Our task in 2018 is to give back to Liverpool the hope and confidence it had in Capital of Culture year 2008
10 years ago, our City was preparing to launch the 2008 European Capital of Culture year. Few knew the effort it had taken to get us to the finishing line. Even fewer knew just how successful the year would be. The crude figures were good enough. 16,750,000 people came to our City of these almost 1,000,000 came from abroad. The money they brought in was great. The picture that we all gave of our City was greater still.
When Liverpool first announced that we were to bid for the Capital of Culture we were met with derision. Our city had an undeserved reputation for being ‘whinge city’; crime ridden and filled with poor housing. We were the ‘boys from the black stuff!” Liverpool’s international reputation was sound but our perception in the UK was very poor indeed.
In 2002 some of that was still true but the real changes had begun in 1998 when the Liberal Democrats took overall control of the Council for the first time. We inherited a Council with a council tax rate 20% higher than the next council, but the third worst bundle of services. With 475 ‘front doors’ few people knew how to get things done and even councillors found a way round the official systems. The Labour Government rightly threatened to take away the education service from the Council as it was one of the worst performing in the country. Council housing needed more than £1 billion spent on it. Our IT systems were non-existent.
By 2002 our hard work was paying off and Liverpool was a city on the mend. We saved our education systems and began an improvement programme which made our educational attainment one of the best of the big cities. A process of stock transfer was started for council houses which eventually brought in £350 million of debt write-offs and £780 million of private sector capital. Under the Liberal Democrats we were the first council in the country to adopt a one stop shop and one phone number system of contacts with residents, businesses, and tourists. Crucially, the private sector started to take note of the City and see its opportunities and not its drawbacks.
But getting the Capital of Culture accolade marked a major change in our fortunes. It inspired confidence to start a huge programme of hotel building which continues to this day. We opened the Conference Centre and Arena; we helped develop the Liverpool One Shopping Centre; we helped with the renovation of all the museums and galleries in the City. Our city flourished and was given the chance to show off many of the brilliant and diverse attractions, spaces and talents that we all know and love, on the world stage. The legacy of 2008 continues with us to this day.
Our city has begun to fall into a state of disrepair since 2010 when the Lib Dems lost control of the council to Labour. We could talk for hours about the problems of Liverpool and its council. A spare mayor; poor financial controls; poor spending decisions; lack of imagination; the centralisation of power around one man; a poor image for the city with newspapers across the World commenting on dodgy investments here. But the people of Liverpool know all that. What they want is change and only the Liberal Democrats can deliver it.
Over the past 6 months we have called at more than 10,000 homes across the City and the message we hear time and time again on the doorstep is “It’s time for a change – Joe must go”. People want change – and only the Liberal Democrats have the vision and track record to deliver it.
In the last elections in 2016 the Lib Dems took 21% of the vote to Labour’s 51%. The Greens slipped back and have slipped further back still losing their deposit in the City Region Mayoral Election and in all 5 Liverpool Constituencies in the General Election.
The Liberal Democrats are in second place in two thirds of the wards in Liverpool. Realistically, the Greens are only in contention in 2 of the 30 wards and the Independent Liberal Party in one. In the rest of the City its my Lib Dems against Joe’s Anderson’s yes men and women. Both practically and mathematically we cannot take control of the Council in 2018. But we can do two things.
Firstly, we can ensure that there is a sizeable block of Lib Dems inside the Council Chamber able to challenge Joe Anderson when his own party do what they are told, when they are told by him. Labour councillors time and time again have voted for Joe Anderson’s best interests, and not yours.
Secondly, we can begin the process of taking control of the Council in 2020 when the Mayoral election will give us all the chance to see the back of Joe Anderson for good. In the short-term we will seek to clip the wings of the Mayor and make him accountable first to councillors and most importantly to the people of our city.
In the longer-term we have a series of proposals which we will announce in our manifesto before the election to spend our limited resources more effectively, to involve the people of Liverpool more in the running of their own city and to attract into the city businesses run by sound companies not iffy developers.
Our message as we approach the start of 2018 is that change is not only needed but is possible. Every extra vote cast for the Lib Dems and every seat gained will be a contribution to setting our city back on a sound path. We intend to more than double our number of councillors in May 2018 but to do so we need your help.
We need donations; we need people to help delivering your local focus leaflets and we need more members. In Liverpool our membership now is at its highest ever level, with new members supporting our campaigns, attending our social events and playing a big part in forming our ambitious Liberal vision for Liverpool. Does our vision for Liverpool sound like something you’d like to be a part of?
Together we can put right the problems of our City. Together we can fight Joe Anderson and his compliant cronies. Will you help us? You can find out more at www.liverlibdems.org.uk.
In the meantime, my Lib Dem team and I wish you every good wish for 2018. We hope that you and our beloved Liverpool get the 2018 that you deserve.
Cllr Richard Kemp CBE,
Liverpool Liberal Democrats