Tory austerity must end – its architect cannot be Prime Minister

As the race to replace Theresa May as Tory leader gets underway it should be a time for their party to reflect on almost a decade of ideological austerity that has hit the poor and vulnerable in this country the hardest, people who have committed no crime other than to be poor under a Conservative Government. We have been promised ‘an end to austerity’ but are yet to see any sign of those words being backed up with meaningful action.  

I don’t want to see any of the candidates near the most powerful position in the country. I am clear that the best thing for Liverpool is a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn and as soon as there is a new leader there should be a General Election.  

But the Tory selectorate will have their say and whoever they pick will have a good chance of being the next Prime Minister, shaping the future of this country. I have seen first hand in Liverpool the devastation inflicted by austerity politics, all the more galling because these pernicious policies have been championed by someone born in this very city, Esther McVey. This leadership election must mean that the failed ideology of austerity is finally abandoned. For that reason I have today written to every Tory MP making clear why it can’t be Esther McVey. 


Dear Voter,

It goes without saying that the political sphere is in a great deal of turmoil, with many looming decisions which will affect generations to come.

One of those will be choosing the next Prime Minister, replacing Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

While convention might dictate that members of other parties only comment from afar, I feel compelled to write to all members of the ‘selectorate’ and intervene on behalf of the millions of people in our country who face, in the words of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, ‘destitution’.

On behalf of the people of Liverpool, and the most vulnerable in our country, I write with a simple plea: anyone but Esther McVey.

From the Bedroom Tax to Universal Credit she has been the torch bearer for austerity politics which have caused untold misery and suffering up and down the country. Policies that failed to tackle hardship and were so misguided that the UN special rapporteur concluded they were systematically entrenching poverty.

In that context, current welfare policies will create a ‘drag’ on UK PLC with an entire cohort of British citizens forced to spend their days worrying about food, clothing and shelter, rather than skills, employment, opportunity and freedom.

This contest should be an opportunity for your party to re-evaluate almost a decade of ideological austerity that has impacted citizens and vulnerable people who have committed no crime other than to be poor under a Conservative Government.

Esther McVey has been at the forefront of this mean spirited and pernicious welfare reform; policies that have systematically targeted the poor, punished those trying to work their way out of poverty, hassled disabled people into illness and castigated single parents trying their best to bring up their children. The prospect of someone with such a record rising to the most powerful position in the country will send a shiver down the spine of the millions of people living hand to mouth just to get by.

Let’s be clear – people have literally died because of failures with the safety net, which is supposed to protect them.

From claiming an unprecedented rise in food banks is a “positive move”, to accusing struggling families of prioritising mobile phones over food – time and again Esther McVey’s tone-deaf comments have sorely misjudged the mood in the country.

As Work and Pensions Secretary she staunchly defended the disastrous roll out of Universal Credit when everyone else – including colleagues in your own party – had recognised the misery it was inflicting in Merseyside and across the country. Here in Liverpool we produced our own ‘Unintended Consequences’ report showing the harrowing human stories behind damning welfare statistics. Still she persisted, with claims about Universal Credit so dubious that they earned a rare public rebuke from the national audit watchdog.

Nobody has done more to dismantle the people-centred concept of welfare; ushering in a cold, transactional system which talks of ‘benefit’ and ‘credit’, reviving the trope of the deserving and undeserving poor we thought had been consigned to Dickensian Britain.

Liverpool is the antithesis of this indifference – a city of compassion, a city of community, a city of justice. A city that rallies round and fights for each other. Where people extend a hand of friendship to those in need instead of looking the other way.

Liverpool, like all Local Authorities, and despite a 64% cut to its own funding from your Government, is having to pick up the pieces from Government’s failed policies.  Time and time again, DWP incompetence means that individuals reach out for help from the only ones who will listen – their Local Council.

In summary, raise your heads, look outside the Westminster Tory Bubble.  Look at the crisis that exists because our nation is too busy cutting the poor off at the knees to give them a hand up.  But crucially, look carefully at the track-record of your candidates and recognise that in Esther McVey’s case it must rule her out of the contest.


Why Universal Credit roll out should be paused

Having taken nearly as long as the First and Second World wars combined, the roll-out of Universal Credit has been one of Whitehall’s great disasters.

What was once a flagship scheme to ‘make work pay’ by rolling a range of benefits into a single payment has become a byword for institutional sclerosis and incompetence.

