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.

 
 
 
 

America's cities can't police their way out of this crisis

Police deployed tear gas during anti-racism demonstrations in Los Angeles over the weekend. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

As protesters took to the streets across the United States over the weekend to express their anger at police killings of unarmed black Americans, it was hard to miss the hypocrisy coming from local authorities – including the otherwise progressive, left-leaning officials who are in power in most major American cities. 

Many US mayors and their police chiefs had issued public statements over the past week that seemed – only briefly, as it turned out – to signal a meaningful shift in the extent to which the Black Lives Matters movement is being taken seriously by those who are in a position to enact reforms. 

The sheer depravity of the most recent high-profile killing had left little room for equivocation. George Floyd, 46, died last Monday under the knee of white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, while three additional officers helped to hold Floyd down, doing nothing to aid him as he begged for them to stop and eventually lost consciousness. The officers had been attempting to arrest Floyd on suspicion of having used a counterfeit $20 bill at a deli. All four have since been fired, and Chauvin was arrested Friday on charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. 

“The lack of compassion, use of excessive force, or going beyond the scope of the law, doesn’t just tarnish our badge—it tears at the very fabric of race relations in this country,” Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore told the Washington Post in response to the Floyd case. Meanwhile Moore’s boss, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, on Friday claimed that he understood why his city, which is no stranger to police brutality, was protesting. “We absolutely need as a nation, certainly as a city, to voice our outrage, it’s our patriotic duty to not only stand up for George Floyd but for everybody who has been killed unnecessarily, who’s been murdered for the structural racism that we have in our country,” Garcetti said. 

Normally, US police chiefs and mayors tend to ask citizens to withhold judgment on these types of cases until full investigations can be completed. But a 10-minute video recording of Floyd’s killing had made what happened plain. Police chiefs across the country – and even the nation’s largest police union, which is notorious for defending officer abuses – similarly condemned the actions of the Minneapolis officers, in a rare show of moral clarity that, combined with the arrest of Chauvin, offered at least a glimmer of hope that this time things might be different. 

As the events of the weekend have since shown, that glimmer was all too fleeting. 

In city after city over the past three days, US mayors and their police chiefs made a series of the same decisions – starting with the deployment of large, heavily armed riot units – that ultimately escalated violent confrontations between officers and protesters. Images widely shared on social media Saturday and Sunday nights made it clear that members of law enforcement were often initiating the worst of the violence, and appeared to treat protesters as enemy combatants, rather than citizens they were sworn to protect. 


In New York City, two police SUVs were seen plowing into a crowd of protesters, while elsewhere an officer was recorded pulling down a young protester’s coronavirus mask in order to pepper spray his face

In Louisville, the city where Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman was fatally shot by police on 13 March, state police in riot gear were captured confiscating and destroying protesters’ supplies

In Minneapolis, forces opened fire with nonlethal rounds on residential streets, much to the shock of homeowners standing on their own front porches. 

Images of police pushing or shoving peaceful protesters were almost too numerous to count, including, in Salt Lake City, an elderly man with a cane

In many places, police also targeted journalists who were covering the protests, firing at clearly identifiable media crews with rubber bullets, injuring and even arresting reporters

Some protesters did commit acts of vandalism and looting, and the leaders of cities where that happened generally responded in the same ways. 

First, they blamed “outside agitators” for the worst protester behaviour, a claim that harkens all the way back to the civil rights era and for which the evidence is murky at best

Next, they enacted sudden curfews with little to no warning, which gave law enforcement an excuse to make mass arrests, in some cases violently. 

In a pair of widely criticized moves, Garcetti of Los Angeles closed the city’s Covid-19 testing centers and suspended the entire mass transit system Saturday evening, stranding essential workers on their way home from daytime shifts. Late Sunday night in Chicago, the city’s public school system halted its free meal distribution service for low-income children, citing “the evolving nature of activity across the city”.  

Governors in at least 12 US states, in coordination with city leaders, have since called in National Guard troops to “help”. 

At this point it’s clear that the leaders of America’s cities are in desperate need of a radically different playbook to respond to these protests. A heavily armed, militarised response to long-simmering anger toward the heavily armed, militarised approach to American policing is more than ironic – it’s ineffective. Granting police officers wider latitude to make arrests via curfews also seems destined to increase the chances of precisely the tragic, racially biased outcomes to which the protesters are reacting. 

There are other options. In places such as Flint, Michigan, and Camden, New Jersey – both poor cities home to large black populations – local law enforcement officials chose to put down their weapons and march alongside protesters, rather than face off against them. In the case of Camden, that the city was able to avoid violent clashes is in no small part related to the fact that it took the drastic step of disbanding its former police department altogether several years ago, replacing it with an entirely new structure. 

America’s cities are in crisis, in more ways than one. It’s not a coincidence that the country has tipped into chaos following months of emotionally draining stay-at-home orders and job losses that now top 40 million. Low-income Americans of colour have borne a disproportionate share of the pandemic’s ravages, and public health officials are already worried about the potential for protests to become Covid-19 super-spreading events.

All of this has of course been spurred on by the US president, who in addition to calling Sunday for mayors and governors to “get tough” on protesters, has made emboldening white nationalists his signature. Notably, Trump didn’t call on officials to get tough on the heavily armed white protesters who stormed the Michigan Capitol building over coronavirus stay-at-home orders just a few weeks ago. 

US mayors and their police chiefs have publicly claimed that they do understand – agree with, even – the anger currently spilling out onto their streets. But as long as they continue to respond to that anger by deploying large numbers of armed and armored law enforcement personnel who do not actually live in the cities they serve, who appear to be more outraged by property damage and verbal insults than by the killings of black Americans at the hands of their peers, and who are enmeshed in a dangerously violent and racist policing culture that perceives itself to be the real victim, it is hard to see how this crisis will improve anytime soon. 

Sommer Mathis is the editor of CityMetric.