Here’s why we should Build More Bloody Offices in Liverpool

Moorfields: the new Whitehall? Image: Geograph.co.uk/creative commons.

I recently saw an excellent slogan which mainly speaks to a particularly difficult issue for our friends in London: “BUILD MORE BLOODY HOUSES”. Me, being creative, I made up a Liverpool version: “BUILD MORE BLOODY OFFICES”.

Good, eh? Is there a correlation here? Could Liverpool and London help each other out? Is it time for a ‘radical’ idea, again? Oh, and did you know that Liverpool is geographically at the centre of the UK?

According to the Office for National Statistics, as at 31 March 2017, there were 78,070 civil servants working in London, plus nearly as many again working in the neighbouring East or South East regions.

Now, we are not greedy around here, so if we helpfully volunteered to move about a third of these, which is about 40,000 jobs, to the eminently suitable, and massively cheaper, Liverpool city centre then we could help to cool down the overheating London and South East economy and, indeed, spread the love to Liverpool City Region.

I have even identified the perfect location in Liverpool’s Central Business District (CBD), along Pall Mall (yes, Liverpool has got one too). This picture shows that it is crying out for, say, eight state-of-the-art purpose built Grade ‘A’ office blocks to be built there.

Image: Google.

Moorfields underground station is less than five minutes’ walk from here and is a hub station of the Liverpool Underground; what’s not to like?

We just need the City of Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson or the Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram to incentivise the building of the required office blocks, like other cities have done. Or better still, they could collaborate to achieve the goal together given that it would enormously benefit the whole of the Liverpool City Region and our residents.

From Moorfields station our new Liverpolitan Civil Servants could commute easily and quickly to almost anywhere within Greater Liverpool, which alone has a population of towards 3m people, and where there is a very wide variety of housing, locations and lifestyles available. For example, if some employees wanted to live adjacent to one of our many golden beaches, the Liverpool u derground runs alongside many of them, like: Birkdale, where the links hosting the 2017 Open Golf Championship, Royal Birkdale Golf Club is; or Hoylake, where the host of the 2014 host Open Golf Championship, Royal Liverpool Golf Club, is; or Crosby beach, pictured here:

 

Another Place, by Anthony Gormley, on Crosby Beach. Image: Chris Howells/Wikimedia Commons.

Birkdale is currently 38 minutes from Moorfields station on the Liverpool Underground; Hoylake is 27 minutes; and Crosby Beach 15 minutes, for example. And these travel times will be reduced when the brand new train fleet is rolled out across the network in 2020. 

Or maybe some employees would prefer to live in the city centre’s Georgian Quarter, which I expect a few would be able to afford to, despite it being quite expensive. It will be only four minutes from Moorfields station on the Liverpool Underground when St James station re-opens; or about five minutes on a City Bike; or about a 20 minute walk to Pall Mall.

Hope Street is a past winner of the Academy of Urbanism ‘Best Street’ Award. It connects our two cathedrals and is the High Street for the Georgian Quarter. It is a sought after place to live and there are some fine old pubs, restaurants and theatres in the beautiful streets around there, if you like that sort of thing.

Some employees could even choose to live in Liverpool Marina, which is also in the city centre, adjacent to the Arena and Conference Centre, and is just six minutes on the Liverpool Underground from Moorfields station; or about 10 minutes on a City Bike; or about a 30 minute scenic walk along the waterfront to Pall Mall.

Or, if anyone wants an epic lifestyle in a loft-style apartment, it would be hard to beat the gigantic and dramatic Grade II listed Tobacco Warehouse, at Stanley Dock, the largest brick building in the world when it was built in 1901. There are 12 trains per hour on the Liverpool underground in each direction here, and it will be just three minutes from Moorfields station when Vauxhall station opens; about five minutes on a City Bike; or about a 15 minute walk to Pall Mall. 

So, there is certainly something for everyone around here, including lots of high calibre cultural attractions; Liverpool was the 2008 European Capital of Culture after all, and there is even some top class sport, if you are that way inclined.


The official Liverpool City Region is also home to about 60,000 students, across three universities (more, in Greater Liverpool), including the Russell Group University of Liverpool, one of the country’s original “red brick” universities, founded in 1881. That’s not to mention our other Higher Education institutions, such as the magnificent and world renowned Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine , as supported by Bill Gates, who even went to the trouble of visiting what is the world’s oldest such institution, to show his support, with the then chancellor George Osborne, back in 2016. So there are plenty of future potential Civil Service employees to choose from too, and it would save them the trouble of having to move to London to get a job.

We just need a few very influential people to adopt and implement this idea, or at the very least a watered down version of it. It could be transformational for Liverpool City Region and would definitely save the taxpayer a ton of money. They could even employ some local people.

