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The Laz word:

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

Published on January 18th 2010.


The Laz word:

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Liverpool suffers from an outdated image that grew in the 60s, 70s and 80s when we were, let's admit it, delinquent.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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