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Show us the money, Dave

Downing St's £232m growth deal for Liverpool is more hard electioneering than hard cash, says Larry Neild

Written by . Published on July 7th 2014.

Show us the money, Dave

GIVEN the cruel impact on Liverpool on welfare reforms, the bedroom tax and cuts to the city council, it’s hard to see David Cameron and George Osborne as latter day knights in shining armour, riding into town on their white horses to save us. 

You’d swear a general election was on the horizon. But today, at precisely one minute past midnight, a carefully crafted Downing Street communique to the masses was unveiled, promising the mother of all goody bags for Liverpool City Region. 

Just as Cameron, Osborne and Clegg scrapped Labour-agreed stuff in 2010, who is to say what is agreed now beyond 2015, let alone 2016 will be honoured? 

And behold, the great and good of the city region gathered forth to give this proclamation their support and enthusiasm.

The two neighbouring knights of Downing Street and the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise have this day agreed an historic Growth Deal with the Government which will see £232.3m – that’s more than a cool quarter of a billion pound coins – invested in the city and its neighbouring environs, otherwise known as Merseyside. 

And there will be great merriment in the streets, as the hitherto restless northern commoners will enjoy the fruits of this gold rush: up to 15,000 new jobs! Up to 16,000 new homes! (Hope most of them are one and two bedroomed.) 

The key features of the deal:

 Over £50m of investment in key transport connections into and within Liverpool city centre, revitalising the north of the city and better connecting Liverpool’s waterfront to the city centre. Plus improvements to the M58 and a Maghull North rail station;

 A £47.7m package of improvements for six colleges –equipment and facilities improved at six city region colleges to ensure that young people are properly trained for the jobs of tomorrow; 

 A reshaped Liverpool Skills for Growth Bank – £4.64m from Government to co-invest in a reshaped Liverpool Skills for Growth Bank which will support employers who are willing to invest in training to source high quality training provision and to grow the skills base in the city region, building on this successful City Deal programme;

  Committing to a second International Festival of Business in 2016.

Seems some of the above have already been announced, though it’s a common political sleight of hand (by all the big parties) to announce the same things umpteen times. 

Then come the words of praise and endorsements which I dare say have been steered, driven and in some cases totally written by spinners (no, not the old folk group). 

David Cameron: “Growth Deals are a crucial part of our long-term plan to secure Britain’s future. For too long our economy has been too London-focused and too centralised. Growth Deals will help change all that. 

"This historic deal means real change for Liverpool… by trusting local people … we can create thousands of new jobs. And that means more economic security, peace of mind and a brighter future for hard working people in Liverpool.” 

Hard working? Hard-suffering more like, thanks Dave. 

Joe Anderson reads the small printJoe Anderson reads the small printNick Clegg, the deputy Prime Minister, said: “We’re placing the power and money in the hands of people in Liverpool who know how to spend it best, making a real difference to local communities.”

So why did you nick the money off us in the first place, Nicholas? 

Robert Hough, chairman of Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The £230 million awarded to us will not only create jobs and stimulate the economy in the short term… this announcement clearly shows that Government has recognised that our work and structures here provide the capacity to unlock the regions potential as an economic powerhouse.” 

Hang on a mo, Robert, the cheque hasn’t been signed yet, have you read the small print?

Mayor Anderson:  “The £52 milion commitment to these schemes will enable us to push-on with the next phase of our investment strategy.” 

See what I mean Robert? That £233m seems to have shrunk to £52m (most of it already announced umpteen times). Thankfully the Mayor has read the fine detail. 

So what does it all mean? Just under £46m in the local growth fund has already been awarded, covering 2015/2016. So we can assume that’s in the (goody) bag. Hooray! 

The remaining £186.5m, making up the bulk of the proclaimed big jackpot of £232.3m is no more than an initial say-so, spanning the years 2016 and beyond. In fact, the communique happens to mention … "discussions will open right away on future awards".  By 2016, of course, we may have an entirely new political landscape. 

And just as Cameron, Osborne and Clegg scrapped Labour-agreed stuff in 2010, who is to say what is agreed now beyond 2015, let alone 2016 will be honoured? 

Let’s just hope today’s statement from the Cabinet office isn’t just the first general election leaflet. 

Larry Neild on Twitter

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AnonymousJuly 8th 2014.

Just reading an international wire service and by the way they were hoodwinked you would swear David Cameron had personally signed and dispatched the cheques to the northern outposts of the kingdom. Cameron, the ultimate illusionist, and he has taken so many people in with this. Perhaps we deserve it for not seeing through the scam.

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