What is Liverpool Learning from its failures?

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Channel 4 is not coming to Liverpool so we must learn from our failed bids for this and the Commonwealth Games

So, we didn’t get even a C4 hub this year never mind the HQ of the Company and we didn’t get the Commonwealth Games before that. In fact, we don’t have a good track record in applying for major events or national or global opportunities at the moment.

According to the Mayor the latest failure is because Liverpool has poor connectivity with the rest of the UK and it would have been different if HS2 had been extended to Liverpool. Of course, there must be an element of truth in this. We know that HS2 not coming here is not good for the City but the real reason that it is not good is not that it will shave a few minutes off a journey to London but because it will mean that the freight capacity on the West Coast mainline for our port based goods both leaving and entering the Country will not be enhanced. This is a major blow for our Port.

But if we are frank this can only be a small part of the answer. It really stretches credibility to suggest that a decision has been made today based on the likelihood of getting HS2 which would not be in place for 10 years anyway and which only makes a marginal difference to journey times.

I think that there are four key reasons that Liverpool is not improving as rapidly under Joe Anderson and Labour as it did under Mike Storey and the Liberal Democrats.

  1. There is no coherent strategy

I don’t know whether anyone has looked at the ‘Inclusive Growth Plan’ that was produced by the Council in March? We looked at it and decided to do what everyone else will do with it – ignore it. It’s not that there is anything wrong with the direction it wants to take. As a wish list for a city it might even be considered as an exemplar! But it doesn’t do anything. There is no real sense of strategic direction in the document. There is nothing in it which recognises the Unique Selling points which can be employed to create a long-term and sustainable future. There is nothing against which other players from either the public or private sectors can align their own policies and programmes.

  1. There is no-one capable of walking the corridors of power in London or further afield.

 

When Mike Storey was the Leader of the Council and David Henshaw was Chief Executive doors in the public and private sector opened to them. Leaders from both sectors liked what they saw and Mike and David were able to pull people behind their ideas and strategies. That was vital because in 1998 the City was a pariah city for investment. It was regarded, wrongly, as a self-pity City which excelled only in whingeing. Outsiders had to believe that the City could deliver because there was no track record to give them confidence. I see no sign of change in this regard.

 

  1. There is great concern over development failures.

The last few years have seen a succession of failures. The Council was 7 years late in getting its new Liverpool Development Plan submitted. Because of that the City has been unable to resist the development of a huge number of unnecessary and tacky student and apartment blocks. Seven of these will probably never be completed with Liverpool being the epicentre for the fractional investment scammers. (although some local developers have used this investment form well). Where we have had a handle on this in places such as the failed China Town Development our due diligence methodology has been found wanting and we have then chucked more money away on legal actions that were doomed from the beginning.

Nowhere has this been more apparent than in our approach to the World Heritage Status of our commercial centre and North Docks. For 7 years it was derided by the mayor as ‘just a plaque on the wall’ and then only last year he decided it was worth saving after all! The development of the new EFC Stadium is another case in point. In October 2016 the Mayor said that we might have a new EFC stadium in 2 years’ time. I somehow think that is unlikely!!

  1. There is great concern over the way that Liverpool is run.

We have yet to see the results of the recent Peer Challenge but I have absolutely no doubt that it will be heavily critical of the way that the Council is run. There are no checks and balances between the Executive and the rest of the council; poor scrutiny; dreadful council meetings. The Council has no settled performance management framework and makes no comparison between itself and other similar cities. Good governance which is transparent really matters.

These things and others really matter. If we really want to compete against Manchester, never mind globally, we need to up our game. The only way that we can do this is to take a long hard look at ourselves; know what are our strengths are and build on them but also know where our weaknesses are and work on them.

Liverpool is a great City which has a good location; good universities and internationally known ‘brand name’ but it currently is being held back by small men (and I do mean men) with small ideas.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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