Having said all that, maybe we should be greedy after all, as other places are, and lobby hard to become our country’s new political capital. Liverpool is certainly a beautiful enough city to comfortably fulfil such a role, and the Peel-owned £5.5bn Liverpool Waters development, adjacent to the city centre’s Central Business District, would be a very suitable, stunning setting. It’s inherently secure too, as there is already an enormous dock wall surrounding the site. ‘Government City’, anyone? A 21st century capital, both literally and symbolically facing out to the wide world.

One last thing. May I draw your attention to this enlightening 2011 report titled “Rebalancing Britain: Policy or slogan? Liverpool City Region - Building on its Strengths”, written by Lord Heseltine and Sir Terry Leahy

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.

 
 
 
 

Budget 2017: Philip Hammond just showed that rejecting metro mayors was a terrible, terrible error

Sorry, Leeds, nothing here for you: Philip Hammond and his big red box. Image: Getty.

There were some in England’s cities, one sensed, who breathed a sigh of relief when George Osborne left the Treasury. Not only was he the architect of austerity, a policy which had seen council budgets slashed as never before: he’d also refused to countenance any serious devolution to city regions that refused to have a mayor, an innovation that several remained dead-set against.

So his political demise after the Brexit referendum was seen, in some quarters, as A Good Thing for devolution. The new regime, it was hoped, would be amenable to a variety of governance structures more sensitive to particular local needs.

Well, that theory just went out of the window. In his Budget statement today, in between producing some of the worst growth forecasts that anyone can remember and failing to solve the housing crisis, chancellor Philip Hammond outlined some of the things he was planning for Britain’s cities.

And, intentionally or otherwise, he made it very clear that it was those areas which had accepted Osborne’s terms which were going to win out. 

The big new announcement was a £1.7bn “Transforming Cities Fund”, which will

“target projects which drive productivity by improving connectivity, reducing congestion and utilising new mobility services and technology”.

To translate this into English, this is cash for better public transport.

And half of this money will go straight to the six city regions which last May elected their first metro mayor elections. The money is being allocated on a per capita basis which, in descending order of generosity, means:

  • £250m to West Midlands
  • £243 to Greater Manchester
  • £134 to Liverpool City Region
  • £80m to West of England
  • £74m to Cambridgeshire &d Peterborough
  • £59m to Tees Valley

That’s £840m accounted for. The rest will be available to other cities – but the difference is, they’ll have to bid for it.

So the Tees Valley, which accepted Osborne’s terms, will automatically get a chunk of cash to improve their transport system. Leeds, which didn’t, still has to go begging.

One city which doesn’t have to go begging is Newcastle. Hammond promised to replace the 40 year old trains on the Tyne & Wear metro at a cost of £337m. In what may or may not be a coincidence, he also confirmed a new devolution deal with the “North of Tyne” region (Newcastle, North Tyne, Northumberland). This is a faintly ridiculous geography for such a deal, since it excludes Sunderland and, worse, Gateshead, which is, to most intents and purposes, simply the southern bit of Newcastle. But it’s a start, and will bring £600m more investment to the region. A new mayor will be elected in 2018.

Hammond’s speech contained other goodies for cites too, of course. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • £123m for the regeneration of the Redcar Steelworks site: that looks like a sop to Ben Houchen, the Tory who unexpectedly won the Tees Valley mayoral election last May;
  • A second devolution deal for the West Midlands: tat includes more money for skills and housing (though the sums are dwarfed by the aforementioned transport money);
  • A new local industrial strategy for Greater Manchester, as well as exploring “options for the future beyond the Fund, including land value capture”;
  • £300m for rail improvements tied into HS2, which “will enable faster services between Liverpool and Manchester, Sheffeld, Leeds and York, as well as to Leicester and other places in the East Midlands and London”.

Hammond also made a few promises to cities beyond England: opening negotiations for a Belfast City Deal, and pointing to progress on city deals in Dundee and Stirling.


A city that doesn’t get any big promises out of this budget is – atypically – London. Hammond promised to “continue to work with TfL on the funding and financing of Crossrail 2”, but that’s a long way from promising to pay for it. He did mention plans to pilot 100 per cent business rate retention in the capital next year, however – which, given the value of property in London, is potentially quite a big deal.

So at least that’s something. And London, as has often been noted, has done very well for itself in most budgets down the year.

Many of the other big regional cities haven’t. Yet Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham and Derby were all notable for their absence, both from Hammond’s speech and from the Treasury documents accompanying it.

And not one of them has a devolution deal or a metro mayor.

(If you came here looking for my thoughts on the housing element of the budget speech, then you can find them over at the New Statesman. Short version: oh, god.)

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason.

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