Hot on the heels of the announcement that Liverpool City Council is to sell half of its 20% stake in Liverpool John Lennon Airport, I am reminded of what Mayor Anderson said three years ago when putting the council tax payers’ money into this Peel-owned venture. He said “airport growth is around 20% year on year”. Oh, no, it is not, say the passenger figures compiled by the Civil Aviation Authority. Methinks that this is yet another example of the mayor’s flexibility with facts as he keeps his private sector friends sweet, only for his sublime business ignorance to be revealed down the line.
He is apparently now looking for a massive return on the £12 million of our money he put up to bail out Peel in their time of need. I would not bank on him being successful, given the mayor’s record to date. All of his failures came flooding back to my mind when it was announced that he was to set forth to Liverpool Labour Party members why his post should be retained, despite widespread calls for it to be abolished. In order to persuade them of his case, he has emailed party members across the city, citing a number of justifications for keeping the role, if not himself.
The first claim is that the mayoralty has enabled leadership in times of austerity. Presumably, therefore, in his view, there has been no leadership in all of those local authorities across the land which do not have elected mayors. The mayoralty has, in turn, led to extra funding for the city in a government-inspired “city deal”. If that is the case, why have Manchester and other comparable cities, all without elected mayors, received similar “city deals” or better ones compared to Liverpool?
Secondly, the mayoralty has, he argues, given us “community cohesion”. Again, if that is the case, how does he account for the massive opposition – reflected in local election results – to the mayor’s ill-founded proposals for selling off parks and green space? I can recall nothing more divisive in the city in recent years than the attempts led by the mayor to ride roughshod over community wishes.
The third silly claim is that the mayoralty facilitates government responsiveness to the needs of the city. This a straightforward line from George Osborne, implying a government bribe. Utter rubbish. We all recall the mayor playing Cameron’s dupe for the failed “Big Society” con, only to be forced to angrily distance himself when there was nothing for the city behind the rhetoric. The mayor has constantly emphasised the huge cuts in government grant to the city, partly to excuse his own failings. It would be nice to know where this supposed increased government responsiveness to the mayor has led to positive outcomes for the city and its people.
I do partially accept the mayor’s fourth point about the business response to the mayoralty. Let me put it this way. Some business – principally “developers” – have had an extended Christmas under Mayor Anderson. However, it is surely the case that the mayor has responded to business and its greed, more than business responding to the mayor. He has also extended massive generosity towards billionaire-owned Everton FC. It would be gratifying to see the same kind of support given to local SMEs. Consider, if you will, small contractors ripped off, alongside investors, in the numerous local development scams.
Most outrageous of all is the mayor’s spurious claim that the mayoralty has the support of the people of Liverpool. How on earth can that statement be justified? Unlike everywhere else, where local people were given a vote on the matter, electors in Liverpool were denied the opportunity to say whether or not they wanted an elected mayor. If Mayor Anderson believes it is the case that the public approve of a mayoralty, why did he connive with Osborne to sneak it in by the council’s back door? Why not opt now for a referendum to see what electors want? I suspect that the real answer is Mayor Anderson’s desperate wish to hang on to his well paid job, after failing in his attempts to find an alternative (he could not garner support to be either metromayor or Walton MP).
Other claims flow, including one that Liverpool is “close to being the best council in the country” (wait for the court cases to begin!). One further assertion which I can accept is that “the media prefers a mayoralty”. That is certainly the case with local comic, the Echo. It is enamoured of the current incumbent – I have long raised questions about its reporting and editorial partiality. It has also consistently failed to raise the many problems which have arisen under Mayor Anderson, acting like his in-house publicity magazine. Thus, on that basis alone, I have to agree that the mayor has that one right.