

The eldest of five children, John Joseph Kelly was born in 1959 in North London into a family from the West of Ireland. 

At Finchley Catholic Grammar School he excelled at languages, was good at all sports and represented Catholic Schools of Great Britain at Basketball. In 1981, he graduated from the University of Manchester with an honours degree in French and Comparative Government, during his studies, he had also found time to gain a more interesting qualification as a Licensed Croupier.   

During his early career in local government, spent mainly on housing projects and corporate services, he developed a strong interest in inner-city regeneration. As a senior executive in the North West regional office of the Department of Environment and Transport, he managed regeneration programmes and the associated resources, and was instrumental in the setting up of the North West Regional Development Agency and the recruitment of its chairman and chief executive. 

In 2000, he became Head of Strategy for the North West Development Agency before moving the following year to the post of Assistant Director for Regeneration at Liverpool City Council. For the next five years, his responsibilities included managing special regeneration projects, Capital of Culture liaison and evaluation, and the Liverpool Community Plan.   

In January 2007, John was promoted to Executive Director Regeneration, with corporate responsibility for 17,000 staff, £2 billion revenue and £300 million capital, and tasked with promoting the council and city on a national and international stage. It was the perfect opportunity for John, to be working as he once said, "in a great city and in a staggeringly exciting job". 

He has been centrally involved in many key regeneration initiatives, including the cruise liner terminal, Liverpool One, the European Capital of Culture, the Echo Arena and Convention Centre, the Edge Lane Development and the planning application for the new Anfield Development. 

An initiative of which he is particularly proud is the Liverpool Science Park, where, working closely with our Vice-Chancellor, he brokered a partnership involving LJMU, the University of Liverpool, and the City Council to provide first-class accommodation, business support, and links to the region's specialist experts for developing science and knowledge based companies. Companies from outside the region and abroad have been attracted by this offer, but just as gratifying for John is that home-grown talent is being retained and that the two universities are maximising their economic value to Liverpool.   

Following the local elections and change in political leadership in 2010, John left the council after more than ten years at the heart of Liverpool's regeneration. During that time, over 25,000 new jobs were created for local people, and the national and international perception levels of Liverpool have never been higher.

London-born and living in Manchester, he nevertheless became an effective ambassador for our city, often enthusing with energy and animation about Liverpool's 'great people', its 'fantastic environment', and its 'rich culture'. When once asked what would make him happy, he said, "I'd like Liverpool to win the European Cup, Everton to bring home the FA Cup and Spurs to win the Premiership". Well, we can forgive him that.

Since then, his reputation has ensured that he has not been short of job offers from around the country. Liverpool's loss has turned out to be Nottingham's gain, as in May of this year John took an interim position of Corporate Director of Communities with Nottingham City Council.  

I know that John has many happy memories of his time here, and he can certainly reflect on his service to Liverpool with great satisfaction and pride. John Kelly has been a great asset to Liverpool. We wish him well, and thank him for the huge difference he has made to this great city.   

Thus I have great pleasure in presenting John Kelly, this most distinguished person, for admission to our highest honour of Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.