New Cabinet positions

Today I am confirming the appointment of two new members of my Cabinet designed to make Liverpool a more successful and fairer city.

There has been one extremely important theme during my time as Mayor, which is that we will not leave the most vulnerable behind. Central Government doesn’t care to listen to us, and has imposed the most unfair budget cuts on the council – but still we have been able to feed 9,000 children during the summer holidays last year; fight the bedroom tax and get people refunds; and raise thousands and thousands of pounds for the city’s foodbanks. Much of that work was as a result of the Fairness Commission and carried out by a taskforce led by Cllr Frank Hont. I have great delight in now confirming Cllr Hont is to become Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, Fairness and Equalities. His strong track record as a trade union official representing and championing workers in the north west and campaigning on equalities issues and for greater social inclusion make him perfect to lead our work on making Liverpool a fairer city and standing up for those who need our help the most.

One of my Mayoral Priorities was to make our city one of the world’s best cities for business to invest, grow and develop in. Cllr Gary Millar’s experience in running a business means he understands first-hand the needs of SMEs and what they need from a city to help them be a success. As Cabinet Member for Business, Enterprise and Investment, Cllr Millar will build on the excellent work of other members of the cabinet in creating a city that is entrepreneurial and inviting to investors, with a population learning new skills and ready to meet the challenges of our future. I have asked Gary to focus on building support for businesses in Liverpool, including start-ups, encouraging greater business investment and relocation to the city, and developing supply chains to feed our already successful businesses with local enterprise. Liverpool is already the fastest growing economy outside London, and created over 14,000 jobs since I took control.

I am confident Liverpool’s best days are still ahead for us. With these appointments, Liverpool can be confident the best people are focused on bringing more success and equality to the city.

Budget

We are about to face one of the toughest weeks in the history of Liverpool City Council – a week that no one has been looking forward to.

Tomorrow will see me pass a budget which will include the most devastating cuts Liverpool has ever had to face. It is an extremely difficult and sensitive time for the people of this city and I completely understand their anger and upset.

As a city we are facing its most difficult period in our long history. £156m of cuts, on top of the £176m cuts that we’ve already suffered means that in total Liverpool is seeing a 58% reduction in government grants.

I did not become Mayor to have to implement such devastating cuts and believe me when I say, I get absolutely no pleasure from this process at all.

I did however become Mayor to lead this city and to act on behalf of its people. I became Mayor to make the hard decisions, the right decisions at the right time and to take this city forward – and that is what I am going to do.

From the moment the cuts were announced, I have tried to make my voice heard. I have made my opinion known and I have appealed to the government to come to see us and to fairly assess us. Despite my best efforts, the government simply won’t listen. It is now clear that we are in this on our own. We have been dealt our cards and it is up to us to arrange them in whatever way we can.

It is up to me as Mayor and all of the city’s councillors, regardless of political affiliation, to work together in order to get us through what is going to be a very challenging time.

But let me be absolutely clear – those challenges will be overcome.

If we grasp opportunities and begin to think differently, breaking down old ways of thinking and becoming more entrepreneurial, then we will put ourselves in the driving seat and we will be the creators of our own destiny.

There is one thing that this government cannot ignore and that is the fact that Liverpool today is a thriving City. Liverpool is a confident and exciting place to be, a place buzzing with about its future.

We are a city that is building. We are a city that is investing. We are a city that is putting its bad days behind and moving forward in a way that only we can do. Liverpool is well and truly a city on the up and we are standing up for ourselves, despite what the government throw at us.

I am incredibly proud to be Mayor of Liverpool and I will continue to do everything I can for the city and its people.

There is no doubt in my mind that the best days lay ahead. These cuts will not knock us down. Liverpool will continue to grow and continue to be the envy of the world.

No other city has what we have. Together we stand side by side and together we will move forward to regain our place as the best city in the world.

