I note with interest that the Labour Party is delivering a tabloid with a picture of me all over Liverpool at the moment. Whilst, like any politician, I welcome the publicity I really regret that they intend to mislead the people of Liverpool about what I have said.
The issue is the UNESCO World Heritage Status for our Pier Head and Victorian Commercial Centre. I was appalled when the Labour Leader in Liverpool remarked recently that “The Heritage Status is just a plaque on the wall in the Town Hall” What nonsense. Having World Heritage Status is important to us and is providing us with jobs today and will continue to do so tomorrow.
One of the reasons that Liverpool has managed to weather the recession a little better than other centres is the resilience of our city centre. The L1 development; the Conference Centre; the enlarged museums and galleries, the welter of new hotels has provided jobs and stability in a city centre that was previously in terminal decline. People come to Liverpool for the footy; for shopping for restaurants and for culture. To many of them the World Heritage status is a big part of that draw. To be labelled at the same level as the pyramids of Egypt and the Taj Mahal not only brings tourists to our city but usually high end tourists who can afford the best hotels and restaurants.
If we lose the status then it will not just be that we are removed from the UNESCO site but our infamy will be recorded forever as a loser. To say it is just a plaque is to attack those who make their living from the tourist industry; the cabbies and the waiters; the chefs and the shop workers all of whom depend on the massive flow of visitors that our City can now boast of.
That does NOT mean that I do not want the development of the North Docks as well. I had the opportunity to meet a director of Peel Holdings recently and was excited by most of their plans and ideas. But these are just plans and ideas. As I understand it they, as yet, have no firm names of companies committed to moving in. They are hopeful and indeed optimistic. They must be to have committed £3 million of their own money to this project. I wish them well and would certainly want to help them attract people to the city using the international contacts that I have.
In my view both CABE and UNESCO are going a little over the top. The main views of the Heritage site will not be damaged by the new buildings but there will be some interference from some directions. Instead of getting partisan on one side or the other the council should be acting as mediator trying to bring Peel Holdings and UNESCO closer together and should be redoubling efforts to try and ensure that we keep the status and get a slightly reorganised development.
Playing silly political games with jobs is totally unacceptable. Where possible politicians of all Parties should work together on major issues such as these. This is one of those cases where cross party working is definitely possible but will not be achieved if one of the parties in Liverpool says silly things and makes up silly stories. So Labour it’s up to you. Are you up to joint working on the economy or do you just want to play games?