The cornerstone of London’s nighttime economy isn’t nightlife, but nurses, drivers and delivery people

A night bus driver in 2010. Image: Getty.

Since the 1950s, New York has been fondly known as the “city that never sleeps”. But over the past decade, cities across Europe and the US have begun to take the notion of a “24-hour city” more seriously. Having recognised the economic value of night-time activities, cities such as Amsterdam and London have appointed night-time mayors to help foster the night economy.

In London, these efforts have taken the form of a Night Time Commission, set up by the previous mayor, Boris Johnson, just a few months before Sadiq Khan took over in 2016. Khan then appointed a Night Czar, Amy Lamé, to oversee the development of the city’s first ever 24-hour strategy, together with the commission.

Their vision, released in July this year, focuses on supporting the arts, entertainment and hospitality industries favoured by a “creative class”, that supposedly helps cities to thrive. But in reality, culture and nightlife are only one small part of the night-time economy.

Beyond pubs and clubs

Actually, transport and storage, and health and social care sectors have the largest shares of people working at night.

Night time workers by sector. Image: London's 24-Hour Economy, London First.

As shown in the figure above, arts and entertainment only account for 6.4 per cent of the employment in the night time economy, and hotels, restaurants and bars 13.4 per cent.

Reports show that the sectors with the highest economic impact are logistics and deliveries, followed by professional and social services and health and social work. While the entertainment and recreation industries may have a more visible presence on the city’s streets, they actually generate the least economic activity, contributing only £1.3bn to the total £40.1bn estimated impact.

Yet the narrow focus on London’s nightlife has led to the creation of a strategy which seeks to meet the needs of a relatively privileged part of the city’s population, and fails to reflect the true diversity of the night-time economy. This imbalance is also reflected in the Night Time Commission, which does not include representatives from the health and care sector, for instance.

The result has been a strategy which caters mainly for cultural consumers in the night time economy. There is less consideration of those who actually make the night time economy work, not only at the weekend but also during the week. It’s important to support nightlife venues, especially since they’ve undergone a massive wave of closures over the past few years. But London’s current 24-hour strategy does not pay enough attention to issues of unfairness and inequality affecting the city’s night-time workforce.

The trouble with transport

The types of goods and services provided at night suggest that night-time workers might fit a particular demographic profile. Employees from logistics, transport, health and social care sectors tend to be in lower paid jobs, and live further from the workplace, doubling the burden of travel cost and time. Because of this, efficient, affordable transport is a major issue for these workers.

A map of the distribution of workers in night time economy sectors. Image: Jenny McArthur/author provided.

London’s night-time workers rely on off-peak services – with lower frequencies and greater chances of scheduled engineering works, this often leaves them with very limited travel options. Night buses are currently the only mode of transport available between 1am and 5am during the week – and TfL surveys show that they are essential for night workers: 51 per cent of passengers use the service to travel to or from work.

Our research explores the role of night time transport and the movement of low-paid workers around the city lend weight to these concerns. For example, evidence from the Royal College of Nursing – which has a high proportion of night-time workers – noted that healthcare workers finishing shifts between 12am and 2am are left with a slimmer service, facing longer waits, more changes and longer journeys.

What’s more, workers on the twilight shift face the prospect of sharing public spaces with people under the influence of alcohol and drugs, which can pose a threat to their safety.


Building a 24-hour city

Night time strategies are a tremendous opportunity to build cities that are more sustainable; for instance, reducing congestion by moving some transport, retail and logistics activities to the night time. But if more people are to work at night, then the needs of low-paid, night-time workers have to be better understood and accounted for within these strategies.

In Sweden for instance, 24-hour childcare services are available to parents working at night. When it comes to transport, this could be achieved through developing more frequent night bus services and expanding the night tube offer outside of weekend, focusing on tube lines that are directly serving the needs of night-time workers.

The ConversationIf the aim of the 24-hour strategy is to boost the night time economy, it’s vital to recognise the valuable contribution of these non-recreational activities, and come up with a plan which serves the needs of these workers, who make the night time economy a reality.

Enora Robin, PhD Candidate in Urban Governance (Cities, Networks and Knowledge Management), UCL; Emilia Smeds, Doctoral Student (Urban Governance for Sustainability), UCL, and Jenny McArthur, Postdoctoral Research Associate in Urban Governance (Infrastructure Governance, Policy and Planning), UCL.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 
 
 
 

Was the decline in Liverpool’s historic population really that unusual?

A view of Liverpool from Birkenhead. Image: Getty.

It is often reported that Liverpool’s population halved after the 1930s. But is this true? Or is it a myth?

Often, it’s simply assumed that it’s true. The end. Indeed, proud Londoner Lord Adonis – a leading proponent of the Liverpool-bypassing High Speed 2 railway, current chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, and generally a very influential person – stood on the stairs in Liverpool Town Hall in 2011 and said:

“The population of Liverpool has nearly halved in the last 50 years.”

