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The Laz Word: Is city all doomed or what?

Think tank's latest report dissed as the number crunchers ring up figures on Liverpool

Published on January 18th 2010.

The Laz Word: Is city all doomed or what?

DOOMWATCHER Dermot Finch is at it again with his bleak outlook on Liverpool, its misfortunes and its prospects.

Liverpool suffers from an outdated image that grew in the 60s, 70s and 80s when we were, let's admit it, delinquent. Mud sticks, so we have to be that bit smarter to compensate.

Read his Centre for Cities report, Cities Outlook 2010, and you start to think rising tidal waters caused by global warming could be a merciful release for Merseyside.

As soon as CfC’s report hit the public domain today, read it in PDF here if you want, the counter attack started. These people are living in the past, say its detractors. Look at the arena (but try not to look too hard at some of its patrons), look at Liverpool One, the revival, the renaissance, the regeneration, they say.

Centre for Cities has not got a mission to destroy Liverpool or any other northern city. It’s a London-based think tank staffed by number-crunchers. And the problem with numbers is the sums sometimes hurt.

Let the facts speak for themselves, is the saying, and when you examine them you soon realise Liverpool has a long way to go. We have the lowest employment rate of any UK city – indeed we’re the highest in the North West. Male unemployment is particularly high.Nationally around 74pc of the working population are economically active, in other words they are working or making a living. In Liverpool it is much lower.

We’d need a few more car plants to wipe out our dole queue – and we’re lucky to cling on to the one we have at Halewood.

Deprivation levels in some inner-city wards are among the worst in the enlarged EU. And these grim facts are not from Centre for Cities, but from UK Government official statistics.

Dermot Finch and his team merely confirm the facts, place the figures into a series of charts and chuck them into the mixer, and let the war of words begin. Of the 64 UK cities in their own report, Liverpool – or rather its employment rate - ranks rock bottom and it's the second worst for qualifications, on the “vulnerable” list also for its reliance on public sector jobs.

At one time, and particularly when Liverpool was an EU Objective One area, potential investors would look at the goody bags - in the form of incentives - to open up shop here.

Now the competition for investment from elsewhere is tough, with the UK's core city rivals on the hunt for opportunities, as well as our new EU cousins from the eastern side of the continent.

Private inward investors will carefully examine quality of schooling, quality of life, qualification levels of potential value of local employees, housing and leisure, and ease of establishing a working base in an area.

The successful towns and cities will be those ticking all of the boxes. What Liverpool needs to ask is this .... do we tick every box ? If not, why don't we and what do we need to do? It’s not a job for the council or the regeneration agencies, but every one one of us to play a part in telling the Liverpool story.

Remember, we have one hand tied behind our backs: Liverpool suffers from an outdated image that grew in the 60s, 70s and 80s when we were, let's admit it, delinquent. Mud sticks, so we have to be that bit smarter to compensate.

Rather than whinge about a series of numbers and Finch's words, politicians and public officials should carefully examine the report and ensure when the bean counters head our way again, at the end of 2010, their next annual report starts to paint an entirely different picture.

Larry Neild

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5 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

TrevorJanuary 18th 2010.

I heard Dermot Finch on the radio and he didn't paint as gloomy a picture as the Daily Post. He acknowledged the progress and said that Liverpool was doing OK, but it mightn't recover as quickly as other areas because the number of private sector job, while growing, is not as large as other cities. This is compounded by a fairly low skills base. He is entirely right - there has been progress in recent years and there are more jobs around. The issue now is that people don't necessarily have the skills to secure the jobs. It will take many years to overcome this level of worklessness, particularly where you have some families with four generations of unemployment. Our young people are better educated than ever, the difficulty is giving their parents and grandparents the skills they need. This can't be done in 12 months and will take a very long time. So next time the bean counters come round, they will say pretty much the same thing.

AnonymousJanuary 18th 2010.

It's a great pity politicians in Liverpool and the wider greater Liverpool cannot work together for the good of our area. The rivalry and back stabbing here is holding up progress. We are still way behind other major cities in economic growth.

AnonymousJanuary 18th 2010.

Trevor is right- it will take years for us to escape this blight. So what happened to the billions of euros chucked at us as part of Objective One, weren't those mega bucks supposed to equip Liverpool and its people for the future. Instead we trained an army of nail-polishers and aromatherapists, just what a place in need of rebuilding needs. So when the big contracts came along, such as Liverpool One, we had to ship in builders from across the cities. There were more signs around Liverpool One in Polish than in English. The good thing is those builders had the nicest fingernails money could buy.

Confused of AllertonJanuary 18th 2010.

I'm continuallyu confused. We keep reading about Liverpool earning tens of millions from visitors, its tourism, etc. Yet when you look at hard facts it just doesn't stack up. Yes look around Liverpool and see the difference, but also take a look around Manchester, Bristol, Leeds, Birmingham - they've not exactly been holding back. We need leaders in this city prepared to face the facts rather than run around with their spin doctors, dressed like emperors in their new clothes.

JeremiahManderJanuary 18th 2010.

Did Dermot Finch include Liverpool's very real and massive informal economy in his study or did he just shuffle bureaucratic effluent around a bit?

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