The policy is eight years late and has seen more launches than Cammell Laird. It’s also cost £1 billion to implement (so far) and passed through the hands (or slipped through the fingers) of five secretaries of state.

Policy disaster it may be, but ministerial blushes pale against the actual effects of the policy.

Warnings have been consistently made that the roll-out has been botched, with vulnerable people struggling to claim the new benefit, let alone the awful delays of up to 12 weeks with actually receiving payments.

Last month, Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, was forced to apologise to Parliament for misleading the House of Commons after spinning warnings from the National Audit Office about the rollout.

The NAO’s head, Sir Amyas Morse, the comptroller and auditor-general, took the extraordinary step of publishing an open letter correcting her for suggesting the NAO wanted a faster rollout when, in fact, they had warned the DWP about the need to pause the policy, learning from the experiences of ‘claimants and third parties’ before any more problems are caused.

Astonishingly, Sir Amyas said the DWP ‘has not measured how many universal credit claimants are having difficulties and hardship’ with figure showing 40% of claimants experiencing financial difficulties when they moved to UC, while a quarter reported a problem with making an online claim.

We also know that 20% of claimants are not paid in full on time,’ Sir Amyas wrote, ‘and that the department cannot measure the exact number of additional people in employment as a result of universal credit.’

Another basic failing is that there has been no impact assessment on the whole benefits system. This includes the range of support traditionally offered by local government in the form of discretionary payments. Given the length of time UC has been in gestation, this is a scandalous oversight.

Many councils have been forced to abandon discretionary support amid the austerity cuts they have been forced to endure, which has removed a vital safety net for the poorest.

In Liverpool, we retain a range of support schemes and last year spent £23 million dealing with homelessness and poverty, offering a range of crisis payments and housing support above and beyond our statutory duties.

It’s a political choice I have made to support the most vulnerable with every mechanism at my disposal, but supporting people before they reach crisis point is cheaper in the long run, as their situation costs more to deal with downstream.

This is why we also run a Benefits Maximisation Service of specialist welfare advisers, who last year helped to secure an extra £10.5 million for Liverpool families.

Perhaps what’s most disgraceful about the roll-out of Universal Credit is that claimants are being treated as though they only exist in a Whitehall petri-dish. We need to know – not assume – that everything with the policy is working properly, including processing applications and making payments – before it is inflicted on claimants.

You don’t instil budgeting skills by making people wait up to three months for their benefits. All that does is throw them into the arms of payday lenders and the endless, exhausting and frankly terrifying cycle of juggling money you simply don’t have. As frontline welfare staff know only too well, it pushes families into absolute penury.

But as well as pausing it to work out the problems, Universal Credit needs to be reset as a policy. What is it trying to achieve? In the beginning, there was a degree of cross-party agreement around the principle of simplifying the benefits system and removing perverse disincentives, ensuring that ‘work pays.’

But UC was designed a decade ago in a different economic climate, long before austerity and before the calamitous decline in living standards became a running feature of our economy.

This consensus does not, however, stretch to the current Tory version of UC, which does so much to instil a divide between the deserving and underserving poor. This is the rotten heart of the Government’s welfare changes.

The whole thrust of this government’s agenda serves to delegitimise welfare provision. Instead, we need a system that creates social solidarity and genuinely helps people into work, without hassling disabled people into illness, or castigating single parents trying their best to bring up their children.

UC is set to roll-out across the whole of Liverpool in the autumn. Already, my city is reckoned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to have the second highest level of ‘destitution’ – not just poverty – but actual destitution – in the country.

Piling Universal Credit – a policy that actively seeks to penalise claimants and take money out of their pockets – onto an already difficult economic situation in Liverpool is a perfect storm that will lead to widespread hardship the likes of which we have not seen since the 1980s.

It’s time to pause the roll-out of Universal Credit and listen to people on the frontline who are warning of the deep flaws with the policy and fix them – or scrap it altogether.


How to tackle Austerity? Be creative.

Of course, The Beatles famously knew how many holes it took to fill the Albert Hall. Here in modern-day Liverpool, we know how many potholes we need to fill – £400m worth of them.

The problem is we only have a budget of £4m to do it with and our recent government grant has given us a paltry £400,000 increase.

We only had one per cent of the money we need to do the job to begin with – and now we’re being given a paltry 0.1 per cent extra. It’s a familiar tale across the country, with most councils struggling to maintain basic infrastructure at the same time as averting a funding crisis with their social services.