Why justice can’t be rushed

This week I spent 2 hours with the Deputy Chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission together with her team at Warrington Headquarters. Under Rachel Cerfontyne’s leadership, the IPCC’s independent investigation is focused on the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, specifically the actions of the police after the event and the cover up to divert the blame away from the authorities onto innocent fans. A second investigation, led by former Durham Chief Constable Jon Stoddart, Operation Resolve, is looking into the causes of the disaster. The IPCC has a role in overseeing this investigation where it applies to police actions.

I have a clear view on the IPCC investigations. They can’t be rushed. But the calls for swift justice are fully understandable. Families and survivors have faced 25 years of injustice at the hands of certain deeply mistrusted public authorities. Their lives have been torn apart and destroyed. The sad passing of Anne Williams and John Glover reinforce the calls for urgency.

But it is clear to me that in the greater fight for justice, and for the sake of a civil and democratic society where crimes don’t go unpunished, the importance of getting this right is paramount. Nothing must be left to chance in the thoroughness and procedural veracity of these investigations.

The depth of the IPCC investigation I witnessed at Warrington demonstrated to me that they are meeting these tests. Much of the archive and analysis work, together with the sheer scale of documentation and paperwork being reviewed is laboriously painstaking. The precision of the operation is exemplary. It gave me confidence that they will not fall foul of legal technicalities that could hinder the long-belated delivery of justice.

They have so far identified 242 police officers whose statements were changed after the disaster; that is 78 more than was revealed in the Independent Hillsborough Panel’s report. There is indignation that a small number of officers have refused to be interviewed (13 in total). I too share that indignation.

But I welcome that the weight of evidence is swelling. An overwhelming case for the prosecution is being built against those who were trusted with the safety of innocent people, but failed them and then subjected victims’ families to a 25 year ordeal, pointing the finger of blame at the deceased. A truly heinous crime.

The witness appeal is another crucial part of their investigation. Obtaining statements from new witnesses, survivors whose story has lived with them silently since 1989. A painstaking, meticulous process which must be treated with sensitivity and care. But further building the case and increasing the weight of evidence against those responsible.

So far more than 1600 people have responded to the appeal which remains live and I would urge anyone who feels they have relevant information to contact the IPCC via their website www.ipcc.gov.uk/hillsborough-witness-appeal or telephone 0300 200 0003.

I want to pass on my thanks and appreciation to the IPCC team. The thoroughness of its work is the key to justice. These investigations represent by far the best chance of achieving that outcome.

For the sake of the 96, and to uphold the values of a civil society, this is why they can’t be rushed.

Joe Anderson
Mayor of Liverpool

My message for 2014

 

The year 2013 really was a year of ups and downs for Liverpool and I would like to take a moment to reflect on what we’ve all been through.

We have had a year of tremendous challenges as City Council was once again faced with significant cuts to our funding from central Government.
 
I am very proud of how the city reacted to that challenge: My Cabinet, the administration and the people of our city worked together to overcome the worst financial settlement we had ever received.
 
Over each of the last three years we have had to make savings of £176 million, with the worst still to come. That is why I have taken the decision, knowing that we still have to make savings of £156 million, to set a budget in that will cover the next three years.
 
I believe this will give, as far as we can, certainty to the workforce, Trade Unions, partners and, most importantly, you the people we serve.
 
Throughout the last few years, we have aimed to make the cuts is as fair a way as possible and making this next round is going to be particularly hard, especially as it comes at a time when the most vulnerable people in our communities face even tougher times.

But I am committed to continuing to offer the support we can. That is why I have ensured the city has supporting Credit Unions and Food Banks with funding.

Understandably people are worried about what is going to happen to the services they rely on.  I want to ensure the city is absolutely accountable to them, and so we will continue to provide information on the costs of services and be completely transparent and open about what funding we have.
 
There will be no hidden plans, no secret reports. The decisions we have to make will be difficult and will have far-reaching implications on the future of council services. Through Liverpool Express, and Twitter we have made available information on our income and our spending. I would urge you to look, digest and understand the financial predicament facing our city following year after year of Government funding cuts.

