Balance for Better

 

Happy International Women’s Day! Our city has a reputation for producing extraordinary female leaders and here at the council there’s been plenty going on to celebrate. Our ‘Fresh Start’ campaign launched today which invites staff to donate toiletries to be distributed at women’s refuges around the city.

Yesterday Councillor Liz Parsons hosted a ‘city conversation’ at the Town Hall which called on women to come together to share their thoughts about their neighbourhoods and how to inspire change. You can read more in her guest blog here

Finally, RISE was launched today, a year-long platform to create and share new commissions, artworks and interventions by exceptional women..

The programme will take place at a variety of locations across the city and will feature local and internationally renowned female producers, practitioners, artists, poets, musicians, choreographers, speakers and thinkers.

I’m looking forward to seeing these inspiring exhibitions throughout 2019 and hope you will too. Further information and a full programme can be found here

 

Child-friendly city status

Putting children at the heart of everything we do as a Council is a key priority and yesterday our bid to become a UNICEF child-friendly city was officially accepted.

As the first city in the North West to be given this status, we are sticking by our commitment to move forward boldly and lead by example. We will make sure that the children of our city will be co-designing their future and ensuring their voices are reflected in our policies, budgets, programmes and decision-making.

We will soon begin on the ‘Discovery Phase’ of the programme which will see the council, partners and children identify three areas that should be prioritised in order to make the city more child-friendly. This could be anything from education and health to employment and safety.

 

Time to stay the course

Wednesday saw me present the final year of our three year budget to Council.

The headline news is that the proposal to raise Council Tax was approved. I don’t want to increase Council Tax but the harsh reality is that we have no choice. I say this time and again but it is so shocking it bears repeating – we have lost a colossal 63% of our funding from Government, £436 million per year, since 2010. On top of that, we have to deliver £21million in savings between now and March 2020.

It has been, and still is, tough – but when I look at what we have achieved with the cards stacked against us it fills me with pride.

We spend £57m a year protecting the most vulnerable in our city. We have transformed 22 of the city’s schools, directly benefiting over 14,000 pupils. Our Invest to Earn strategy brings in £3m a year that we plough back in to vital services. £2 billion worth of development at the Knowledge Quarter is making us a destination of choice for research, education, health and science and creating the high skill, high value jobs we need for the future.

We are more innovative and bold than ever but we have to keep adapting. In future years, we’ll be more and more reliant on Council Tax funding and Business Rates, and it is possible we will be worse off if the Government removes ‘deprivation’ from the funding formula.

Whatever our circumstances our priorities remain the same: to grow the economy and protect the most vulnerable. But let’s be clear, to distribute wealth more fairly and protect the poorest you need to create wealth in the first place. Doing this is not without its challenges.

Some criticise me for attracting investment and being willing to work with the private sector– but can’t say how they would create the revenue streams we need to survive. Others demand that I set illegal budgets in protest, forgetting what this threat did to Labour councils in the past. And let me tell you, there is no Mandarin in Whitehall who would set aside the money we do to protect the poorest.

This is why my message to Council was unequivocal: now is not the time to turn back; we need to stay the course to build a strong and growing city built on fairness.

 

Something to shout about

We can only create a growing economy by banging the drum about everything our city has to offer. That’s exactly what I will be doing next week when I head to the South of France to promote Liverpool to international investors at MIPIM.

As glamorous as it may sound, it’s a solid week of back-to-back meetings, conferences and events. My total focus is working for the people of our city, shouting about the opportunities here, building new relationships and persuading more investors to spend their money in our city rather than anywhere else. Our private sector partners have been chomping at the bit to get out there and showcase the great work they are doing with the Council.

We have a great story to tell; Liverpool is being transformed and investment in our city has topped £1 billion for five consecutive years. Investor confidence is there but we have to capitalise on this and shout from the rooftops about the attributes and ambition which make us a world class place to invest.

It beggars belief, but exactly three weeks before we are due to leave the European Union we still have no idea what sort of Brexit is in store. It’s scandalous and it’s playing politics with people’s livelihoods. We know one thing for certain, this government won’t put cities like Liverpool at the centre of post-Brexit planning – so it is more important than ever that we send out the message that we are open for business.