The old saying tells us to “follow the money”. Well, a lot of it goes into our universities; and some, at Liverpool University, goes into the Heseltine Institute. Its advisory board chairman is Ged Fitzgerald, sidekick to Joe and the council’s chief executive. Thus, when the council wants a report to sing its praises, its first call is to its virtual in-house “experts” at the institute.
Their recent report is, however, more notable for what it does not mention. You will recall that Joe had launched a Mayoral Development Corporation, billed as a “multi-billion pound” model to drive regeneration. Yet it is one of the more striking omissions from the report, given its fanfare as a major initiative. Presumably, this is because, as the report suggests, Joe’s history is to make grandiose announcements which never come to pass. To quote a previous institute report – “excellent on paper but not a development corporation in the sense that it links through to delivery”.
So when Joe talks about creating ten new development zones, we should take it with a large pinch of salt! After all, he has repeatedly failed to deliver on his previous commitments. Empty promises and failure to deliver – perhaps that will be Joe’s political epitaph.
Bill Clinton’s electoral clarion call – with justification – was “It’s the economy, stupid!” Well, official and unspun figures suggest Joe has never taken that sage advice in the stewardship of Liverpool’s economy. The following figures come from the Office of National Statistics, and refer to their most up-to-date research covering the years 2009 to 2014. Joe had responsibility for the Liverpool economy for the last four of that five year period. The statistics are alarming.
Whilst the economies of all other cities in the country have grown, between 7.25% (Nottingham) and 19.23% (Bristol), with Manchester on 17.65%, only Liverpool’s economy has shrunk by 0.78%! Looking simply at the growth rate year on year, Manchester has left Liverpool for dead whilst Joe has been in charge. Perhaps even more remarkable, as Liverpool shrank, the economies of all of the other Merseyside local authorities, including Halton, have achieved substantial growth.
The moral is that Joe would be a disaster for the economy of the city region. His record in Liverpool is demonstrably a failure, particularly on delivery. Just as the city-region will need to expand its business rate base, to finance region-wide services, the Liverpool council audit report tells us that Liverpool City Council will be broke in 2018. According to Joe, the city will be “looking over the abyss…….in 2017, we fall in“. What chance then of attracting investment to the city-region and what chance of growth?