Changing Times

I noticed that Sefton Council listened to residents, and reversed their previous decision to merge children and family centres. Good on them – heeding the views of electors. Similarly, St Helens Council disciplined one of their number after residents complained about his behaviour. This is another example (at least, on this occasion) of a listening council.

There is nothing wrong in actually listening to what residents are saying; on the contrary, if the council is wrong on an issue, it is in that council’s own interests to right that wrong, admitting its culpability. Even Liverpool’s mayor and the ubiquitous Lawrence Kenwright , appear to have accepted that their public spat over who was doing most for the homeless, needed to be resolved. Mind you, to the jaundiced observer, these two publicity junkies will have ulterior motives for their newly-found co-operation.

Meanwhile, government ministers were congratulating themselves on a “landmark airline deal” with China emphasising Manchester’s share in it. Chinese tourist numbers shot up this year, rising 47% in the first six months. Their spend of £231 million in the same period, showed an increase of 54%. Manchester Airport has increased its export trade to China by 265%! It is now running at £200 million per month. Inward investment from China has doubled, whilst the Chinese tourist spend in the region as a whole is now running at £140 million.

However, Liverpool City-Region is yet to show any comparable figures in capitalising on its traditional ties with China. Remember, Liverpool has the oldest Chinese community in Europe. The city itself is twinned with Chinese mega-city, Shanghai. However, we have baggage. We are tarnished by the debacle of New Chinatown, and the hosts of Chinese investors who feel defrauded and betrayed by Liverpool-based scams.

There is also the memory of the proposed International Trade Centre in the Wirral. I would not be surprised if you had forgotten about this woeful tale. This project was said to be a joint effort involving Peel, Wirral Council, and Stella Shiu, a supposed entrepreneur whose office was, according to the Financial Times, a shack in the Chinese countryside. It was a complete washout – no-one has held up their hands over this farce. It remains another warning to genuine overseas investors to be wary of putting money into the Liverpool City-Region.

Nevertheless, there are some chinks of light. Although there is, once again, bitter factional in-fighting within Liverpool Council’s Labour group, there are some more enlightened members of it who recognise their leadership problem. They are determined to rectify this when the mayoralty candidate selection comes around. They know that if they do not sort it out, Momentum may well do it for them.

There is, of course, a wider perspective than individual authorities, and that is the city-region, run by the Combined Authority. Councillors on several authorities, as well as rank-and-file Labour Party members, have tumbled to the fact that a disproportionate ratio of investment projects, has favoured Liverpool at the expense of the other authorities. Their leaders on the Combined Authority are increasingly irked by the attempts of Mayor Anderson to lever ever more of their supposedly joint resources, to backfill the gaps in Liverpool Council’s ragged accounts. Worse still, these gaps are often due to the mayor’s promotion of “events”, in his pursuit of a failing “bread and circuses” approach to city leadership. Time to go, Joe!

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