The government must work with councils, to protect us from the harsh effect of Brexit

Prime minister Theresa May and mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson. Image: Getty.

The Labour mayor of Liverpool on the government’s lack of planning for Brexit. 

No one should be in any doubt just how big a change to our national political and economic life Brexit will be. But domestic issues matter too – and they are falling off ministers’ agendas.

Just look around. There is a snaking queue of topics that have been abandoned as the government becomes convulsed by Brexit. Our NHS and social care system is buckling under the strain of unfunded demands. We have a housing market that has priced a generation of young people out of home-ownership. A criminal justice system that is struggling to cope. The Universal Credit roll-out – the biggest-ever change in the benefits system – leaving claimants destitute as they wait six weeks for payments. Not to mention that we are a month away from a make or break Budget.

The Chancellor will either signal a change of direction on austerity and usher in a better balance of capital spending between northern and southern parts of this country – or he won’t. At which point, the Northern Powerhouse concept will be stone-cold dead, just when the need to join-up our northern cities in order to realise their economic potential has never been more necessary.

We are in the worst of both worlds. Brexit and the fortunes of the Conservative party have swamped domestic British politics to the point that there is little focus on anything else. It dominates our foreign and domestic agenda, yet we have nothing even close to a national conversation about our economic resilience ahead of leaving the European Union in 2019, despite ministers apparently sitting on dozens of reports into the consequences on different sectors of the economy.


Just as a stopped clock is right twice a day, so there will be businesses and parts of Britain that will benefit from leaving the EU. However, my hunch is that there will be far fewer of the former and many more of the latter. This makes the sheer lack of scenario-planning by Whitehall a national scandal.

We are poorly-equipped for the changes to come and Brexit must be seen as an existential threat to cities like mine. Our local economy has made great strides in recent years – despite the relentless headwind of austerity, which has seen us lose two-thirds of our budget, some £420m, since 2010.

However much ministers urge us to rejoice and see the wondrous potential of Brexit, they are doing nothing to prepare us for the hard reality of finding ourselves outside the European Union and single market.

There doesn’t seem to be anyone on Whitehall’s bridge steering the national economy away from the rocks in front of us. Indeed, the creeping prospect of there being no deal with the European Commission – a hard Brexit – adds yet another layer of uncertainty, while our lopsided economy – already tilted towards the interests of London and financial services – will become even more unbalanced, hurting our major cities outside the capital the most.

Amid such uncertainty at the top of government it’s inevitable that investors’ confidence will be damaged, which will affect growth and hurt jobs and living standards.

For Liverpool – where 58 per cent of voters wanted to remain in the EU – the gamble on Brexit comes at too high a price. But if we are going to leave the European Union it’s a dereliction of duty not to plan and prepare for the predictable effects of Brexit and ministers have a duty to use the forthcoming Budget help shield us from its harsh effects.

Over to you Chancellor.

Joe Anderson is mayor of Liverpool.

 
 
 
 

Barnet council has decided a name for its new mainline station. Exciting!

Artist's impression of the new Brent Cross. Image: Hammerson.

I’ve ranted before about the horror of naming stations after the lines that they’re served by (screw you, City Thameslink). So, keeping things in perspective as ever, I’ve been quietly dreading the opening of the proposed new station in north London which has been going by the name of Brent Cross Thameslink.

I’ve been cheered, then, by the news that station wouldn’t be called that at all, but will instead go by the much better name Brent Cross West. It’s hardly the cancellation of Brexit, I’ll grant, but in 2017 I’ll take my relief wherever I can find it.

Some background on this. When the Brent Cross shopping centre opened besides the A406 North Circular Road in 1976, it was only the third large shopping mall to arrive in Britain, and the first in London. (The Elephant & Castle one was earlier, but smaller.) Four decades later, though, it’s decidedly titchy compared to newer, shinier malls such as those thrown up by Westfield – so for some years now, its owners, Hammerson, have wanted to extend the place.

That, through the vagaries of the planning process, got folded into a much bigger regeneration scheme, known as Brent Cross Cricklewood (because, basically, it extends that far). A new bigger shopping centre will be connected, via a green bridge over the A406, to another site to the south. There you’ll find a whole new town centre, 200 more shops, four parks, 4m square feet of offices space and 7,500 homes.

This is all obviously tremendously exciting, if you’re into shops and homes and offices and not into depressing, car-based industrial wastelands, which is what the area largely consists of at the moment.

The Brent Cross site. Image: Google.

One element of the new development is the new station, which’ll sit between Hendon and Cricklewood on the Thameslink route. New stations are almost as exciting as new shops/homes/offices, so on balance I'm pro.

What I’ve not been pro is the name. For a long time, the proposed station has been colloquially referred to as Brent Cross Thameslink, which annoys me for two reasons:

1) Route names make rubbish modifiers because what if the route name changes? And:

2) It’s confusing, because it’s nearly a mile from Brent Cross tube station. West Hampstead Thameslink (euch), by contrast, is right next to West Hampstead tube.

Various other names have been proposed for the station. In one newsletter, it was Brent Cross Parkway; on Wikipedia, it’s currently Brent Cross South, apparently through confusion about the name of the new town centre development.

This week, though, Barnet council quietly confirmed it’d be Brent Cross West:

Whilst the marketing and branding of BXS needs to be developed further, all parties agree that the station name should build upon the Brent Cross identity already established. Given the station is located to the west of Brent Cross, it is considered that the station should be named Brent Cross West. Network Rail have confirmed that this name is acceptable for operational purposes. Consequently, the Committee is asked to approve that the new station be named Brent Cross West.

Where the new station will appear on the map, marked by a silly red arrow. Image: TfL.

That will introduce another irritating anomaly to the map, giving the impression that the existing Brent Cross station is somehow more central than the new one, when in fact they’re either side of the development. And so:

Consideration has also been given as to whether to pursue a name change for the tube station from “Brent Cross” to “Brent Cross East”.

Which would sort of make sense, wouldn’t it? But alas:

However owing to the very high cost of changing maps and signage London-wide this is not currently being pursued.

This is probably for the best. Only a handful of tube stations have been renamed since 1950: the last was Shepherd’s Bush Market, which was until 2008 was simply Shepherd's Bush, despite being quite a long way from the Shepherd's Bush station on the Central line. That, to me, suggests that one of the two Bethnal Green stations might be a more plausible candidate for an early rename.


At any rate: it seems unlikely that TfL will be renaming its Brent Cross station to encourage more people to use the new national rail one any time soon. But at least it won’t be Brent Cross Thameslink.

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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