“Inclusive investment is the foundation of a global city region”

Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram on the day of his victory in 2017. Image: Getty.

The Labour mayor of the Liverpool City region on its £500m new Strategic Investment Fund.

Devolution can be a complex topic. But at its root is a concept that could not be simpler – that the people who live in a place are best placed to make decisions about it.

Whilst the pace of devolution has arguably slowed of late, those decisions are increasingly about how we spend our money. And as we enter an uncertain, post-Brexit world, devolution gives us the opportunity to decide to use our resources in ways that benefit and protect our residents and communities.

That is why I am announcing a £500m fund to help transform the city region’s economy, creating high-quality jobs and boosting living standards for local people in the Liverpool City Region.

The new Strategic Investment Fund will feature a new approach to how our Combined Authority funds projects, which recognises the importance of building resilient communities, and puts the creation of social value at the heart of what we do. Some £100m will be available in the first year of the fund, rising to £500m over four years.


Our key purpose as a Combined Authority is to improve our residents’ lives, by creating the right ecosystems for our economy to thrive, while ensuring that growth benefits everyone through well paid local jobs and increased living standards.

Through the Strategic Investment Fund we will have £500m available to support projects in areas such transport infrastructure, economic development, skills, culture and housing.

Devolution gives us the opportunity to do things differently – and one of the ways we will do that is by making clear to applicants that they will have a better chance of success if their bids demonstrate positive social impact.

So, for example, we will consider their bid more favourably if they pay the living wage, refuse to use zero hour contracts, create apprenticeships and use local supply chains and labour to deliver their projects.

We are determined to ensure that, in an uncertain, post-Brexit world, this funding delivers the maximum possible benefit to the people of the Liverpool City Region.

As a Combined Authority we have already identified projects which can receive support from the fund, including:

  • Ultra-fast broadband for every borough, delivered by building a fibre superspine, that will connect all six of our constituent districts, and see digital exchanges created throughout the city region;
  •  A new smart ticketing system as part of our move towards a truly integrated public transport system; 
  • Help for our high streets, through a £5m Town Centre Fund that will help regenerate towns throughout our city region;
  • And a new generation of Mersey Ferries.

We know the difference that we can make as a Combined Authority from projects supported even before the adoption of this new approach.

Through our previous Single Investment Fund we have allocated £400m for investments across the city region, money which has enabled us to leverage in another £500m of additional investments.

We know that this investment will support around £1.7bn of economic activity, and directly create 9000 jobs and 5,500 apprenticeships, through supporting a wide range of projects, including:

  • £19m for the Newton-le-Willows interchange;
  • £13m for a new station at Maghull North;
  • £20m for a new Cruise Liner Terminal;
  • £2.5m for Blackburne House in Liverpool 8, one of the country’s leading educational centres for women;
  • £3.4 million for Alstom for a state-of-the-art train maintenance and repair facility, creating hundreds of local jobs and apprenticeships;
  • £30m for 40 skills projects in local colleges;
  • £12m for Paddington Village in the Knowledge Quarter;
  • £14million from its Single Investment Fund for the Shakespeare North Playhouse and a Rail Interchange project in Prescot.

In addition to making additional funding available, the new Strategic Investment Fund recognises the need to improve our capacity to develop high-impact investment-ready projects. So we will provide pre-development funding to help expand and improve the pipeline of projects, by providing support to prospective applicants to help analyse markets, identify opportunities and develop projects.

At the last election, Labour’s manifesto committed to a National Transformation Fund, which would increase levels of public investment in much needed infrastructure, R&D and job training.

I believe what we are creating here today is a city region version of that – our own local transformation fund.

It not only shows only the public that devolution and having a metro mayor is delivering significant benefits to our region; but also the difference that Labour in power can make.

Steve Rotheram is Labour mayor of the Liverpool City Region.

 
 
 
 

Covid-19 is highlighting cities' unequal access to green space

In the UK, Londoners are most likely to rely on their local park for green space, and have the best access to parks. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

As coronavirus lockdowns ease, people are flooding back to parks – but not everyone has easy access to green space in their city.

Statistics from Google show that park attendance in countries across the globe has shot up as people have been allowed to move around their cities again.

This is especially true in urban areas, where densely populated neighbourhoods limit the size of private green space – meaning residents have to go to the park to get in touch with nature. Readers from England can use our interactive tool below to find out how much green space people have access to in their area, and how it compares to the rest of the country.

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement Monday that people are allowed to mingle in parks and gardens with groups of up to six people was partially following what people were doing already.

Data from mobile phones show people have been returning to parks across the UK, and also across Europe, as weather improves and lockdown eases.

People have been returning to parks across the world

Stay-at-home requirements were eased in Italy on 4 May, which led to a flood of people returning to parks.

France eased restrictions on 1 May, and the UK eased up slightly on 13 May, allowing people to sit down in public places so long as they remain socially distanced.

Other countries have seen park attendance rise without major easing of lockdown – including Canada, Spain, and the US (although states there have individual rules and some have eased restrictions).

In some countries, people never really stopped going to parks.

Authorities in the Netherlands and Germany were not as strict as other countries about their citizens visiting local parks during lockdown, while Sweden has famously been avoiding placing many restrictions on people’s daily lives.


There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that access to green space has major benefits for public health.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Exeter found that spending time in the garden is linked to similar benefits for health and wellbeing as living in wealthy areas.

People with access to a private garden also had higher psychological wellbeing, and those with an outdoor space such as a yard were more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than those without access to outdoor space. 

Separate UK research has found that living with a regular view of a green space provides health benefits worth £300 per person per year.

Access is not shared equally, however, which has important implications for equality under lockdown, and the spread of disease.

Statistics from the UK show that one in eight households has no garden, making access to parks more important.

There is a geographic inequality here. Londoners, who have the least access to private gardens, are most likely to rely on their local park for green space, and have the best access to parks. 

However the high population in the capital means that on the whole, green space per person is lower – an issue for people living in densely populated cities everywhere.

There is also an occupational inequality.

Those on low pay – including in what are statistically classed as “semi-skilled” and “unskilled” manual occupations, casual workers and those who are unemployed – are almost three times as likely as those in managerial, administrative, professional occupations to be without a garden, meaning they rely more heavily on their local park.

Britain’s parks and fields are also at significant risk of development, according to new research by the Fields in Trust charity, which shows the number of people living further than a 10-minute walk from a public park rising by 5% over the next five years. That loss of green spaces is likely to impact disadvantaged communities the most, the researchers say.

This is borne out by looking at the parts of the country that have private gardens.

The least deprived areas have the largest gardens

Though the relationship is not crystal clear, it shows at the top end: Those living in the least deprived areas have the largest private green space.

Although the risk of catching coronavirus is lower outdoors, spending time in parks among other people is undoubtedly more risky when it comes to transmitting or catching the virus than spending time in your own outdoor space. 

Access to green space is therefore another example – along with the ability to work from home and death rates – of how the burden of the pandemic has not been equally shouldered by all.

Michael Goodier is a data reporter at New Statesman Media Group, and Josh Rayman is a graphics and data visualisation developer at New Statesman Media Group.