There was something familiar in tonight’s “Echo” account of Mayor Anderson’s manifesto offer of “10000 new homes” for Liverpool. It was not just my recollection of the same pledge four years ago, but the fact that “The Echo” ran the same manifesto story last night. I cannot recall an “Echo” editor being so supportive of an administration at election time as to give them two bites of the cherry!
Notwithstanding “The Echo” being so eager to promote the mayor, I wondered whether Joe’s spin doctors have pushed a little too far on this one. After all, closer inspection of what is being claimed creates more than a little scepticism. Housing need is far too important an issue than to fall victim to spin; and more questions are raised with these proposals than answers. Claiming, for example, that “30000 people in the city could benefit “ is pure speculation and highly improbable. Let us look at some facts.
The suggested cost of £1 billion is a ballpark figure and probably widely inaccurate. Nevertheless, it would be a huge amount for any council to take on, much less one as indebted as Liverpool is. Everyone would support a massive injection of funds into housing, providing homes for those in need, but I am wholly unconvinced that such an investment into Liverpool would be forthcoming whilst this government is in power, and its policies current.
Let us suppose the funding did become available. I would want to see how “rent to buy” would apply to those most in need of housing – those who are economically more marginal in our society. These are on low incomes – what would attract them to a scheme which will inevitably be more expensive on a weekly basis? All of the evidence suggests that these people want and need an affordable rental home. Mrs Thatcher’s council house sales passed these people by, giving rise, in part, to the present crisis. Is this not just the same Tory myth of a property-owning working class by another route?
We also must note the use of brownfield sites which is central to these proposals. Those listed in “Norris Green, Croxteth, Fazakerley, and south Liverpool” are presumably the sites of clearances of former council properties. Others suggested, like the former Garden Festival site, are highly contaminated and would require very expensive remediation before any houses could be built on them.
The Garden Festival site is intriguing. Not only toxic, but bought back from Langtry’s by Mayor Anderson, thus bailing the builder out. Langtry’s failed to live up to their promises to build on the site – why should the mayor be more successful? Mind you, he had said that the site – post Langtry – would be kept as a green space for the people of Liverpool. Is that now to be another change of direction?
Similarly, the inclusion of Liverpool Waters is bizarre. At the launch of the Liverpool Waters scheme, Peel said it had an implementation timetable of fifty years! Also, the proposed homes within the project were to be mainly flats, without provision for families or pensioners. Are not these amongst the needy homeless? Has Mayor Anderson forgotten the Vacant Dwellings Initiative – sponsored by his chum Lord Heseltine – whereby Liverpool Council demolished over 4000 flats because no-one wanted to live in them?
We should not dismiss the idea of a local authority housing company – a de facto housing department, as it were. It could plug a gap in meeting public need; but proposals must be based on realistic plans rather than election-time spin.
Perhaps what is most curious is that the mayor should make proposals which he clearly has no intention of implementing. He cannot do so, given his declared intention of resigning , if re-elected as mayor, after one year, in order that he might stand as the Labour nominee for the new post of Mayor of the Liverpool City Region. I fear that Mayor Anderson has been unduly influenced by his builder and developer friends on these rushed election promises. I trust that they will be openly debated before any commitment is entered into.