We’ve had two-thirds of our government funding cut since 2010 – £444m – which means we have the impossible task of juggling immediate public service pressures with long-term capital investment, while, at the same time, trying to develop new sources of revenue.

It’s clear the chill winds of austerity will continue to blow. That was the message from the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, in his spring statement. There is no reprieve for local authorities, despite Tory-controlled Northamptonshire County Council actually going bust. That’s before we get onto the yawning national financial crisis in adult social care and the £2bn deficit that has opened up in children’s services.

It’s abundantly clear that with Brexit dominating the domestic political agenda, the needs of desperate councils – especially larger urban authorities – are way down the ministerial pecking order. We cannot sit on our hands waiting to be rescued by a friendlier climate in Westminster. We must learn to help ourselves – so that’s what we’re doing.

Using our capital borrowing powers, we are planning to help Everton football club build a new fit-for-purpose stadium, which will form the centrepiece of a much larger regeneration of 125-acres of our dilapidated north docks area, which have lain dormant since the 1980s. The revenue we receive from doing so – around £7m a year for 25 years – will be put straight back into frontline services.

We have also launched a new municipal housing company, Foundations, in order to rebalance the housing market in Liverpool. More than two-thirds of the properties in the city are in Band A. This means that for every one per cent of council tax, we raise just £1.6 million. We need a better housing mix across the city to improve the sustainability of our core finances.

Again, Whitehall is as much use as a chocolate fireguard. That’s why we will use £50m of capital borrowing to buy, renovate and build homes, addressing affordability and improving the mix of housing across the city.

Our bigger ambition is to scale-up this investment ten-fold over the next few years. We are also developing innovative ways of helping families accrue the deposit needed to buy their first home.

Social justice and economic efficiency working hand in hand. Sensible socialism, I call it. Our plans – although ambitious – are also prudent, with auditors from the Local Government Association recently reporting that we have a prudent level of debt and strong internal procedures for managing our finances.

That brings me back to potholes. This week I’ve announced a £200m investment programme to deliver a massive step-change in the quality of our roads network.

This work is urgent and the longer it’s left, the more we end up paying out in compensation claims to drivers. The programme will transform the quality of our roads, but it will also create hundreds of jobs and apprenticeships in the process.

Despite years of campaigning for more money and highlighting the problem here and elsewhere, this government fails to respond. Although the Treasury rakes in £28bn in fuel duty, ministers preside over the worst roads in our history. So we need to respond ourselves.

A mixture of low-interest borrowing drawing on our successful Invest to Earn strategy of commercialising our assets in order to grow revenue streams, which now raises over £20m extra a year, is being used to pay for our roads programme.

We need to be ambitious in finding practical solutions to the problems that an austerity-led agenda has left us with – both out of choice and necessity – as we seek to protect the vulnerable and discharge our broader responsibilities.

Ministerial indifference has left us little option other than to be creative and bold.

Liverpool is a great place to invest

The Guardian this week has written a number of articles about buyer-funded developments in the North of England, including in Liverpool. I want to make clear that those developments represent only a fraction of the development and investor confidence in our city at this moment in time.

We are aware of the schemes that have stalled in our city and the problems some people are having with their investments in the private companies they have chosen to invest in. That’s why in the case of New Chinatown we have stepped in as quickly as possible to regain control over the site and get the scheme working again. But we are only able to do this because, ultimately, we own some of the freehold on that site.

Put simply: there are things we are responsible for – and things we are not. The council is not responsible either for raising the finance for development schemes in the city, or for advising property investors about which schemes to invest in.

In most of the large scale developments in the city we have no control over them (other than planning which adheres to a very strict set of national guidelines). If a private investor or private company decide to invest in a property by a private developer on land that they own – then we have very little say in how that project develops.

And, to be fair, Liverpool is seen as a great place to invest. We have over £14bn worth of investment in the pipeline for the city, and it isn’t all housing. This week, I am at MIPIM and have held non-stop meetings with potential investors wanting to speak to us about our flagship scheme, Paddington Village in the Knowledge Quarter. For example, we announced the shortlist today of 5 major international hotel operators who want to run our new high quality Paddington Hotel.

