Mayor’s post-lockdown vision for city

St George's Hall

COVID-19 changed lives overnight. Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson believes it is a catalyst for bold action to change the way the city lives in the future

The pain, suffering and the grief we have shared over the last few months has been hard for us all to witness and most of us will have known someone, who has been lost to this horrible disease.

In solidarity with each other, as residents and partners with the NHS, we have come through the challenges we have faced – and done it together. Thankfully, there is now light at the end of the tunnel. Like many of you, I have spent the last three months working from my kitchen table, rather than my office in the Cunard Building. 

NHS staff have been on the front line of dealing with coronavirus

Due to my own health issues, I have been told that I have to ‘shield’, which has been especially tough, as I haven’t been able to see my children or grandchildren – or even be with my son who is undergoing cancer treatment. Not being able to accompany him for treatment, or to hug him, has been really difficult for me and my wife, Marg. My brother is receiving palliative treatment in a care home and we can’t visit him. I know many of you are facing and have faced similar difficult situations and many have lost loved ones. I hope the hurt will ease for you in time.

One of the most inspiring things we have witnessed is the Liverpool spirit, which has shone through over the last two months. The 3,000 volunteers, that sense of community and localism in action has been amazing. It will be required even more in the near future as we enter the next stage of this journey. I want to call this the recovery phase – because we will recover, we will get through this and I can absolutely promise, we will be stronger.

The M&S Bank Arena has been a distribution hub during COVID-19

The cost of COVID-19

Local government tackled this virus head on. Co-ordinating and working with our partners. Setting up the distribution hub that co-ordinated support. Buying PPE equipment for care homes. Delivering thousands of food hampers to the 15,000 shielded residents who asked for help. Delivering over 200 food packages per week. Supporting our food banks. Getting our homeless off the streets and into safety. Administrating £120 million of business grants. Feeding our children on free school meals and providing vouchers. It is these things, with clear sensible leadership, that have got us through. In return, Whitehall has given us two tranches of funding to date, but we are still £60 million short of what we have spent. Other towns and cities are in a similar position. We remain in regular contact with Government to outline the scale of the challenge, and remind Ministers of their promise that councils would not lose out financially because of COVID-19.

During the lockdown I have had time to reflect and think about fundamental changes we need to make now and when the pandemic passes. Not just how we prepare for a return to what has been dubbed the ‘new normal’, but what we do now that shapes our city for the future. 

Mayor Joe Anderson

Unlocking the lockdown

Liverpool thrives on social contact – whether it is football fans at Anfield or Goodison, a night at the cinema or theatre, a drink at the pub or a meal out with friends. 

Our city has been transformed into a thriving and cosmopolitan place over the last 12 years, largely as a result of a huge growth in tourism and the success of the leisure and hospitality industry. We have become one of the most popular destinations for visitors and around 50,000 jobs across the city region are now dependent on the sector, so it has been heart breaking to see shops, restaurants, bars and clubs deserted. 

The hospitality sector has been at the heart of Liverpool’s economic success in recent years and so it is absolutely vital we give them all the help we can as the ‘new normal’ emerges. We need to face up to the fact that tourists will be in short supply this year at least, so we need to give local people the confidence to go out and support the city’s businesses.

Castle Street is home to a range of hospitality businesses

Small, independent traders do not have the financial reserves or the borrowing power of big corporate companies, so it is up to the council and its partners to come together and find ways to give them a helping hand through what is undoubtedly the biggest challenge of our lifetime. So, we have already earmarked around half a million pounds for independent local businesses to bid for cash to make changes so they remain viable. This could include creating areas for customers in front of their premises, so they can regain some of the space lost inside because of social distancing.

We, all of us, need to encourage long-term behaviour change which will benefit the environment – such as improved air quality – which has been one of the positive side effects of the lockdown.

One of the city’s new pop-up cycle lanes, to encourage people to use sustainable forms of transport

We’re already on with creating what I hope will be around 60 miles of temporary cycle lanes along key routes into and within Liverpool city centre. We will also look at closing some roads and introducing a 20 mph speed limit within the city centre. My hope is that it will provide businesses and their workforce strong alternatives if they don’t want to use public transport and don’t have access to a car or want to reduce their reliance on their car. 

The ‘new normal’ and the future  

The pandemic truly offers us the opportunity to reset our city. 

During the lockdown I have had time to reflect and think about fundamental changes we need to make now and when the pandemic passes. Not just how we prepare for a return to what has been dubbed the ‘new normal’, but what we do now that shapes our city for the future. 

We will be bold – it will cause disruption and it will not be popular with everyone, but it is the right thing to do for now and the future.

Paddington Village
Paddington Village is just one of a number of exciting projects that are moving forward

We have been working with the private sector partners and institutions to grow our city and the plans we have are now turning into reality. Despite lockdown, we have recently announced a partnership with Sciontec, ourselves, universities and the private sector which will deliver millions of pounds of investment.

Shortly, we will announce an exciting deal on the new commercial development at Pall Mall in addition to the recent planning approval for a new hotel. We have the development of Paddington Village moving at real pace, including the opening of the new Clatterbridge Cancer Hospital in a few weeks, so it is an exciting time. Together with the Cruise Liner Terminal and Hotel and Kings Dock plans, we have five miles of major development from Bramley Moore Dock to the Garden Festival site. The Upper Central district and plans for Central Station and much more show the best is yet to come.

Please stay safe and stay positive.

Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool