My last two blogs have been concerned with heritage, planning and other issues coming out of the Zipwire debacle. Some of my earlier blogs began to start shaping a new agenda for Liverpool post virus. I want to attempt to put them together and suggest a way in which Liverpool could think very differently about its past present and future.
I get all the documents sent to me by the Council and other bodies. I’ve received in recent weeks the Liverpool Recovery Plan and the Liverpool City Region Recovery Plan. The first of these is intended to replace over time the Inclusive Growth Plan.
Much in these documents I agree with. They have an element of ambition for the future. They certainly want to spend a lot of money. The 2 Recovery Plans will cost approximately £3.5 billion of public and private money and are dependent on additional £.25 billon of training money.
There are four problems with all 3 of the documents that I mention here:
- They’ve been produced by and for the usual suspects. Tired old consultancies bringing forward schemes, many of which they have peddled elsewhere, to decision makers who fail to adequately interpret them in the light of changing circumstances.
- They involve neither the people or businesses of Liverpool in a comprehensive way. At the end of the day Liverpool doesn’t belong to me or the Council. We act as trustees for the people and businesses of Liverpool. There is no effective way of engaging with businesses on big picture thinking. The Chamber of Commerce and the BID Company which should be leading on business aspect seem to be just deliverers of low-level services.
- The two new documents lack any comprehension of new possibilities. Much of what has happened so far in the pandemic and lockdown has had bad effects but there were many good effects as well. Because so much has been changed so rapidly we can capture those changes and build on them in a way that would otherwise have taken many years.
- They are largely incomprehensible to most people and business people who haven’t got the time to wade through pages of incomprehensible jargon. They provide nothing which captures the imagination of the people of the City and their feelings for a new and better City post-Covid. We need some big and simple statements that people and businesses can interpret in their own but which they can direct their own efforts into delivering.
I believe that there are four things that Liverpool could do which involve a new way of thinking and a new way of doing things:
Firstly, we have to set out our aspiration for Liverpool to be a top-class Global City. This might sound very ambitious but let’s not forget that we have been there before. For more than 100 years we were the 2nd port of the British Empire and therefore the second port of the World. We have so much going for us throughout the City Region that other places do not have.
Secondly, to achieve the first objective we need to say unashamedly that Liverpool will only settle for the best. The best new business ideas and Companies. The best new homes to live in built to the highest environmental standards. The best designed buildings for industry and commerce; the best and up to date thoughts on industry and commerce; the highest stands for environmental policies.
Thirdly, we need a new place for thought and challenge of the status quo. We really too much on the tired and cautious. We need a ‘Liverpool Futures Commission’ from outside Liverpool’s greying establishment to think thoughts about the future based on a proper SWOT analysis not only of Liverpool but of the World. We need to serve on that people with new ideas about the economy; future industry and commerce, where science is taking us; what sort of building and planning standards do we need; how the education service is or is not providing satisfied students with the skills for future jobs. AND how all these can be achieved in a way that maximises our efforts to provide a green, clean environment in the City.
Fourthly we need a new way of communicating with businesses and the citizens of the City. We need a business commission to replace the creaking representative business structures that we have. Alongside that will be a People’s Convention where people, especially young people, can bring new ideas and challenge the greying establishment.
So, what do I intend to do about these four ideas? Just talk I am afraid! In this deeply Party-Political City an attempt by me as The Leader of the Liberal Democrats to do the last two things would simply be seen as Party Politics. I know that I am making a real call for change here that would challenge my own Party’s thinking as much as anyone’s but others would just see it as a political ploy for votes. Perhaps I am part of the problem and not the solution. I am, after all, Liverpool’s longest serving councillor.
So, whilst I will continue to talk about the first two objectives which I think should be the subject of legitimate political debate I will take no action on the last two suggestions. I will gladly help people who want to establish some sort of Liverpool Future Commission and a better way of engaging with businesses and the people of Liverpool I cannot take the lead in them as such efforts would eb self-defeating.
So, I end with a plea to the keyboard warriors of Twitter, Facebook and the like. Will you turn your anger, your knowledge, your skills, your ambitions for our City into thoughts and actions? Your City needs you – will you rise to the test?