And this is because we have a track record as a good place to invest. Over the last few years around £5bn worth of schemes have been completed. We are attracting major investors to our city and business is choosing to locate or invest here. In the Knowledge Quarter, we have a major opportunity that is exciting companies like Kaplan and Proton Partners International to make key investments.

I wish everyone could see for themselves the response I have been getting from business and investors here in MIPIM. Maybe then people wouldn’t jump on the opportunity to talk our city down on the basis of a one-sided story in the Guardian. I’d love to see them write another article about the positive things we have been doing to secure the New Chinatown site. We were not responsible for the financing of the scheme, nor for its marketing, but we have been resolute in pursuing the developer, Chinatown Development Limited, for monies owed us and I am delighted the new developer of the site has clearly stated their intention to recompense individual investors who have lost money on the original scheme.

But as the Guardian article also shows, this is a problem that is bigger than Liverpool. Other cities have had similar, or worse, problems. I am of the growing belief there is now a legitimate question about whether local authorities need stronger investigatory and oversight powers to assess the financial viability of development schemes to avoid stalled or failed projects.

We also need to see Government action in terms of promoting new, more transparent forms of development finance. I favour the creation of regional banks, with a long-term funding model, lending tied much more closely to specific places, offering developers a more consistent and transparent form of lending, as a solution to this issue.

So as well as writing to The Guardian to correct their erroneous impression of the city, I will be writing to the Chancellor to pursue some of the issues mentioned above. It is time we got serious about giving local authorities the tools needed to better shape development decisions in our cities as well as providing better financing options for the development community.

I also note that the Guardian has made no mention of the role of the agencies that promote these investments (for their own commission, obviously).

Finally, as always, anyone investing their own money should be careful about the risks they are taking when they make any investment. They should also ask their investment agency about the risks involved. The majority of schemes in Liverpool are a success, and when you step on to the world stage the interest in Liverpool is still huge, because they can see the bigger picture about how strong Liverpool’s future is.

The problem with potholes…

Last night I was on BBC North West talking about the potholes in our city. 

I am pleased to say that a new £1m programme of pothole repairs is now underway across Liverpool. 20 teams of contractors were sent out at the beginning of this week to tackle some of the worst potholes in our roads. In contrast we normally have 2 teams out at any one time.

And I am still deeply concerned by the state of our roads, because Government is simply not providing enough funding – while cutting our overall budget by 64%.

That’s why I have been making our own arrangements in Liverpool to raise money and invest but as you can see below, without government support we are struggling:

  • Last year, in 2017 we fixed 9,600 roads and £93m will have been spent by the council repairing potholes since 2014.
  • However, a huge backlog of road repairs remain which will cost £430m.
  • But Government only give us around £4m a year for our roads. You can read more about that here:
  • I have committed £5m from the sale of the old Municipal Buildings in Dale Street to fund a programme of pothole repairs.
  • We have a special website, so that you can see which streets are being treated on a weekly schedule

On top of this we are investing more than £300m in city’s road infrastructure to future proof the growth of the City over the coming decades, such as improvements to A565 and Dock road to support the new Cruise Terminal, the Ten Streets District and the new football stadium at Bramley Moore Dock.

But Government should be doing more to help. And a lot more than the pathetic £800,00o it told the BBC it was giving to the city region this year!!

On average there is 1 car for every 2 people in the UK, so it is reasonable to believe that there are around 200,000 cars in Liverpool.  If they pay £140 standard rate vehicle tax, this would raise £30m just in Liverpool for Governmentnot being spent locally.

But let’s not forget that nationally the Government also raises £27 BILLION from fuel tax.  I know this obviously goes into the general public purse and is being spent on other priorities, but it is clear that vehicles raise more than enough money to pay for road repairs.

Poor roads and potholes affect our economy, making it difficult to do business and giving a poor impression.

I also think that our citizens deserve better and that’s why I will continue to raise the issue and make sure Government know what the impact is of their decision to starve local government of funding.

My New Year message: #Hope

One thing that unites our city most of all is that we hate injustice and unfairness – especially when it’s done deliberately towards us or someone else. It galvanises us to come together and help.

Those human instincts are what make a community facing adversity stick and fight together. As you know, the City Council has some serious financial challenges as we continue to deal with the massive cuts that seem just to keep coming, another £90 million up to 2020. It is going to be extremely painful and hard to manage. Since 2010 we will have lost 64% of the Government funding we used to receive – around £600 million. If you bear in mind just one financial fact, it will give you an insight into the financial nightmare we face – Council Tax raises £134 million per year, it costs us £152 million per year to run Adult Social Care. We used to have £174 in reserves we now have less than £10 million.

