You couldn’t move in Liverpool this week without bumping into a famous face, as we welcomed the great and the good to celebrate our city, culture and people. But there was no time to rest, and I was back down to London to put pressure on the government to give us more local powers and funding to improve air quality.
Liverpool welcomes the world
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, The President of Ireland and the Mandela family…even by our high standards we had an amazing roll call of guests visiting us this week.
Liverpool has never been ‘just’ an English city, we are a diverse, cosmopolitan international city. We don’t care where you come from, who (if) you worship – our long history is full of a wide range of different religions and nationalities. Embracing our diversity is part of our DNA. And as a global city, it is something that makes us special; it makes us who we are.
It’s this global outlook that means we stand up to injustice and discrimination wherever it rears its head. It’s why our city of activists, organisers and trade unionists stood shoulder to shoulder with Nelson Mandela as he fought against the evil of apartheid. I was honoured to welcome his daughter and granddaughter, Dr Maki and Tukwini Mandela, as they blessed the beautiful greens space in Princes Park that will house a lasting memorial to the freedom fighter. It was so humbling to hear Dr Maki say that our kindness had left the family lost for words.
Our warmth, wit and humour keep people coming back to our great city time and again. I mean, where else in the country would get away with the Duchess of Cornwall becoming a Liverbird for the day! But then again it was typical of our city because we have always done things our own way.
As government continues to bungle Brexit – with the Prime Minster suffering yet another embarrassing Commons defeat last night- that ability to forge our own path and embrace the opportunities the world has to offer us is more important than ever. Luckily here in Liverpool we’re pretty good at that!
I was pleased to welcome back our friend Michael Higgins, the President of Ireland, to talk about business, development and how we build on the historic cultural ties between our countries. This week saw us host the first ever Grand National weigh in outside of London, attracting more guests than the capital ever managed. We’re the host city for the 2019 Netball World Cup. Developments in the Knowledge Quarter are cementing us as a world class city for cutting edge research and new industries.
All of which reaffirms our status as a world class city to visit, work with and invest in. I always say that our best days lie ahead of us and I will make sure that we keep sending out a clear message that our city is open to the rest of the world to make that a reality.
I was down in London yesterday, with other city leaders from across the country, telling government that we need more local powers and funding to tackle air quality.
We heard from a great kid, Michael Mwanza, who said it like it is – one day it will be our kids running the world. And that’s exactly why improving air quality is so important, not just for us but for the generations to come.
But let’s be clear, only a truly national effort can make this a reality.
We’re ready to play our part in Liverpool and we’re already working hard to improve air quality. Waste lorries powered by natural gas will be hitting our streets this summer and we’re drawing up our City Wide Air Quality Plan, with two new dedicated cycle lanes on Princes Drive and along the dock Road to support the plan.
Despite what Whitehall often seems to think no two cities are the same – local leaders know what works best and what we need. It’s time for government to listen to cities and treat us as partners to tackle this defining issue. We need more funding and more local powers to do that, which is why I was in London to tell both Michael Gove (The Environment Secretary) and Matt Hancock (The Health Secretary) exactly that.
I will keep the government’s feet to the fire to make sure they put their money where their mouth is when it comes to tackling this vital issue.
You wait to meet a Secretary of State, then three come at once
After meeting with two Secretaries of State in the morning, I then visited Parliament because I had an opportunity to meet with Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary. As always, I lobbied for Liverpool’s High Speed Rail connections to be improved. After news reporting that the Treasury had reneged on a promise to provide £7bn for Northern Rail (or HS3 as it used to be called) it is more important than ever that we keep up the pressure on government to deliver better connectivity for our city. I also lobbied for better regulation of taxis. We have too many private hire taxis coming from outside our city region, without knowledge of our area and, crucially, without paying for their licence here so that we have the resources to enforce the law. I want to see a city-wide licencing regime and greater safety checks. Many hackney and private hire drivers live in our city, but there are too many unregulated and unsafe practices going on, especially from out of our area, and I want to see it stopped.