This raises two questions. Firstly, did the population of the City of Liverpool really nearly halve in the 50 year period to 2011? That’s easy to check using this University of Portsmouth website – so I did just that (even though I knew he was wrong anyway). In 2011, the population of the City of Liverpool was 466,415. Fifty years earlier, in 1961, it was 737,637, which equates to a 37 per cent drop. Oops!

In fact, the City of Liverpool’s peak population was recorded in the 1931 Census as 846,302. Its lowest subsequent figure was recorded in the 2001 Census as 439,428 – which represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over a 70 year period.

Compare this to the population figures for the similarly sized City of Manchester. Its peak population also recorded in the 1931 Census as 748,729, and its lowest subsequent figure was also recorded in the 2001 Census, as 392,830. This also represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over the same 70 year period.

So, as can be seen here, Liverpool is not a special case at all. Which makes me wonder why it is often singled out or portrayed as exceptional in this regard, in the media and, indeed, by some badly briefed politicians. Even London has a similar story to tell, and it is told rather well in this recent article by a Londoner, for the Museum of London. (Editor’s note: It’s one of mine.)

This leads me onto the second question: where have all those people gone: London? The Moon? Mars?

Well, it turns out that the answer is bit boring and obvious actually: after World War 2, lots of people moved to the suburbs. You know: cars, commuter trains, slum clearance, the Blitz, all that stuff. In other words, Liverpool is just like many other places: after the war, this country experienced a depopulation bonanza.


So what form did this movement to the suburbs take, as far as Liverpool was concerned? Well, people moved and were moved to the suburbs of Greater Liverpool, in what are now the outer boroughs of the city region: Halton, Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton, Wirral. Others moved further, to Cheshire West & Chester, West Lancashire, Warrington, even nearby North Wales, as previously discussed here.

In common with many cities, indeed, Liverpool City Council actually built and owned large several ‘New Town’ council estates, to which they moved tens of thousands of people to from Liverpool’s inner districts: Winsford in Cheshire West (where comedian John Bishop grew up), Runcorn in Halton (where comedian John Bishop also grew up), Skelmersdale in West Lancashire, Kirkby in Knowsley. There is nothing unique or sinister here about Liverpool (apart from comedian John Bishop). This was common practice across the country – Indeed, it was central government policy – and resulted in about 160,000 people being ‘removed’ from the Liverpool local authority area.

Many other people also moved to the nearby suburbs of Greater Liverpool to private housing – another trend reflected across the country. It’s worth acknowledging, however, that cities across the world are subject to a level of ‘churn’ in population, whereby many people move out and many people move in, over time, too.

So how did those prominent images of derelict streets in the inner-city part of the City of Liverpool local authority area come about? For that, you have to blame the last Labour government’s over-zealous ‘Housing Market Renewal Initiative’ (HMRI) disaster – and the over enthusiastic participation of the then-Lib Dem controlled city council. On the promise of ‘free’ money from central government, the latter removed hundreds of people from their homes with a view to demolishing the Victorian terraces, and building new replacements. Many of these houses, in truth, were already fully modernised, owner-occupied houses within viable and longstanding communities, as can be seen here in Voelas Street, one of the famous Welsh Streets of Liverpool:

Voelas Street before HMRI implementation. Image: WelshStreets.co.uk.

The same picture after HMRI implementation Image: WelshStreets.co.uk. 

Nonetheless: the council bought the houses and ‘tinned them up’ ready for demolition. Then the coalition Conservative/Lib Dem government, elected in 2010, pulled the plug on the scheme. 

Fast forward to 2017 and many of the condemned houses have been renovated, in a process which is still ongoing. These are over-subscribed when they come to market, suggesting that the idea was never appropriate for Liverpool on that scale. 

At any rate, it turns out that the Liverpool metropolitan population is pretty much the same as it was at its peak in 1931 (depending where the local borough boundaries are arbitrarily drawn). It just begs the question: why are well educated and supposedly clever people misrepresenting the Liverpool metropolis, in particular, in this way so often? Surely they aren’t stupid are they?


And why are some people so determined to always isolate the City of Liverpool from its hinterland, while London is always described in terms of its whole urban area? It just confuses and undermines what would otherwise often be worthwhile comparisons and discussions. Or, to put it another way: “never, ever, compare apples with larger urban zones”.

In a recent Channel 4 documentary, for example, the well-known and respected journalist Michael Burke directly compared the forecast population growths, by 2039, of the City of Liverpool single local authority area against that of the combined 33 local authority areas of Greater London: 42,722 versus 2.187,708. I mean, what bizarre point is such an inappropriate comparison even trying to make? It is like comparing the projected growth of a normal sized-person’s head with the projected growth of the whole of an obese person, over a protracted period.

Having said all that, there is an important sensible conversation to be had as to why the populations of the Greater Liverpool metropolis and others haven’t grown as fast as maybe should have been the case, whilst, in recent times, the Greater London population has been burgeoning. But constantly pitching it as some sort of rare local apocalypse helps no one.

Dave Mail has declared himself CityMetric’s Liverpool City Region correspondent. He will be updating us on the brave new world of Liverpool City Region, mostly monthly, in ‘E-mail from Liverpool City Region’ and he is on twitter @davemail2017.