Is Liverpool really poorer than Manchester? It depends how you count

The Mersey Gateway Bridge, which links Runcorn to Widnes. Image: Getty.

Back in September 2017 I compared some statistics for Liverpool and Leeds – after first resizing Liverpool to give it the same physical area as Leeds, so as to make for a fairer comparison. Using my chosen metrics, Liverpool won out fairly substantially.

This exercise was quite popular, and yielded interesting results, so I have decided to revisit the theme this month. This time I have chosen to focus on three different versions of Liverpool. I’ve also included statistics for Greater Manchester, as a reference point.

Here are the three versions of Liverpool I’ve chosen, ranked in my preferred order:

1. The true metropolitan area which I’ll call “Greater Liverpool”, which I defined and described here. That consists of nine English local authority areas (Cheshire West and Chester, Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton, Warrington, West Lancashire, Wirral), plus two in north Wales (Flintshire and Wrexham). 

2. The stunted official Liverpool City Region. That consists of just six of the English local authority areas: Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton, Wirral;  

3. And, purely for completeness, the City of Liverpool single local authority area. This, while being the core component, is not the whole story as far as economic discussion is concerned. 

My own view is that the Greater Liverpool metropolitan area represents the true independent functional economic area around here. On this point I concur with this seminal 2011 report titled ”Rebalancing Britain: Policy or slogan? Liverpool City Region – Building on its Strengths”, written by Lord Heseltine and Sir Terry Leahy. All of the statistics referenced in this article were sourced directly from the Office for National Statistics.

So, what do the statistics show for the first three versions of Liverpool, mentioned above? To give these numbers some context I’ve also included the figures for Greater Manchester – that is, the 10 English local authority areas of Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan.

As can be seen, when Greater Manchester is compared to the Greater Liverpool metropolitan area, their economic performance is very similar. Indeed, the truly remarkable discovery from this exercise is that the GVA per head of Greater Liverpool and the GVA per head of Greater Manchester came out exactly the same, at £21,626.

Incidentally, if a combined road and railway crossing was built across the River Dee between the Wirral peninsula and North Wales, as shown on the map above, it would, for example, bring Rhyl to within a half hour journey time of Liverpool city centre. It’d also be likely to have a very positive impact on the Denbighshire and Conwy local authority areas’ economies, by bringing them directly into the Greater Liverpool metropolis. 

The map shows two potential locations for a River Dee crossing. Option A, between West Kirby and Talacre, is about eight miles in total; and option B, between Heswall and Holywell, is about 10 miles in total. Both options connect to the M53 and into the existing eight lanes of road tunnels; and to the Liverpool Underground railway tunnel, under the River Mersey directly into Liverpool city centre.

While we’re at it, the River Dee is one of eight sites that have been identified as optimum for a tidal barrage in the UK. Here’s a video of one at work in France: 

 

Such a development would also complement the proposed Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project in South Wales

To take account of such a development, I’ve also calculated the numbers for a greater, Greater Liverpool  which includes the Denbighshire and Conwy local authority areas. That increases the GVA and population substantially, whilst reducing the GVA per head figure:

 

One last thing. If, because of a national border, only the nine local English local authority areas’ statistics had been included in the Greater Liverpool figures, then Greater Liverpool’s GVA per head for 2015 would have increased to £21,667. That’s actually higher than Greater Manchester’s £21,626. Would that have made the headlines, do you think?

Dave Mail is 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.


 

 
 
 
 

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Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.