The unfairness and injustice of our financial crisis is a deliberate act which hurts us all, because the reality is where you live determines the funding your council receives and the quality of services and life you have. The poorest and weakest are getting poorer and weaker, of that there can be no denying. That’s why I am so proud of our staff our partners and you the people of our city as we pull together to help each other.

The austerity measures – or cuts – we have faced as a city and still face means more very difficult challenges lay ahead. For example, our roads are in an appalling condition and getting worse. This financial year we will have spent £18 million in supporting those in most need, the homeless, those being evicted, those living in poverty, or suffering harm. In 2020 we will receive no Government Grant and we will have to totally fend for ourselves. That’s why it’s important we try to grow and develop as a city, bringing-in new businesses and doing innovative, creative things such as “Invest to Earn” as a way of trying to raise new money that we need to pay for and protect our services. But our successes in 2017 and our plans for 2018 are exciting, credible and sustainable. This is why as the year draws to a close I think we have so much to be proud of and #Hope for the year ahead.

Looking back, striding forward – 2017

What has made me most proud, and I say this from the bottom of my heart, is how our city and staff at the council have just ‘got on with it’. We’re working harder than ever in increasingly challenging circumstances, and continue to deliver outstanding services. We are determined to provide a first-class service to our older residents and have agreed a £21 million partnership with Shaw Healthcare to build three new residential care hubs for people with dementia and longer-term caring needs. We are making headway in improving the standard of care homes too, with 50 per cent rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, up from 31 per cent last year. There is still work to be done and we will be pushing to further improve our ratings in 2018.

This year also saw us launch an ambitious masterplan for ‘Ten Streets’ – outlining how we will work with partners to develop 90 acres of dilapidated docklands in North Liverpool into a thriving space for the creative industries. Work is well underway on the £1 billion Paddington Village, in the heart of the city’s Knowledge Quarter, too. This has already attracted high profile tenants such as the Royal College of Physicians, with more big names in the field of science and innovation to follow, and with them, job opportunities.

We are working hard to make sure Liverpool’s infrastructure is befitting for a vibrant, strong city. We have invested in a new bridge on the A565, opened a new £6.5million car park on Victoria Street, which will generate a significant income for the council as an Invest to Earn project, fixed 9,600 potholes on the city’s roads and work is set to start next year on a new city centre bus hub, part of the £40 million ‘city centre connectivity scheme’.

There has been much focus on cleaning up our city with four new teams tackling the atrocious fly tipping which is blighting some of our neighbourhoods. Our partnership with Kingdom is helping rid the streets of litter too thanks to a zero tolerance approach and recycling rates are improving thanks to the introduction of new recycling sacks and the expansion of collections to 5,500 city centre apartments.

We also announced a new future for St Luke’s with the appointment of the popular Bombed Out Church Ltd to act as its custodian for the future, and Heritage England took it off its Heritage at Risk register, the latest in a long list of buildings we have saved and preserved for the future.

2017 was an outstanding year for culture with highlights including Sgt Pepper at 50, LIMF and hosting the start of the Round the World Clipper Race. We were also honoured to welcome serving members of the armed forces and veterans when national celebrations for Armed Forces Day were held in Liverpool in June. To round the year off we had fireworks on the Mersey as part of River of Light and our annual Service of Remembrance on St George’s Hall plateau. More than one million people enjoyed our events across the year, with the overall impact of Culture Liverpool boosting the local economy by a cool £36 million.

We continue to push the boundaries on a sporting front too. Well, what do you expect from a city voted UK’s Greatest Sporting City by ESPN?!
We successfully bid to host the World Netball Cup in 2019 and want to follow hot on its heels with the 2022 World Gymnastics Championships – watch this space as our bid develops next year. For those who tuned in to BBC Sports Personality, I’m sure you will agree the arena and indeed the city looked superb.

Of course it was a massive disappointment not to win the UK’s nomination to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games. I was incredibly impressed with the bid and couldn’t have asked for a better, more passionate team of people to lead the bid. The bid itself was outstanding and absolutely good enough to win. The plans we had were truly innovative, making use of open spaces and our natural environment to deliver something that would have been jaw-dropping. But make no mistake about it, we are all behind Birmingham now and wish them all the very best in hosting the games in 2022.


