Liverpool needs a big plan with big ideas after a big conversation

Liverpool has the capacity to be a world leader and become one of the best cities to live in globally. But too often it is held back by its council who are backward looking and petty. We need a great debate which is citizen and not politician led.

I was quite depressed at the meeting of the Council last Wednesday. The Labour Party totally ignored the results of the flawed consultation that it had led and abolished the Elected Mayoralty, which is good, but introduced the least popular option for change, the Leader & Cabinet model which is bad. It contains many of the flaws of the Mayoral model but there can be greater checks and balances in the system dependent on the results of the next Council elections.

I was depressed because the behaviour was so poor. Mock and false points of order and personal explanations. Untruths being padded as truths often not deliberately but because of ignorance of the real facts.

A lack of reality about where we are was appalling. Liverpool is the most dysfunctional council in the UK but instead of addressing issues our current, and last, Mayor spoke about the dysfunctional central government but failed to mention anything about the council which she leads. She rightly spoke in glowing terms about our former Chief Executive, Tony Reeves, but ignored the fact that she had not been able to stop him being pushed out of office by the Commissioners. She seemed unaware of the fact that the Commissioners will appoint both the interim and permanent Chief Executive, albeit with some councillor input.

Over the past three years Liverpool has been faced with a series of damning press announcements caused by the actions of its terrible Council.

Sixteen arrests in two huge crime operations, a damning internal report. An even more damning ‘Best Value Inspection Report.’ This has generated huge costs and a public assumption through the UK and possibly even in the World that Liverpool is ‘Dodge City on stilts!’

Clearly these are serious issues which the Council must address. We need to provide decent services at a decent price especially for the most deprived areas and people in the City. But we spend too much time navel gazing within the Council with some councillors trying to relive past battles from the 80’s and 90’s and looking back at a vastly different City than the one we live in today.

But what if we looked at Liverpool very differently? What if we looked at in the way that we, the UK, and the World did in the first decade of this Century when Liverpool became the European Capital of Culture?

When the Liberal Democrats took control of the Council, we decided to focus on a City that could and should be one of the finest places in the World. We decided that the best way to deal with the undoubted problems that it had was to by looking at the opportunities that could be created by dealing with the many, many good points about our City and put them at the heart of dealing with our many problems.

Let us look at those advantages:

  • An excellent built and green environment with an impressive city centre, 981 listed buildings, and good parks throughout almost the whole of the City.
  • Three world class Universities bringing in 60,000 students and creating huge opportunities for research and job creation.
  • An inventive, educated, and hard-working population that can deliver world class services and products.
  • A riverscape with our three graces which is the envy of the World and being a major attraction for the almost one hundred cruise liners which now visit every year.
  • A large and modern conference centre which attracts conferences and performers from all over the World.
  • An arts and culture scene which is vibrant and renowned globally including an excellent and unique Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society and no less than 7 museums in or around the City.
  • On the edge of the Lake and Peak Districts and the Welsh Hills
  • A world Leading Liverpool one shopping centre
  • Two Premier League Football teams who bring tens of thousands of people into the City.

All these and more show why Liverpool has a firm base from which to move forward if we once again see that Liverpool has a glass that is half full and invite others to help fill to fill it rather than concentrating on a half full that moans that no-one wants to help us fill it.

To move this City forward we need to be considering the next twenty years and not only considering the weaknesses and opportunities of the City but also the weaknesses and opportunities of the Country and World.

The world has changed in the last 20 years and will change even more in the next 20 years. The momentous changes are also big opportunities:

  • Global warming which is affecting our climate which in turn affects our food supplies and is causing huge harm to communities around the World as weather systems become more extreme
  • A communications network which can make us all ‘Citizens of the World’ through the sharing of knowledge and the sharing of culture.
  • Changes in transport which is inverting the triangle in which the car is at the centre of movement, but which needs replacing it with traffic systems based on pedestrianisation, cycling and the best use of public transport.
  • An understanding that there are complex food chains in place which need to be shortened with the production of more local food and more plant-based food.
  • IT will continue to evolve in ways which I cannot imagine but just think of the changes over the past 20 years to see what this might mean.
  • The need and ability to produce more power in a sustainable and localised way.

Now our so-called City Plan is a desperate affair signed up to by sixteen ‘Chief Executives’ of bodies within the City half of which have already left or will be leaving by Christmas. Our discussion of this ‘plan’ within the Council consisted of the 8 Cabinet Members each reading out a two-minute statement. There were no big ideas and no passion for our Great City.

So how can Liverpool use its assets and opportunities to thrive rather than survive in the coming decades? In September, my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I will be meeting to debate these issues, but these matters should not be left to the politicians alone. This City does not just belong to us, and its future does not just belong to us either.

So, who is going to create the debate? The political parties can play their part, but our time is constrained by the practical issues of running the Council and preparing for the all-up elections next year.

This needs a citizen led response and that, I am afraid, means YOU!! Every community group, amenity group, business group, tenants association, voluntary organisation, school governing body, public sector agency and citizen led body needs to think and set out what its own area of concern is and how that might lead to an improved Liverpool.

Do not wait for the politicians of Liverpool to come down from the mountains with tablets of stone with the solutions on them. If you are concerned about the future of our great city, we need to get your views on the way forward. Your councillors and MPs need positively challenging on their views for the City and how to positively harness change.

My Liberal Democrat team and I would be pleased to come and discuss and debate issues with you. Challenge us on what we have said and done. Make all your councillors and would-be councillors present themselves for debate and discussion in the area that you live in or the topic group with which you are associated.

Politics and the future of our City are too important to be left to politicians. Will you step up to the crease and join in a genuine citizen led debate about the future of our City?

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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