“Batman and Robin”: Could Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham been the superheroes the north west needs?

Just a couple of normal guys plotting to save the world. Image: Getty.

What has Liverpool City Region mayor Steven Rotheram been up to so far? Well, on his first day he made a joke about Kenny Dalglish and invited Theresa May to visit the region for chips.

Rumour has it that Rotheram and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham are best mates. How so, I hear you ask? Well, they are both Liverpolitans for a start, both Labour Party members and both football fans – albeit, one supports Liverpool and the other Everton. On a more serious note, they were brothers in arms in their quest to expose the shocking miscarriage of justice that followed the Hillsborough tragedy.

The two mayors seem to be acting as a tag-team. One of their first major initiatives was to cleverly cement a rebrand of HS3 to "Crossrail for the North", inviting direct comparisons with Greater London's Crossrail 2. They also demanded that Crossrail for the North be prioritised, linking Liverpool to Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds via a new high speed railway.

It’s interesting, then, that the recent Tory manifesto specifically referenced “Northern Powerhouse Rail” (yet another name for it), but did not mention Crossrail 2. Sadly, though, it did not make it into the Queen's Speech. 

In other words, it appears that the Liverpolitans are organising. And our new super heroes Burnham and Rotheram (Batman and Robin, anyone?) are preparing to battle on behalf of Gotham (centred on Liverpool City Region, obviously), with their old adversaries the Tories.

Mayor Rotheram has also given his full backing to Liverpool's bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games. In March this honour was removed from Durban, in South Africa, because the city did not meeting the criteria to host the games. An emergency replacement has since been sought, with Liverpool and Birmingham now appearing on our country's official shortlist of suitable candidates. Here is Liverpool's bid logo: 

The Liverpool City Region has a rich sporting heritage, which is second to none. Later this month, the Open Golf Championship will return to the region’s Royal Birkdale; it was last held here as recently as 2014, at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club on the Wirral peninsula.

We also host, amongst many other things: the internationally popular Grand National, known as the world's greatest steeplechase; two world class football clubs in Everton and Liverpool; world class Rugby League in St Helens and Widnes; and, the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, this year and next. We even hosted Formula 1 Grand Prix in the days of Stirling Moss and Fangio, pictured here.

Image: Getty.

I would like to see our Commonwealth Games offer having a strong focus on Liverpool City Region's over 80 miles of coastline, much of it golden beaches, to showcase one of the region’s most impressive but most overlooked attributes.

Here is an example of one of our many beaches. It shows Antony Gormley's ‘Another Place’, a poignant modern art installation celebrating migration at Crosby beach, just four miles and six stops on the Liverpool Underground from Liverpool city centre. The photo looks towards Liverpool Bay, with Wales in the background:

Image: Chris Howells/Wikimedia Commons.

 

Imagine a Beach Volleyball tournament being staged amidst such a fabulous modern art installation, and with the monumental Port of Liverpool cranes immediately adjacent. We could take full advantage of our natural assets to host other sports, too: canoeing; road cycling; mountain bike cycling; open water swimming; rowing;sailing; and triathlon, a sport which Liverpool already has a strong history of hosting.

We already have a lot of different venues for a lot of different, and with more to come: a new Everton stadium, designed by American architect Dan Meis, is planned for Bramley Moore Dock in Liverpool's epic UNESCO World Heritage Site docklands. Throw in the fact that Liverpool is actually more centrally located within the UK than Birmingham, and everything is falling nicely into place for us.


However, a significant fly in the ointment may be that the West Midlands, whatever that is (apparently it includes Birmingham), has just elected a Tory metro mayor...

Incidentally, does a UK government partnership between the Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionist Party mean that austerity will now end in Northern Ireland, but will continue in the Liverpool City Region? Conveniently, Liverpool City Region and Northern Ireland have similarly sized populations, so it would be interesting if someone with the appropriate skills could monitor and compare any central government largesse between the two regions. I was shocked to read that the Northern Ireland Renewable Heat Incentive scandal could cost UK taxpayers £400m.