2017 of course had its negatives too. Although we will take heart from Labour’s campaign in this year’s General Election, it was heart-breaking to see us face another four years of a Conservative Government. As if their determination to remove funding hasn’t caused enough pain, their incompetence on negotiating Brexit has painful repercussions for all of us.

And yet again, we have the desperate plight of those forced into destitution by this government’s mistakes and uncaring attitude. At Christmas, I worked with the city’s foodbanks to provide a meal and a Christmas experience for those who have very little or nothing, and I have seen first-hand the impact of this Government’s introduction of Universal Credit. I simply cannot understand how anyone who is elected by the people with a duty of care of our nation’s citizens can steadfastly refuse to see the evidence about the harm they are causing. And, as always, our council will be there to pick up the pieces as best we can. We are still the city that provides one of the highest Council Tax Benefits in the country, spends £2.5m on crisis payments – especially for those who have been sanctioned – £2m on hardship grants and £3m on discretionary housing payments. A significant portion of this money, your council taxes, is spent on people who are destitute as a result of welfare incompetence or policy. My New Year’s resolution is to keep calling for change by this Government. But my promise is that Liverpool will be a city that cares and we will continue to focus on the poorest and most needy.

Thanks are due

I could go on listing all the outstanding things we’ve done this year. I wish I could name check every service, every team in the Council, and all our partners because they’ve all made an invaluable contribution and I want them to know that we see that, and we are all very grateful.

However, when I look back over the year, the sacking of Kelvin MacKenzie by News International gave me great satisfaction. What a despicable man. The outcry for him to finally be sacked was too loud to ignore after more despicable comments and, finally, the right decision to get rid of him was made. In the year that finally saw charges brought forward for the tragedy at Hillsborough, it looks like justice is finally coming.

Next year promises to be another year of incredible cultural highlights. To mark ten years since being European Capital of Culture in 2008, there is a full programme of events, conferences and festivals which will inspire our city for another ten years. We’re unveiling more details later in January, but I promise you there is something to excite everyone and, yet again, Liverpool will be seen around the world for the beautiful, exciting and vibrant city that we all know it is.

I have always said that culture is the rocket fuel of our economy, and if we look at the incredible boost to our economy that visitors have made, in hotels, restaurants and bars this focus on showcasing the city will pay off. Liverpool’s arena and exhibition centre for example continues to be a huge success, reaching a turnover of £25m and bringing over £200m economic benefit to the city region. It’s one example, out of many, of the Invest to Earn approach I have been taking to create additional revenue for the city council. When Government decided to remove almost every single penny of funding from the council, we have to be more innovative about how we become more sustainable.

Transforming our city is important as we prepare for the future. Brexit, the economic climate, and more-austerity mean we can’t sit back and be complacent. That’s why in the last few weeks I announced the formation of, Foundations, a Housing Company which will turn Municipal Housing on its head. It will be an opportunity to use our position to create a company that will have a development/commercial arm making us profit and a social arm, where we can help people in many different ways, helping us save money and make money at the same time. It genuinely is the most exciting initiative we as a City have ever been involved in. Housing is crucial to our city.

While the homes we create mean a better quality of life or stability for the people that live in them, we have also learned that the type of houses we have in the city is vitally important. For example, we desperately need more foster families to look after children and give them a loving, caring, start in life. But our city does not have enough larger houses for those who are willing to become new foster parents. Just like we also don’t have enough smaller, ground floor housing for people who want to, or need to, downsize. These smaller homes can be ideal for the elderly or disabled who need level access and suitable adaptations so they can enjoy their home. But we don’t have enough variety in our housing stock. That’s why our own housing company will fill this gap, offering a mix of housing which will help us meet the city’s needs.

However, the most exciting element is the way we are going to be able to help people buy their own home. I have four kids and five grandkids – with one more on the way – so I know how difficult it can be in this current climate for anyone to buy their first home. Foundations will let people build up a deposit, just by paying their rent. We will become their genuine partners for a new chapter in their lives.
The housing system that’s on offer is a failure, it doesn’t help people get on and get a house either to buy, rent or lease, in my view it can’t be fixed because of its complexity of restrictions. So we need to create something new, different and better and that’s what we will do.

