Liverpool needs a recovery plan fit for the future

“The lack of democratic accountability and involvement of Liverpool’s many and varied communities means that the plan focuses on rebuilding a past that has gone, rather than creating a vision of what should be a shared, sustainable future.” As Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson looks to push through a £1.5-billion recovery plan, Cllr Tom Crone, Leader of Liverpool City Council Green Group, calls for a recovery plan that is fit for the future, supporting those most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and leading action against the climate emergency.

Cllr Tom Crone
Cllr Tom Crone
Tom Crone

Liverpool are champions. For the first time in 30 years Liverpool has finished top of the Premier League. There is huge pride across the city at what has been achieved on the football field but real unease about what faces us around the corner.

The city was the fourth most deprived local authority in the country and Covid-19 hit the city particularly hard, with infection and death rates amongst the highest in the UK.

The pandemic has also pushed the city to the financial cliff edge.

Government has failed to keep its promise to meet the full £78-million cost of coronavirus. This latest financial blow follows a decade of austerity. In real terms, the council has £436 million less to spend each year now than in 2010 – equivalent to a 63 per cent cut in its overall budget.

Little wonder that Labour Mayor Joe Anderson has warned the city could go bankrupt. 

He is rushing through a £1.4-billion recovery plan this week (Friday July 3) that rests on the government agreeing to contribute nearly £500 million. 

It will be nodded through given that Labour controls 75 of the council’s 90 seats, while I lead a Green Party contingent of four.

That doesn’t mean one-party control has produced a coherent and sustainable plan. Far from it.

It is a plan that tries to patch up a system that was broken even before the horrors of the pandemic. 

Labour’s plan seeks to rebuild the local economy on speculative development, international tourism and a global market in students, none of which is sustainable – environmentally or economically – in a post-pandemic world.

It mentions the climate just once in its 178 pages.

The lack of democratic accountability and involvement of Liverpool’s many and varied communities means that the plan focuses on rebuilding a past that has gone, rather than creating a vision of what should be a shared, sustainable future.

Green councillors are arguing for an alternative that brings the city together to create green, sustainable jobs, invest in a roads infrastructure that supports people-friendly transport, backs businesses that are ready to green and grow locally to survive, and tackles inequality and deprivation. 

Liverpool’s pre-pandemic economy was overly reliant on airport income, increasing international student numbers and growing the visitor economy by attracting ever larger cruise liners.

The model has left behind too many communities and has failed to solve the long-term inequalities and deprivation that scar our great city. It is a model that has also produced serious air pollution, linked to 1,040 deaths a year across the Liverpool City Region.

Post-pandemic, that approach is economically unsustainable just as it has always been environmentally unsustainable.

We have a long history as a global city. At our worst, we grew because we were a centre of the slave trade, and that is why we now have a world-renowned International Slavery Museum to help us understand what that means for our future.  

At our best, we have led the world in music and football. Today, we have a growing global reputation in health and science research, vital when the world needs to tackle disease and the climate emergency. 

We want to be a global city, a leader in tackling the climate emergency as part of the post-pandemic recovery.

That means, investment to retrofit homes, guaranteeing clean, warm, green homes that offer security for families and protection for the planet, rather than wild property speculation.

It means a Universal Basic Income pilot to protect people and support those using their enterprising talent to create new green, sustainable jobs. It means recovery grants to businesses willing to cut waste and increase recycling.

It means capital investment in infrastructure that prioritises people, walking, cycling and moving local freight by electric vehicles, not building a new cruise liner terminal open to the world’s largest ships.

Economic growth based on moving ever more people and goods around the world by air and sea was always going to end in catastrophe. Liverpool must build back better not turn the clock back to a world that has gone.