This blog was prepared to grant Joe Anderson his honeymoon period after taking the reins from Warren "War Zones" Bradley. The Fib Dem leader, whose tenure did for Liverpool what BP did for clean beaches, got his marching orders last May & it was hoped by many that a change of leadership meant a change of culture & a change of approach. However, reading this press release from the city council (http://www.liverpool.gov.uk/News/Call_for_sites.asp ), the most charitable spin you could put on it is that muddled thinking is at work on Dale Street.
After all, no one can claim ignorance of the changed situation facing local authorities in the UK since the election (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/may/24/cuts-local-government-loses-2bn ). Yet the council release inquires ominously, "Do you know any land or premises in Liverpool that may be suitable for development or redevelopment?"
Well, yes, I do, since you ask. There's a few monstrosities in the vicinity of the Three Graces which certainly should be redeveloped...with a wrecking ball.
If the council is thinking of areas in the city where genuine, sustainable development is urgently needed, we can all think of at least a few places off the top of our heads. More to the point, we also know they are not in the city centre. However, the notion that the council wants the people of the city to volunteer such information is downright bizarre; are the city fathers so unaware of what should be priority areas in Liverpool?
Moreover, the term "(re)development" is, of course, often employed as a euphemism for retrograde planning decisions (& Liverpool is no stranger to those over the last five or six decades).
The charitable view that muddled thinking prevails could be advanced when you consider that as a consequence of the ConDem cuts, there's as much chance of Whitehall being generous with local government as there is of Sharon Green owning up over her Facebook page. The swingeing cuts imposed by Whitehall provide the context for local government over the forseeable future. To infer otherwise is disingenuous, to say the least.
Given that reality, it would be welcome for Joe Anderson to discourage juvenile scribblers in the council's PR department from asking the people of Liverpool to do what should be the council's job. Indeed, the council release all but gives the game away about the reality facing the city as the cuts bite when it mumbles apologetically at the end of the piece, "Putting a site forward does not guarantee that the council will allocate it or support its development in the future."
Perhaps it's a local manifestation of the Big Society, you know, the idea that we can all volunteer to do basic services, as Professor Redmond's mate "Dave" Cameron urged last week.
It may seem paradoxical to some, but at a time of impending cuts, the scale of which will make the 80s look like an age of enlightenment & generosity, openness & transparency is demanded of the city council leadership. Secretive & unattributable meetings with those who have already had a malign effect on the entire city (http://liverpoolpreservationtrust.blogspot.com/2010/07/liverpool-waters-english-heritage-hold.html ) merely prolong the malaise afflicting local & national politics.
What do you say, Joe?