All our discussions and decisions will be open and transparent; we have absolutely nothing to hide.
But as we make decisions I need you to understand that some of the things we will have to do will upset communities, groups, neighbourhoods and individuals who will feel let down and angry. I want to assure you that every decision will be carefully looked at before action is taken. Every action taken will be solely in the interests of the whole city and in the fairest possible way.
 
I serve as Mayor to you the people, who rely on the council’s services; but I am first and foremost a proud member of this community and this city. Liverpool currently needs steering through difficult times and I promise I will lead with the same passion and commitment through tough times as I will through the good. And I can ensure you; there will be a lot of good.

The year 2014 will also mark the 25th Anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster. Over years we have been reminded how we achieve great things when we all stand together. This year I am sure that Anfield will be packed once again, as our city remembers the victims and families, tinged with sadness at the loss of John Glover and Anne Williams. There is still some way to go before justice is done but we will support each other until then and beyond.

While I have earlier highlighted the financial problems we face, there is much for us to be excited about in the coming year.  In fact, Liverpool is about to embark on one of the most exciting periods in its history. The opportunities we have are absolutely spectacular.  Over the last couple of years we have shown that we are an outward looking, forward thinking and massively ambitious city. We are an innovative city and we are a creative city.

I am pleased that we are now a city which has a council that takes business seriously. Our businesses, existing and new, will drive our local economy; create growth, opportunities and jobs for our residents. Finally, after years of frustration with the City Council, Liverpool businesses tell me they finally feel they have a council they can work with.
 
I’ve worked hard to provide a new and refreshing approach to business and to make sure we really are a can-do council, which is working hand-in-hand with businesses to deliver the growth we desperately need.
 
We have led the way in engaging Liverpool with the national and international business world through our London Embassy and the “It’s Liverpool” campaign. I want to challenge the council to keep thinking big and bold in the years to come.
 
People can see a city which hasn’t spent the last year feeling sorry for itself, but has confidently and aggressively promoted itself as a place to come and invest.  We are seeing the fruit of that approach today as Liverpool prepares itself to welcome the International Festival of Business in June. This is a major coup for us and will see over 200,000 people, including leading entrepreneurs from around the world, arrive in Liverpool for six weeks. There will be plenty of events during the IFB and
I am particularly looking forward to the Mayor conference which will consist of over 150 Mayors from cities all over the world all coming together in Liverpool. This is another great opportunity for us to showcase itself to the world.
 
I promise you that the events we have planned for this year will surpass anything we have ever done before and will put Liverpool in the spotlight once again. There will be millions of people who will visit during 2014 and we will continue to guarantee them a warm welcome.

Of course the year to come will be challenging – of that I have no doubt – but I am determined to rise to that challenge as we have done in previous years.  As we move from a city in recession towards a city which is growing again, Liverpool needs to move up a gear and grab some of the huge opportunities which lie before it. We need to become more self-reliant and do things differently if we are to rightly claim to be a global City.
 
Although some developments may have been slower than we hoped due to the recession, we are better placed than most cities, with nearly £1 billion being spent on construction projects in 2014.
 
Liverpool is a hugely ambitious city and we have huge opportunities ahead of us. My promise to you while I am Mayor is that the city will always be a ‘can do’ City. We have made a very good start and have achieved so much already but it’s barely a drop in the ocean compared to what we want to achieve in the future.

I am honoured and privileged to be your Mayor and lead our city. I am excited every day to come to work because, despite the challenges, there is no greater privilege than to lead this great city and I look forward to working to deliver our vision and ambitions.
 
Happy New Year.

 

In tribute to Mandela…

In many ways you could argue that Nelson Mandela and his fight for freedom and social justice inspired me to enter into politics.

At the age of 17, in the very early days of my merchant navy career, I spent three months on the coast of South Africa stopping at Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban and Cape Town.

