Last week Liverpool hosted the Executive Bureau of United Cities and Local Government. More than 250 leading local government figures from all the 8 regions of the World came to Liverpool and they were overwhelmed by the experience.
Bearing that many of them come from Capital or major cities such as Istanbul, Paris, Dakka, Washington, Rabat which have themselves a massive history they were amazed by what Liverpool had to offer.
Our events started in the Town Hall on Tuesday in the Council Chamber and anterooms and then went on to an event in the Tate at Albert Dock. On the Wednesday our events were in St George’s Hall with a dinner in the Anglican Cathedral. The next day we were back at St George’s Hall. Of course these were not the only buildings they saw. Many came early or left late and were able to look at many more of the treasures that our city has got to offer.
Perhaps the biggest Wow factor was the Cathedral Dinner. Always a spectacular building the Cathedral seems to shine in the evening light. From about 8 p.m. the light streamed through the stained glass windows to create an indelible feeling of warmth and beauty which will live with me for the rest of my life.
But it wasn’t only the buildings that were great – the people were great as well. This is the first event for many years that the staff of UCLG have not had to come over early to sort out major problems. By the time the staff turned up on Sunday the only outstanding detail was the table plan for the dinner! The staff of Liverpool Vision; the City Council; and St George’s Hall performed with their usual efficiency overlaid with friendliness.
It wasn’t only our staff that were efficient and friendly. The food provided by the caterers and the service was excellent. Staff in the hotels made everyone feel welcome and performed to the highest standards.
Side meetings also worked well. At a meeting for commonwealth delegates with commonwealth diaspora residents of Liverpool we resolved to establish a Commonwealth Association in Liverpool.
Some delegates arrived to see the magnificent River Festival which took place on their door step as most of them stayed in the Crowne Plaza or Atlantic Tower.
I don’t know what this will mean in the future. Nor do I know the long-term effects of the IFB2014 as a whole. I do know that Liverpool is still reaping the benefits of being Capital of Culture in 2008 and I have no doubt at all the 50 days of events this month and next will similarly place Liverpool in the minds of the public and private sectors as they talk about investment decisions over the next decade.
I hope that will give the City confidence to put in bids to bring other such events to Liverpool. We will shortly be opening the bidding round for the 2017 Commonwealth Local Government Conference which we hope would come here with a thriving Commonwealth Group having been established. I hope that it will also make the LGA think more positively of the benefits as well as the costs of bring events like this to the UK to showcase the best of our local government experience
These events have acted as a superb front door for Liverpool. People who thought we were just football and the Beatles (and they are not bad door openers themselves) have been able to see all that the City Region has to offer. We have, as the saying goes, cast our bread upon the waters.
Last year when I moved at our meeting in Lyon that we should come to Liverpool I knew that Liverpool would host the conference well. I did not know that it would do so in such a spectacular style. So THANKS VERY MUCH LIVERPOOL. A lot of powerful people have put Liverpool in their sights for very positive reasons and sooner or later we will all reap the benefit of that.