BLOG: “Please enjoy Liverpool, with pride in your heart.”
There have been pressures on the city centre since lockdown restrictions were lifted. Here, cabinet member for Neighbourhoods Cllr Abdul Qadir reflects on what the council and its partners are doing to make sure it remains a place that everyone can enjoy.
One of the most heart-warming experiences after the Covid lockdowns ended, was the chance to head back into the city centre to meet friends and relatives again.
Sharing a hug, a walk, a cup of tea – there was so much about “normality” that we all took for granted – before the pandemic struck. And we’ve all had a lot of catching up to do.
Of course, Liverpool city centre is blessed with a multitude of things to do – whether to eat, to shop, to have fun, or to broaden the mind, be it in a comedy or music venue, a theatre, or one of our world class museums and art galleries.
And with overseas restrictions in place for many months, Liverpool’s tourism appeal for UK visitors has gone through the roof. Hotel bookings are now back to pre-pandemic levels and Liverpool has been voted the UK’s favourite city (after London and Edinburgh).
This fills us all, quite rightly, with a great sense of civic pride. However, we cannot and must not rest on these laurels.
The return of people to our city centre has regrettably also had a down side – with police recording a rise in anti-social behaviour, vandalism, hate crime and sexual violence.
Liverpool City Council has swiftly mobilised its resources and energies to work alongside key partners such as the police, Merseytravel, Liverpool ONE and the Liverpool BID Company to address this worrying drop in safety levels.
We have devised and instigated a three-point plan to ensure the city centre is a welcoming place for everyone – residents, visitors and workers – especially as the dark nights close in and streets get busier in the run up to Christmas,
Safer, cleaner, more attractive.
A whole programme of activity is now under way to deliver on these key themes.
As of this past week, work has already begun with an increase in street washing and cleaning, particularly in high footfall areas, with a renewed focus on public seating and street lighting.
Of course, it’s hard to ignore the fact the city centre has also been negatively impacted by the sight of numerous highways schemes, which have rendered some of our most attractive and popular places as unsightly building sites.
Added to this, there’s also been the complication of the schemes stalling – for varying different reasons.
I’m glad to say our highways department has worked around the clock to address this, with The Strand (phase one) completed and Lime Street now being made safe and secure in time for the return of the Christmas Markets.
Our parking enforcement teams have also redoubled their efforts to clamp down on the shockingly unsafe and selfish practice of pavement parking, which will often force those unable to squeeze past the vehicle – a parent with pram, or a wheelchair user – on to the road, and in many cases, oncoming traffic. An average of 80 fixed penalty fines have been issued each night this week.
How people use our public spaces and footways, and the ease of access to them, is a vital component of any vibrant, safe city centre.
To this end, we’re also working with businesses on how they place their use of A-Boards, and for cafes, bars and restaurants their seating on our pavements, which thanks to our Without Walls schemes has brought a new dimension to places like Bold Street and Castle Street.
I should stress, this multi-pronged approach is not just addressing the short term.
There are wider issues in the city centre such as how people navigate and find where they are going to without getting lost. A review of street signage is now underway.
How our wonderful array of markets function, for which we have recently launched a public consultation, and how the stalls for our street traders look is also being addressed – and for many, we appreciate this is long overdue.
The Covid pandemic posed many questions and set many challenges. It also invited us all to reassess and review what we took for granted.
When it comes to our multi-billion pound tourism and culture sector, to which almost 40,000 jobs depend, making Liverpool safe, clean and attractive might be seen as stating the obvious – but this is a complex process, and there is nothing basic about these vital services.
The fact is our city centre is a work in progress. It a huge economic engine that will continue to grow. And change. That will never stop. We must be flexible enough to adapt and rise to the challenges this represents.
The council does not have all the answers, but we work very closely with other partners to ensure the city finds the best possible ones to hand.
And sometimes we have to accept we may be looking at the wrong question.
So if you are visiting the city for the River of Light, I would like to welcome you back. Please enjoy Liverpool, with pride in your heart.