This was at the height of Apartheid and I was appalled by what I saw. Men – who by day would work alongside us – would spend their nights sleeping in the hatches and on the quayside, made homeless by virtue of the colour of their skin.

One memory that sticks with me particularly vividly was when I visited Table Mountain – there was even racial segregation at the top of that too.

Seeing the divisions and appalling injustice Apartheid created first hand was a huge wake up call for me. My time in South Africa inspired me to get myself an education and develop a strong sense of social justice.

Mandela’s fight inspired many thousands, including me, to enter politics. He can quite rightly take the credit for ending Apartheid and healing a nation – bringing reconciliation between black and white South Africans. He became a global force for tolerance, peace and social justice; touching the lives of millions of people along the way.

In 1994, Liverpool gave Mandela the freedom of the City. He should have been given the freedom of the World.

Freedom fighter, visionary, president, leader, Madiba; your legacy will never be forgotten.

Why I’m trialling a suspension of bus lanes

As Mayor of Liverpool, it’s my job to make bold decisions, and push ahead with new ideas which bring benefits to our city and ensure we continue to move forward.

The trial suspension of bus lanes in Liverpool is one such idea.

The nine-month trial began on 21 October, and it’s an initiative which has certainly sparked a great deal of media interest in recent weeks, as well as generating much public debate. And for me, that debate is extremely important.

Liverpool is a rapidly changing city, but we haven’t had a review of bus lanes here for 20 years, so I think the time is right for us to take a proper look at the issue.

Because, ultimately, we do not know whether bus lanes in Liverpool are doing what is intended – namely, helping to alleviate congestion and improve traffic flow; or how bus lanes measure up in importance to things such as fare prices, quality of fleet and frequency of service, in making buses a more attractive form of transport. The data just doesn’t exist.

This trial suspension will allow us to draw down that data over the coming months, gather evidence and fully analyse the impact bus lanes are really having.

As such it will be critical in helping us find out the answers to what are important questions, not only for road users, but for our city as a whole.

Because keeping the city moving for our motorists, businesses, residents, commuters and visitors is absolutely crucial for the future of our city. I want to make sure Liverpool remains a business-friendly, attractive, tourist destination, and an important part of that is ensuring the safe movement of vehicles, improving traffic flow and doing everything we can to make the most of our highway network.

The evidence we do have suggests that bus lanes are not benefiting the city as planned, that they may actually be making congestion (and the associated harmful emissions) worse, and that they are not leading to an increase in bus patronage. Indeed, the Third Local Transport Plan for Merseyside recognised that the overall trend for bus patronage as a proportion of the total public transport journeys across Merseyside was showing a continual decline.

We need to explore all of this further, so we can make an informed decision.

Buses, and all other forms of public transport, remain hugely important to our city. And we will continue to invest in sustainable transport schemes such as our recently launched Car Hire Club, which will help reduce reliance on car ownership and our Cycle Hire Scheme, which launches next year and is set to be the UK’s biggest, outside London.

We are also exploring possible alternatives to bus lanes, such as HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes to reduce traffic congestion; and Red Routes, which are used in other parts of the country on major bus and commuting routes.

It’s important to note that I am keeping an open mind on this. The city council will consult fully with all stakeholders, including bus operators, motorists, and cyclists, throughout the trial suspension, and everyone will have the chance to share their views and to make objections and comments.

At the end of the trial, we will look at all the evidence before making a decision on which, if any, of the bus lanes will be reinstated. No bus lanes will be permanently decommissioned unless we can demonstrate clear benefits to the city in doing so.

Some people have suggested to me that we shouldn’t do this because the bus lanes generate income of £700,000-a-year for the council in fines. But in my view, it would be immoral to treat motorists as a cash cow, and that is why my priority is making sure that we look at this properly, and get it right.