One last thing. The new Alstom train modernisation facility, which is the largest in the UK, opened in Widnes, in the Liverpool City Region’s own Halton, on 29 June. Just to keep the train fans interested.

Dave Mail has declared himself CityMetric's new 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”.

 
 
 
 

The best way to make housing more affordable? Raise interest rates

Lol, no. Image: Getty.

Speaking to the Conservative Party conference in September 2017, the UK prime minister, Theresa May, gave a stark assessment of the UK housing market which made for depressing listening for many young people: “For many the chance of getting onto the housing ladder has become a distant dream”, she said.

Now a new report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) provides further, clear evidence of this. The study finds that home ownership among 25 to 34-year-olds has declined sharply over the past 20 years. Home ownership rates have declined from 43 per cent at age 27 for someone born in the late 1970s, to just 25 per cent for someone aged 27 who was born in the late 1980s.

The most significant decline has been for middle-income young people, whose rate of home ownership has fallen from 65 per cent in 1995-6 to 27 per cent now – most significantly hitting aspirant buyers in London and the South-East.

Causes and consequences

The IFS study lays the blame for all this on the growing gap between house prices and incomes. Adjusting for inflation, house prices have risen 150 per cent in the 20 years to 2015-16, while real incomes for 25 to 34-year-olds have grown by 22 per cent (and almost all of that growth happened before the 2008 crash).

A bleak picture. Image: Institute for Fiscal Studies.

But, as the report acknowledges, the problem goes much deeper than this. Home ownership rates differ by region. Although there has been a decline in home ownership rates for young people across all areas of Great Britain, the decline is less significant in the North East and Cumbria as well as in Scotland and the South West. The biggest decline in ownership has been in the South-East, the North-West (excluding Cumbria) and London.

So a person aged 25 to 34 is more than twice as likely to own their own home in Cumbria, as their counterpart in London. Worse, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to own their own homes – even after controlling for differences in education and earnings. Home ownership continues to reflect a deeper inequality of opportunity in our society.


More houses needed

Part of the problem is that both Labour and Conservative governments have seen housing as a single, stand-alone market and have focused their attention on what is happening to prices in London. But housing is a number of different markets, which have regional variations and different interactions between the owner-occupier, private rented and social rented sectors.

Regional variations in house prices for similar sized properties reflect the imbalances of the economy: it is heavily reliant on financial services, which are concentrated in London, while the public sector makes up a significant share of many local economies – particularly in the North. Migration from across the UK to overcrowded and expensive areas – such as London and the South-East – have put property prices in those areas even further out of reach for would-be buyers.

To make matters worse, both Labour and Conservative governments have routinely failed to build enough houses. While the current government’s aim to build 300,000 new properties a year by 2020 is welcome, it is simply not enough to meet the backlog in demand – let alone address the fundamental affordability problem.

Where homes are being built, they’re often the wrong types of homes, in the wrong places. Family homes are being built, despite there being some 4m under-occupied such properties across the country.

Not that long ago, government was reducing the housing stock in many parts of the North, through the disastrous Housing Market Renewal programme. Houses are currently being sold in smaller cities such as Liverpool and Stoke-on-Trent for just £1. And none of the government’s actions suggest that ministers understand these issues, or are prepared to address them.

House price inflation – and the awful affect it is having on home ownership rates for young people – is part of a wider problem of the global asset bubble. This bubble has seen huge increases in the price of assets – stocks, housing, bonds – in high income countries such as the UK. Successive governments have helped to fuel this through quantitative easing, ultra-cheap money and successive raids on pension funds.

The ConversationWhat’s needed to address this asset bubble is a substantive increase in interest rates. But while this may slow the growth in house prices, the sad truth is it will do nothing to make housing more affordable for most young people.

Chris O'Leary, Deputy Director, Policy Evaluation and Research Unit and Senior Lecturer, Manchester Metropolitan University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.