A Tale of Two Cities

It has not been a good week for Liverpool City Council. We must remember that a bad week for Liverpool city has a negative effect on each of the boroughs within the city-region. Outside of Merseyside, all of the boroughs are lumped together under the “Liverpool” brand, for better or for worse. Naturally, that branding can reflect positively on all of the boroughs, as Manchester appears to do on its adjacent boroughs. Liverpool too often fails to meet the same standard.

The week began with a leading announcement from the mayor of 1500 new possible jobs (my emphasis – how often have promised jobs failed to materialise?). These are supposed to be sited on a prime waterfront location. Once again, the major beneficiary seems to be a member of the magic circle of businessmen known as the Local Enterprise Partnership. On this occasion it is the LEP’s chairman, Asif Hamid. His company runs call centres and he wants to put one, with the mayor’s support, on the prestigious King’s Dock. How many proposals have we already had trumpeted for this location?

Now, I am all in favour of jobs for the city-region, but these are minimum wage, low skill positions. We have been told consistently that the future lies with high skill, high wage opportunities, based on a highly educated and highly trained workforce. In Manchester, they are actively pursuing such a regional economy. For example, they are developing such jobs on the back of their reputation for applications of their wonder material graphene; and this is backed up by real investment. Meanwhile, we are offering our youngsters call centres.

Nor is the name of the city enhanced by yet another revelation in “Private Eye”. A small business in the Baltic Triangle was negotiating a new lease with the council for its premises – fifteen existing jobs were at stake. Whilst the business was assured by the council of its secure tenure, the council treacherously sold the freehold to the property. They sold it to the con men who “ran” scam companies PHD1 and North Point Global (think New Chinatown!) These fly-by-nights were “developing” yet more luxury flats on the site. The business owner quite rightly kicked up a fuss with the council. Next thing, his premises, and those of another business on the site, were firebombed by arsonists. The flats project cruised ahead.

Controversy continues. Take the non-working but highly paid council chief executive, Ged Fitzgerald. Next Monday, the city council’s Appointments and Disciplinary Panel will meet to discuss Fitzgerald’s future. Not before time, you might say; but let us see what eventuates. The published agenda lists two items before any reports: who is to chair the meeting, and whether it will be open to press and public.

Given the subject matter under discussion, I fully expect the press and public to be excluded. However, the chairmanship is interesting. Normally, the mayor is the official chair of this meeting. However, he is hardly impartial when it comes to Fitzgerald. They have been thick as thieves for years, and the mayor has been his staunchest supporter since he was charged by the police. Still, impartiality has never been the mayor’s strongest suit. I see no reason why the mayor would not once again force through his view on the backs of the relatively junior councillors on the Panel. Such is the Liverpool of today, to the detriment of us all.

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