Liverpool’s City Centre ‘closure strategy’ which was already a wate of money at £55.8 million is expected now to cost £68.8 million. That’s just the start. The Lime Street element has already been slammed as being a poor design and in April the council took the decision to finish the work and then dig it up again following a redesign. This led to the Cabinet Member for the Environment, Laura Robertson-Collins, resigning.
Liverpool’s Cabinet, which will meet on Friday, is getting a report which says the extra money is required “to put it on a firm financial and contractual footing”.
The report said: “ some issues could have potentially been avoided and relate to delays to key decisions; numerous request to change designs, in some cases reverting to previous proposals; significant scope creep to include adjacent streets in need of repair; acceptance of a tight funding and delivery programme, which led to network control issues and lack of resources to manage the programme; and, insufficient contingencies within the initial budget provisions, not taking into account key specific issues of Liverpool area such as the significant amount of buried assets, which inevitably led to cost increases.”
Lib Dems opposed both the Strand and Lime Street proposals and have also hit out at other plans such as the forced conversion of the Haymarket to a new bus hub which is causing wide spread air pollution to the surrounding residential properties as well as reducing foot flow for the businesses there.
The Lime Street proposals will actually force people into cars as it will cut off the North/South flow of busses. It will create a huge plaza which will be great for days of hot weather, if we could plan for them, but which for most of the year will be a cold windswept and unused area.
The Strand will reduce traffic flows causing more idling cars and air pollution as cars continue to queue to get through from South Liverpool to the North Liverpool and the motorway systems. It will also increase traffic on Aigburth and Smithdown Roads which are already heavily polluted. It seems likely that the sort of journey times past the Pier Head which we have seen for the last 18 months will be hotwired into the new road layout
Much of the scheme had originally been funded through other public sources, such as the combined authority, but the council will now have to increase its own contribution by just over £13m.
The report said a “robust” review of how costs spiralled would now take place and the cabinet will now receive more regular public updates on the progression of the scheme. Our problem with this is that the Council was warned of these potential problems when the scheme was first promoted
It said: “Whilst many of the issues encountered were outside the Council’s control, under the new administration a formal learning exercise will take place and a robust lessons learnt log developed to ensure similar issues, where possible, are avoided in the future, ensuring best value is achieved.”
Both these schemes are wrong. We cannot force people out of cars we have to encourage and cajole them to use other forms of transport. Just imagine what we could have spent £68.8 million on to do this. Proper bus lanes, proper cycle lanes, better junctions throughout the City, more pedestrian controlled access, more actions to help the disabled and people with prams and shopping trolleys get to and from our District Centres.
This is a sad indictment of the gross incompetence of the previous Labour administration. They had a city centre based view of things which was already outdated before the pandemic and is now grossly out of date as we hope to leave the pandemic. People are making different travel choices and are becoming less city centre and big store dependent.
The Council need to catch up with this move quickly and redesign our City for a post-pandemic era. We see no sign that the new Labour administration understands this need. It continues to plug an outdated City Plan and a Liverpool Recovery Plan based on pre-Covid priorities. Unless they do change their priorities, Joanne Anderson will waste as much money as Joe Anderson did before her.