A Liverpool business leader is urging the government and commissioners appointed to manage the city council, to review how Liverpool is going to move forward following the announcement that the Town Hall’s chief executive has resigned from his position.
Frank McKenna, the Group chairman and chief executive of private sector lobby group Downtown in Business, which has over 500 member companies in Liverpool, has written to new Levelling up minister Greg Clark calling for action.
Reacting to the latest council bombshell and the resignation of Tony Reeves, Mr McKenna said:
“When the then Housing, Communities & Local Government minister Robert Jenrick announced that Liverpool City Council was going into special measures and commissioners were being brought into the city to support the administration eighteen months ago, he gave an assurance that the growth momentum that the city had enjoyed since hosting the European Capital of Culture in 2008 would not be halted.
“Unfortunately, that has not been the case. The city has gone backwards. Investment has dried up. The planning department has been in a zombified state for two years, meaning that little or no new developments are taking place. The business community, which enjoyed a strong relationship with the council and had built positive partnerships with the authority prior to the commissioners taking over, has been ignored. The executive team, from the top down, has been decimated. There are few Liverpool voices within the leadership team now, and that is a major problem for the city.
“Since Downtown was launched, in Liverpool in 2003, I have never known a time when business confidence has been so low. We are frustrated, concerned, and pessimistic about where the city is going. We must now have a reset, with the commissioners looking beyond the walls of the Town Hall, and genuinely engaging with businesses once again.
Mr McKenna continued:
“What I would propose is the appointment of some experienced Liverpool personalities to join the commissioner team. Louise Ellman, an ex- Liverpool MP who also led one of the largest local authorities in the country, Lord Mike Story who arguably started Liverpool’s modern renaissance when he led the city, and Phil Redmond who was a leading organiser of the successful capital of culture year, are all potential candidates – and I’m sure there are many others. But we cannot and must not continue with a London-centric executive team supported by ‘interim’ officials.
“We need to remove the huge Whitehall thumb that has been pressed on the button to pause Liverpool – and is damaging our city not just in the short-term, but the long-term too.
“And we need a Business Summit where commissioners can spell out directly to commerce what next for Liverpool.
“Other cities where we operate, Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds, have all bounced back since the pandemic. In the Eighties a government official suggested that Liverpool went into ‘managed decline’. What we are witnessing now is ‘mismanaged decline’ – and it needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”