What does the data tell us about the work ahead of Liverpool’s Steve Rotheram?

Steve Rotheram, the new mayor of the Liverpool City Region. Image: Getty.

The latest instalment of our weekly series, in which we use the Centre for Cities’ data tools to crunch some of the numbers on Europe’s cities.

The first thing to say about the Liverpool City Region – or LCR, as its jauntier fans call it – is that it’s not the same as Merseyside.

It does contain that late lamented metropolitan county’s five boroughs, sure (Wirral, Sefton, St Helens, Knowsley, plus the City of Liverpool itself). But it also contains neighbouring Halton (that’s Runcorn and around), just off to the east. Many argue that it should be bigger still – just ask Dave – but the addition of Halton alone is already enough to knacker hope anyone data-minded had of just using the numbers on Merseyside.

Luckily, though, the Centre for Cities is here to help. The latest in its increasingly numerous series of data tools pulls together the numbers of the six combined authorities which recently elected their first metro mayors, and enables you to compare the stats on the LCR with those of the nation as a whole. That in turn should give you a sense of the sort of problems facing the region’s newly minted Labour mayor Steve Rotheram.

So – what’s on the to do list? Fire up the okay you get the idea let’s just get on with it.

The skills gap

Well, for one thing, the region’s educational stats aren’t looking too healthy: they’ve improved, but still, nearly one in eight Liverpolitans has no qualifications:

Its schools are below average, too:

It has more apprenticeship starts, though:

The fact this was also true of the West Midlands makes me suspect that’s a correlation, not a coincidence. In parts of the country struggling with skills gaps, the authorities seem more enthusiastic about trying out new-fangled vocational training schemes.

The money stuff

The local economy is a bit of a challenge too. The Liverpool City Region’s job growth has been lower than the national average:

 

So the employment rates are significantly below the national average...

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...as are benefit claimant rates...

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...and wages:

The good stuff

But look, we all know what you really come here to read. One of the mayor’s biggest areas of power is going to be over the region’s transport infrastructure. What’s going on there then?

Well, surprisingly little. The number of journeys on the local commuter rail network have increased in the last few years, but really only slightly:

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While the number of bus journeys has been basically – I’m actually kind of shocked – in freefall, falling four times faster than the national average:

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The devolution deal gives the city region’s authorities the powers to introduce London-style bus franchising. Under the current system, it’s a free for all, with private bus companies competing to serve busy routes and ignoring quieter ones. Under the new one, the city authorities will be able to specify fares and service levels.

This – if you view public transport as a vital piece of city infrastructure, rather than just an opportunity to make a few quid – seems to make a lot more sense. Let’s hope Rotherham loves buses as much as we do.

You can explore the data yourself here.

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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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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