20 years ago the reaction to anything adverse in Liverpool was always the same. The city would march, demonstrate, petition and whinge. Whether it was a Government cut, a private sector closure or even bad weather it did the same. Whenever anything positive happened it was denounced as never being enough – we bit the hand that fed us!
Of course people have the right to demonstrate and complain. Indeed in a democracy it is right that they should. But demonstrating and moaning never provides solutions. It is a backward look and not a forward look. As I have gone round the city intensively over the past three weeks since the mayoral campaign opened up I have been struck by the new spirit that is abroad in Liverpool – a positive spirit which says that WE will overcome the adversities and that we are confident about our future.
That spirit has been growing in the city since a day back in the first decade of the century when Liverpool announced that it was bidding to be the European Capital of Culture. Of course the old jokes were thrown at us about nicked cars and moustachioed scousers saying “calm down, calm down,” but even then there was an internal view ‘Yes we can do that that, Yes we are a great European City let’s build up – not knock down”.
Of course that view was extended as we both won the Capital of Culture and then delivered the most successful CoC in the history of the institution. 17.5 million visitors, 850,000 of them from overseas came and saw our wonderful city and its opportunities. Lazy journalists discovered there was a UK North of Watford and (most of them) had their previous views of the city dispelled.
We are still experiencing the fruits of that great success. The recent Entrepreneurs Conference could not have been held 10 years ago because there was nowhere to hold it and nowhere for people to stay. Our hotel bedrooms are still enjoying high levels of occupancy despite the massive increase in their number. The L1 development is still doing exceptionally well despite the economic downturn.
I have spoken recently to a young business man employing 70 people who first came to know Liverpool as a result of a day trip in 2008. He came back, married someone here and established his business here. I see people from a range of bodies who now think positively of our city. I see the voluntary sector being highly imaginative at providing solutions for service delivery in the face of the almost crippling financial; problems that the country faces.
Of course they want more Government money – we all would like that. But they are not waiting for that to happen because it will not happen for at least a decade irrespective of the result of the next General Election. This Country has the second highest debts in the developed world and unless those debts are brought down we will never have enough money to expand services.
This new mood of self determination will be massive enabled by new laws which bring power back to Liverpool. Irrespective of whether there is a mayoralty the council has massive new powers. It has a ‘Power of General Competence’ which enables it to do anything it wants as long as there is no law against it which affects any organisation. It has less money but freedom to do with it as it thinks right. It is freed from national and regional planning constraints so that it can develop the type of city that it believes in and not a centrally planned clone town.
This is a period of high opportunity for the City. The innovative spirit which finds solutions; which creates employment; which builds markets has never been higher in the 37 years I have been actively involved in city politics.
As Mayor I would operate a ‘Partnership Council’ in which all within and out with the council could unlock their talents; their initiative and their enthusiasm and build a modern progressive city. Allied to the central thrust of becoming the European Green Capital everyone can play a part in building our new healthy, wealthy city.
That’s what people have been telling me they want. Looking forward not backwards; a glass half full and not a glass half empty; a City which is truly a world class city with world class reputations whose opportunities are available to all and recognised by the World.
That’s the city that I intend to deliver.