Yes, this is a bold step, but I think it is a necessary one. I’m charged with making difficult decisions which may cause controversy, and which may prove popular with some and unpopular with others. But without making these types of decisions, and taking these types of steps, cities cannot change and evolve as they need to.

In nine months’ time, we will know a lot more about the future of bus lanes in Liverpool. But ultimately, any decision I make on this issue will be made, as ever, with the good of our city at its heart.

Making our City sustainable

When we talk about sustainability, people usually think of the environment and the future of the planet and all things green. But to me, sustainability simply means the ability to keep going, to do what we do and that for me also means providing the services this City and its people need.

Everyone knows by now that our financial problems are as serious as they can be. Because of grant and funding cuts from this coalition government, we have some tough choices ahead. These are extremely challenging times we face. In simple terms if we do nothing we will be spending significantly more on services than we receive through council tax and other income. This scenario will be upon us within two years so it is vital we address the issue now.

Over the last three years the Government has cut £143 million from our budget and we have managed to protect services and do as much as possible to continue to deliver. We have reduced the workforce by 1600 and we have had to make some very unpalatable decisions. Over the next three years we have to find another £140 million and there is of course less to cut because of previous cuts and so the task is going to be even harder.

There is no question that these cuts are ideological in principal, as local government is systematically being hit and time after time Government comes back with more cuts and less support. In making that point I know most people in the City agree with me and also agree about the unfairness and unequal way these cuts have been applied meaning the poorest are hit the hardest.

Our City is at a critical juncture as we try to balance rising demand and less resources. The challenges are many, such as caring for a rapidly growing and ageing population and in addition because of the cuts more people are reliant on support and help from us.

There is for us also a need to ensure that our young people are equipped with the social, vocational and educational skills for theirs and our City’s future and the need to adapt and change, responding to developments in communications and technology.

The future is also about regeneration, growth, economic renewal, jobs and housing. All of these things are key components of a City that is sustainable. They are pieces of the jigsaw and each piece as important as the other.

Our response to these challenges will, I believe, lay a foundation for sustainability and transform the way we have done things in the past.

There is a debate taking place about public services and local government between all the main parties. It’s about financial devolution and new powers. It may mean Councils have more scope and flexibility to raise revenue and borrow. But that’s for tomorrow and we cannot wait for those closeted in the Westminster bubble and in ignorance and denial about the plight of Cities. They talk the talk about rebalancing the economy and growing Cities but in reality they do nothing – certainly not on the scale, or with the vision required.

That’s why it’s important that we look at new ways of doing things as a City. Like creating new opportunities and working with the private sector creating growth and jobs. The deals the City has done recently have done just that and there are more to come.

Those opposing this approach say it’s a gamble, but they would say that. The way we need to do things is both imaginative and entrepreneurial. It may be a brave thing to do for me to break the mould of a laissez faire attitude to growth of the past. However, it is not a gamble – I am neither reckless nor a gambler. In all cases there is an internal and external assessment of risk and only when we’re convinced it stacks up financially for you and for our City, will we invest.

The returns are threefold:

First it creates a new business and as a direct result we benefit because we will receive business rates.
Secondly, we benefit in a financial sense because of the repayments made back to us on the loan.
Thirdly, it creates jobs and in most cases there is a fourth benefit because it usually involves a derelict building being brought back in to use.

In all commercial dealings we undertake, it is simply to stimulate growth and benefit our City.

We cannot just be gripped by fear, because of the Government cuts or by those who simply want to make a political noise. If we don’t make choices and take decisions on where to go and what to do, we won’t go anywhere and just continue to do nothing. The 35th President of the USA J F Kennedy said: “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth”. It is one of my favourite sayings, and so true.

The City Deal negotiated with Government and the Single Investment Pot, the Mayoral Development Zones and Enterprise Zones are helping us create growth and generate investment, so is our borrowing at beneficial rates and investing in development. We call it invest to earn and it works.

Doing nothing is not an option, sustainability has to be worked for. That’s what we are doing.