Another important project we launched in 2017 and will grow in 2018 is the Liverpool Promise. Giving a strong start to children in the city is an important part of my own strong political and personal beliefs. This is why when I became leader of the city in 2010 one of the first things I did was put together a rescue plan to replace the government money that had been promised for new schools and was cancelled by the Lib Dems in Government. We’ve rebuilt 17 new schools, meaning at least 18,000 pupils work in new classrooms because of my administration.

But our next focus must be on improving school success rates. It is a huge challenge, but it must be one that the whole city takes on. One reason for this is that Liverpool City Council does not control the schools – we are not able to intervene directly in how any individual school is run. Instead we provide support and assistance to try and help them be the best they can. There are some successes already with 90 per cent of our primary schools having a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ rating from OFSTED. Another reason is that we all have a part to play in making sure our children are educated properly. Parents, extended family, governors and teachers all have a role, but so do businesses and other partners.

The Liverpool Promise is our pledge, alongside schools and stakeholders to drive up attendance and the quality of education in the city to ensure our children get the very best start in life. It’s my commitment to the next generation. I want scousers to be in demand by employers all over the world because we are the best, the hardest working and the smartest. We already know that we are, but now we need to prove it on the exam paper!

The new Everton Stadium is another transformative project for our city, because its reach will be felt all the way along the central docks and into the city centre, including a new Cruise Liner Terminal. Next door to the Ten Streets, the future for this stunning prime location of our city is going to be incredible. We can all look forward to more exciting announcements about the stadium early in 2018.

Things are going well and as soon as there is anything to share, you know me, I’ll share it! I am sure many people will agree that the club has been victim of getting ahead of itself in the past and, so, together we want to make sure everything is done in the right way and secured before anything is made public. The deal will benefit the city financially as well as breathing new life into the north of Liverpool accelerating development and creating thousands of new jobs.

Every year, I write about the challenge of austerity and this Government who are determined to remove all funding for local government and the services you use. A large part of any council’s budget is the money we spend on Social Care, both for adults and children. Like me, you have probably grown up with the expectation that the NHS, and our nation, will look after you from the cradle to the grave. However, with this government’s vicious onslaught on local government we are finding it increasingly difficult to provide the care packages that people need. This affects the elderly, the disabled and this year, more and more local authorities are having problems funding children’s care. This is a fundamental problem with the way local government is financed. Successive governments – of all political parties – have gotten it wrong and that’s why this Tory one has been able to cause so much pain. I want to see a permanent fix for the way the most vulnerable are looked after and this will require some brave thinking from our government about how it is paid for.

I intend to spend 2018 lobbying government for a transformation in the way they fund social care in local government. You as tax payers deserve it and need it, and those who are too sick or frail to speak up are relying on us. I also want to add, that if Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell were in Government I am sure we would be able to make a real difference!

Another Government policy that I am going to challenge will have a big impact on the homeless. The Government has a rule about “No Recourse to Public Funds”, which means that we are not supposed to help certain people, normally failed asylum seekers or Eastern Europeans without work – as a result they often end up sleeping on our streets. I am not prepared to stand by and let anyone live in destitution. That’s why I have opened Labre House, the only place in the country for rough sleepers that is open every night, and will provide food, shelter, advice, compassion, and friendship to anyone, regardless of status, who needs help.

The Whitechapel Centre which runs the centre in partnership with Liverpool City Council does an incredible job of helping everyone who comes through their doors. Many people do not realise how much we as a city provide to the homeless. They will help people get off the streets, find the medical help they need, find permanent accommodation and start a new life for themselves. They even provide haircuts! I have met some of the people they are helping and it is truly astonishing what a difference they can make.

The scale of rough sleeping across the country is unprecedented and made worse by Government austerity, but it’s a problem I am determined to tackle here in Liverpool. We help over 7,000 people every year avoid becoming homeless, proof that there is ‘Always Room Inside’.

I also want to thank all the volunteer groups that give time, energy and love to help those who are on our streets. Projects like the Papercup Project and Lawrence Kenwright’s Signature Living and their Kingsway House project, prove that Liverpool has a big heart and together we can make a difference.


Once again, our city has proven it is a remarkable place, filled with laughter, joy, compassion and care. Every year I say Liverpool’s best days are ahead and I still believe that. Incredible things continue to happen here, and I am determined to keep our city moving forward, but many people will also find it tough and if you can help please do so.
Let me end with an old Irish Toast, “In this New Year, May your hand always be stretched out in friendship and never in want”.

Happy New Year.

Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool