It is three months since Steve Rotheram swept to power as mayor of the Liverpool City Region. So how are things shaping up for this largely untested ex-bricklayer (he never seems to tire of reminding us of this previous job)?
On 17 May, Rotheram spoke at the official opening ceremony, in Liverpool, of the very impressive Burbo Bank extension in Liverpool Bay, a new offshore wind farm capable of producing enough electricity to power over 230,000 homes.
Apparently, one revolution of a set of the gigantic blades produces enough power to meet the needs of one household for 29 hours. It is the first offshore wind farm in the world to make commercial use of the MHI Vestas V164-8.0 MW wind turbines. Each set of turbine blades is larger than the London Eye, and just one of these wind turbines produces more energy than the whole of Vindeby, the world’s first offshore wind farm constructed by DONG Energy 25 years ago in Denmark.
Speaking at the event, Rotheram said:
“The offshore wind industry has a huge contribution to make to the growing UK-based supply chain, and utilising our renewable energy sources is vital to ensuring the Liverpool City Region cements its position as a low carbon leader.”
On 6 June, he Rotheram announced, at an investment conference in Milton Keynes, that his grand vision, and a top priority for his mayoralty of the Liverpool City Region, is to build a £3.5bn tidal barrage across the River Mersey.
On that occasion, he said:
“This would be a significant leap in achieving my ambition to be a carbon neutral city region by 2040. Bringing forward a new business and logistical plan for a Mersey Tidal Barrage will be one of the major priorities of my Mayoral administration.”
There seems to be a pattern developing here, of noble and monumental long term green projects of fabulous ambition. The thing is though, in June 2011, a feasibility report, titled ‘Mersey Tidal Power‘ , found that such a barrage project would not be not feasible and shelved it. What’s more, would it be called the ‘Rotheram Barrage’? Which could be confusing, despite the different spelling, as it would be located in the Liverpool City Region and not Yorkshire, where Rotherham is? Has this been thought through properly?
It is not as though there aren’t many other, more mundane projects, more beneficial to the present everyday lives of Liverpolitans that Rotheram could focus upon. For example, it has recently often been reported in the local press that Liverpool city centre is in dire need of a large amount of new Grade A office space as our existing stock is almost full.
This would likely be a much better project for providing very large numbers of well paid, long term jobs. So pump-priming this market, as other cities have done, would likely be a much more cost effective way of creating economic growth and jobs, in a relatively short timescale, for the whole Liverpool City Region and beyond.
What’s more, the Liverpool Underground needs expanding - firstly by re-opening existing stations and new stations on the existing extensive network, but also by extending the network by, for example, completing the strategically important 19 miles long Outer Loop Line, which requires just eight more miles of track to be laid on the already largely completed trackbed. This alone would deliver full and convenient access to the Liverpool Underground for many tens of thousands of additional citizens who currently don’t have it.
The Outer Loop, as proposed in the 1970s. Image: Merseytravel, via John Burns.
These investments would be much lower cost and quicker to deliver than the grand monument that mayor Rotheram appears to be dreaming of, and would definitely be more beneficial to the everyday lives of Liverpolitans.
Let’s face it, we all already have a stable electricity supply around here. But far from all of us can board a gleaming, brand new, state-of-the-art Liverpool Underground train at the end of our street, to travel in an environmentally friendly way to Liverpool city centre very quickly and efficiently, to our well paid jobs in gleaming new Grade A office towers – something which would be of much more immediate benefit to people of my ilk, within our lifetimes.
Don’t get me wrong, feasible long term green energy projects are a fine ambition and should be pursued for the long term good of us all. But I would suggest that for our local population, in the short term, they should not be our main priority at the expense of other, more immediate and obvious needs.
It is also worth remembering that someone like me travelling a few miles to work in Liverpool city centre on the Liverpool Underground is much greener than travelling 25 miles by car to work elsewhere.
Come on Mayor Rotheram, we need stuff for the here and now, or at least for the here and very soon. As someone once said: “it’s the economy, stupid”.
One last thing. Did you know that the public school educated, ex-solicitor and Liverpolitan Jake Berry is the current Northern Powerhouse Minister? So, as mentioned in May, which “one of us” – to quote Mayor Rotheram’s election slogan – is now the most politically influential and able, through the real tools at their disposal and, indeed, their brain power, to positively impact Liverpool City Region’s economy? Is it the ex-bricklayer or the ex-solicitor?
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 every month in ‘E-mail from Liverpool City Region’.