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.

 
 
 
 

A growing number of voters will never own their own home. Why is the government ignoring them?

A lettings agent window. Image: Getty.

The dream of a property-owning democracy continues to define British housing policy. From Right-to-Buy to Help-to-Buy, policies are framed around the model of the ‘first-time buyer’ and her quest for property acquisition. The goal of Philip Hammond’s upcoming budget – hailed as a major “intervention” in the “broken” housing market – is to ensure that “the next generation will have the same opportunities as their parents to own a home.”

These policies are designed for an alternative reality. Over the last two decades, the dream of the property-owning democracy has come completely undone. While government schemes used to churn out more home owners, today it moves in reverse.

Generation Rent’s new report, “Life in the Rental Sector”, suggests that more Britons are living longer in the private rental sector. We predict the number of ‘silver renters’ – pensioners in the private rental sector – will rise to one million by 2035, a three-fold increase from today.

These renters have drifted way beyond the dream of home ownership: only 11 per cent of renters over 65 expect to own a home. Our survey results show that these renters are twice as likely than renters in their 20s to prefer affordable rental tenure over homeownership.

Lowering stamp duty or providing mortgage relief completely miss the point. These are renters – life-long renters – and they want rental relief: guaranteed tenancies, protection from eviction, rent inflation regulation.

The assumption of a British ‘obsession’ with homeownership – which has informed so much housing policy over the years – stands on flimsy ground. Most of the time, it is based on a single survey question: Would you like to rent a home or own a home? It’s a preposterous question, of course, because, well, who wouldn’t like to own a home at a time when the chief economist of the Bank of England has made the case for homes as a ‘better bet’ for retirement than pensions?


Here we arrive at the real toxicity of the property-owning dream. It promotes a vicious cycle: support for first-time buyers increases demand for home ownership, fresh demand raises house prices, house price inflation turns housing into a profitable investment, and investment incentives stoke preferences for home ownership all over again.

The cycle is now, finally, breaking. Not without pain, Britons are waking up to the madness of a housing policy organised around home ownership. And they are demanding reforms that respect renting as a life-time tenure.

At the 1946 Conservative Party conference, Anthony Eden extolled the virtues of a property-owning democracy as a defence against socialist appeal. “The ownership of property is not a crime or a sin,” he said, “but a reward, a right and responsibility that must be shared as equitable as possible among all our citizens.”

The Tories are now sleeping in the bed they have made. Left out to dry, renters are beginning to turn against the Conservative vision. The election numbers tell the story of this left-ward drift of the rental sector: 29 per cent of private renters voted Labour in 2010, 39 in 2015, and 54 in June.

Philip Hammond’s budget – which, despite its radicalism, continues to ignore the welfare of this rental population – is unlikely to reverse this trend. Generation Rent is no longer simply a class in itself — it is becoming a class for itself, as well.

We appear, then, on the verge of a paradigm shift in housing policy. As the demographics of the housing market change, so must its politics. Wednesday’s budget signals that even the Conservatives – the “party of homeownership” – recognise the need for change. But it only goes halfway.

The gains for any political party willing to truly seize the day – to ditch the property-owning dream once and for all, to champion a property-renting one instead – are there for the taking. 

David Adler is a research association at the campaign group Generation Rent.

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