Does Liverpool have a Socialist Council?

Yesterday the Council had a debate about a City Plan for the future. There was not one word in it about Social housing in the City. Not one Cabinet speech was made about social or low cost housing. (Credit photos to Shelter and the Liverpool Echo)

Yesterday we had a debate in Council about the so-called ‘City Plan’. This appears to be a plan which was signed off by Joe Anderson’s Cabinet but was never taken to Council and is now being enthusiastically supported by Joanne Anderson’s Cabinet.

Many people think that this City Plan is an official document of the Council. It isn’t. It hasn’t come from the Council. It is a construct of 15 Chief Executives only one of whom, our Council Chief Executive who reports to us, has any connection with the democratic processes of the Council and the relationship with the people of Liverpool who can give any ‘plan’ legitimacy.

The tail is wagging the dog. Of course, we need an implementation partnership to deliver the major changes that this City needs. But what we should do as a Council is to create a compelling vision which is discussed with the people of Liverpool which our partners can then get behind.

The document before us has many faults which need to be addressed.  This is a document that was yesterday presented to us by 7 out of the 8 Cabinet Members. Two words did not pass their lips, “social housing”. Neither is social housing or low-cost home ownership mentioned in the afore mentioned ‘City Plan’.

This is the worst fault in what is proposed. This is a city where housing for the most deprived is in a crisis situation. For ten years all this City has seen built are mansion homes supported by Redrow Joe and student pods, studios and one bedroomed apartments. There has been no systematic review of what is required and how we create the neighbourhoods of mixed communities that will house all our residents in dignity and prevent our capable young people from having to leave the city for areas with cheaper housing. There are elements of this in the neighbourhood’s section of the Plan but unless we specifically say social and local cost housing and amend our structural plans accordingly we will not achieve them.

The track record of this Council is dire. We’ve built the wrong stuff. Since 2017 we have been able to build council houses. To date we have built none. We have 20 in a programme and no more planned up to 2023. This is an abject failure from what claims to be a socialist council.

If we look at the ‘healthier’ section, we see no understanding that the most important doctor in the city is Prof Dr Matt Ashton of Director of Public Health. He’s not a signatory to this document instead we have two people from the NHS one of whom has already departed and the other will be leaving soon. The gap between the healthy and the unhealthy will not be bridged by NHS actions but by this Council who will be dealing with the social determinants of health. Housing, better diets, less drugs and alcohol, decent jobs and stable communities and families are the things that in the medium to long term will decrease the health outcomes that are manifest in our city.  Dr Ashton should be reviewing every single proposal from this council and our partners to see how it contributes to all our evening out process for health.

The last thing that I commented on yesterday is education and its relationship to the new jobs that are being created by the big plans. The City Plan sets out some worthy objectives but does nothing to provide the relationship between the big ambitious projects and the most deprived communities in our City.

I am sure that the new health activities related to the University in Kensington will be a great success but how will the current residents of Kensington take advantage of the jobs that will be created?

There are real opportunities in the North Docks but will the current residents of Kirkdale and Everton be able to access them? Probably not.

We can see very clearly in the shops in the City Centre which is surrounded by areas with high rates of ethnicity that few of those people get jobs in the stores in L1. The visibility of the 10% of our city who come from ethnic minorities and particularly those of colour is very difficult to see.

We urgently need mechanisms to link opportunity to the needs of the disadvantaged and I see no proposals to do that in the City Plan or the speeches made by the Cabinet which largely appeared to have been written by officers!

So, let’s accept this document for what it is – A plan which brings together a number of probably worthwhile ideas but with many important omissions

I asked the Council to start a process which takes the discussion out to the people of Liverpool, and which engages them neighbourhood by neighbourhood and community by community and which creates a city where the aspirations of the people of the City can be delivered by the organisations which are paid to serve them. I can only hope that they do so.

But the plan and the speeches made in support of it do raise fundamental questions about how socialist the Labour Party in Liverpool is. I am not a socialist, I’m a liberal. But it was the Lib Dems who spoke yesterday to ensure that appropriate high quality rented housing went on the agenda; to ensure that we understand the roles of public health in approving the life expectancy of the poorest of our community; who spoke about the visibility of our ethnic minorities and the need to get them into jobs where they could be sent to turn the image of the city as a mono-ethnic one.

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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