On 6 May 2010, Joe Anderson became leader of Liverpool City Council. Here, the Mayor reflects on 10 years in charge…
It feels a world away, while we deal with the impact of the Coronavirus, but it is worth looking back on how the decisions we made over the last ten years will prepare us for the next ten years.
Liverpool has come a long way, we have become known as a city with real vision and real ambition.
A city ready to punch above its weight, a city hungry for success, a city ready to make bold decisions.
The last ten years have been about choices – really tough choices about how to spend the little money we have to make the biggest possible difference. Against the odds we have done so much to improve people’s lives and every single person in the city should be proud of what we have achieved.
Just two months after we came to power the Government announced that they were scrapping the Building Schools for the Future programme. It was a devastating blow, losing £350m of investment in 23 new school projects in Liverpool.
I will never forget teachers phoning me in tears, asking what we were going to do and what they were going to tell the kids. We could have given up and left kids in our city to learn in second-rate buildings. Instead, we created the Liverpool Schools Investment Programme which transformed 22 of the city’s primary and secondary schools. And we did it all in line with our values as a city, maximising social value and providing local business, employment and training opportunities. 62% of project funds were spent in Liverpool and we created 2,000 construction jobs and 200 apprenticeships.
But schools were only one issue – we needed to boost the economy and provide jobs, we needed more and better housing provision and we needed to invest more in our young and older people.
We knew that if we wanted to keep hold of services, if we wanted to spend money on our young people, on our old people, on cleaner and greener communities then we had to generate the funding to do it. We had to be resilient; we had to be innovative and imaginative in what we did and how we did it. We had to grow our economy in order to help those most in need. That’s exactly what we have done.
The economy has been transformed, bringing in jobs and investment. For too long our city underperformed in the economy but over the last ten years we have supported existing business, attracted new investors and encouraged business to relocate into the city.
Flagship projects like Paddington Village are not just transforming the city’s skyline, they are transforming perceptions and aspirations. The £1billion project will transform 30 acres in the city centre, establishing Liverpool as a first class destination for life-science, healthcare and technology industries, creating jobs and businesses that are high value, high pay and high quality.
We knew change had to go beyond the city centre and had to be inclusive so everyone felt the benefit.
We have delivered that, continuing the economic regeneration of the north of the city through the Anfield regeneration programme, bringing the place back to life and giving people a community they can really take pride in.
Look at the plans for Ten Streets, transforming 125 acres of dockland in one of the country’s poorest wards into a creativity district – for start-ups and creative businesses. It goes to the very heart of our goal to rebalance the city’s economy.
In 2010, Edge Lane was a symbol of everything wrong, with plans stalled and the site sitting as an eyesore. In the past decade, more than £45million has been spent on striking public realm improvements, improved junctions, and better pedestrian and cycle access, with the renamed Liverpool Shopping Park at its heart. This key gateway to the city is now modern, attractive and tells everyone that Liverpool is open for business.
Good quality, sustainable and affordable housing should be seen as a right for people, not a challenge. Families, new and old, should be able to depend on housing that helps them reach their potential and keep them healthy. That’s why we have built over 12,000 homes since 2010 to improve the housing mix in the city and 5,000 properties have been brought back into use.
My deal with government to wipe historic council housing debt means that we can once again include council housing in our growing provision, for the first time in 30 years.
We launched the innovative Homes for a Pound scheme to breathe new life into neighbourhoods and put local people at the heart of housing regeneration.
All this means we now bring in an additional £9million per year in council tax revenue. It’s sensible socialism in action, bringing in that extra revenue to put it straight back in to the services people rely on.
My ‘Invest to Earn’ approach means we can make bold choices to invest money to improve services where it will make the biggest difference.
It’s why we can spend £6m on recruiting 160 new children’s social workers so we can halve the workload of existing staff. And £30 million on 3 new ‘dementia hubs’ in to provide high-quality dementia nursing and care for some of city’s most vulnerable residents is the biggest investment in some of our most vulnerable in a generation.
We are not just surviving, we are leading. We are pioneering digital development in the care system and we are national leaders in assistive technology like digitised care records. Last year we won the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) award for how our digital technology work is providing a more flexible, responsive and person-centred service to our elderly and helping them to stay living in their homes safely for longer.
Let’s not forget, we have achieved all this with a decade of devastating austerity as a back drop -equivalent of £881 per person – and now have £443 million less to spend per year than we did in 2010.
And yet – around 450 libraries have closed across the UK – but we have kept ours open, as we have with Children’s Centres, Leisure Centres and Youth Centres.
We are one of the only councils in England that has managed to maintain our welfare assistance scheme, choosing to spend over £85m a year to support our most vulnerable residents and I am proud we have the best safety net in the country.
Our Citizens Support Scheme is the largest local welfare provision scheme in the country. Our Council Tax Support is the most generous in the country. Our rough sleeping shelter, Labre House, led the way nationally, and we spend £11 million every year tackling homelessness.
In the last 10 years, we have made:
Over 75,000 Urgent Needs awards to help people in crisis.
Over 73,000 Discretionary Housing Payments when rent becomes difficult to pay.
Our Benefits Maximisation team identified £101M in additional benefits for over 25,000 households.
25,000 households getting the benefits they deserve instead of falling through the cracks. £3m a year in crisis payments to help keep families out of the clutches of loan sharks and payday lenders. Running our summer lunches scheme so that children in this city don’t go hungry.
We will give people a safety net to stop them from hitting rock bottom.
Against all the odds we have delivered so much for the people in our city, because Liverpool is a great city, with great people.
We have so much more to do, and we will be feeling the impacts of the current coronavirus for some time to come. But when I look back on the challenges we have met in the last ten years I know we can, and will, do it again.