Are we getting more power, more money — or more talk?
Plus: striking workers, DJ-ing metro mayors and the rest of your weekly briefing
Dear readers — a weekend without The Post is barely a weekend at all, we’re aware of that, but that was the situation this time around. For those of you who set your Saturday alarms for 7:30am and then set about frantically refreshing your email inboxes to no avail, we apologise. A story we’ve been working on for a while didn’t quite come together in time, but fear not — you will be reading that one soon.
🎄 There’s a brilliant new book out called North Country: An anthology of landscape and nature full of great northern writing. It features some local writers — like David Cooper and Paul Harley — as well as a piece by our regular contributor Dani Cole. After speaking to the book’s publisher Saraband, we’re going to send a free copy of North Country (worth £14.99) and a personal Christmas card to anyone who either buys an annual gift subscription for a friend or buys an annual membership for themselves by midday next Thursday (December 15th).
If you’re buying a gift sub, your friend will get a year of high-quality journalism and you will get something too: a free copy of this lovely book in time (postal strikes allowing) for Christmas, along with a card from us. You can schedule your gift to be emailed to the recipient on Christmas Day 🎁.
If you’re a new member buying an annual sub, you will get the book and a card welcoming you to our community. Just click here to join now.
Get on board now and give the gift of great northern writing this Christmas. This offer ends at midday next Thursday. We’ll email you to get your postal address after you make your purchase.
Today’s big story is about big promises being made by a confident Labour Party who say they want to see more power in the hands of areas like ours. Gordon Brown has been cooking up some ideas for how to decentralise the country (apparently ones he didn’t have time to implement when he was in charge), but are they any good? We’ve also got an update from a revived art deco cinema in Anfield, a Wirral home with some of the worst wallpaper you’ll ever see and a chance to spend Christmas with alpacas.
Last week we sent out two great pieces to members. On Tuesday Mollie went to the Cavern Club to see waifish indie singer Tom Odell and came away with a powerful piece about friendship and the Iranian revolution.
Then on Thursday, David Lloyd raised his voice above the blanket of white noise that envelops our city and addressed a crucial question: why is everywhere so bloody loud? The piece clearly spoke (softly, we hope) into the sore ears of the masses. “Thank goodness! Someone speaking out on our behalf!” wrote one commenter. Here’s a taster:
“The decibel metre hit 88. We stuffed our burgers down as fast as we could. They were delicious. Eating to a soundtrack as loud as a lawnmower, less so. The noise bounced and ricocheted around mercilessly. A mutant mix of music, shouting, kitchen hubbub and hard surfaces that morphed into an all-encompassing onslaught of brown noise.”
Coming up: This week David is compiling our second writer’s edition for Tuesday, after Jack’s version last month; full of tidbits, rants, recommendations and observations about the city region. Then on Thursday we’ve got a piece about The City of Liverpool College, where a feud between several staff members and the college’s management has been raging for years. To access those pieces, as well as all the rest of our journalism — from culture features to investigations — sign up as a paying member today. You will be supporting an independent company and helping to ensure our long-term future.
This week’s weather
This week’s weather forecast is sourced from the Met Office and it’s for Liverpool.
The big story: More power to the North?
Top line: The Labour Party are promising big on devolution. A report carried out by ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown argues for the “biggest ever transfer of power from Westminster to the British people”. Sir Keir Starmer is expected to take on Brown’s ideas and implement them in Labour’s general election manifesto.
Context: The plan is being billed as Labour’s answer to the Tories’ levelling up agenda. The crux is that Labour see levelling up as a good idea, but believe that a true devolution of power needs to go beyond handouts from London to the rest of the country and give local authorities greater decision-making powers within their regions.
Steve Rotheram gave a talk on the matter to students at Edge Hill University last week, describing how devolution grants have offset the pain of austerity cuts to local authorities and how Merseyside shouldn’t be dictated to by non-local government officials. He said:
“People here understand the challenges and opportunities we face far better than people in London. I’ve met London mandarins who don’t even know the difference between Kirkby and West Kirby.”
Among the 40 recommendations in Brown’s report, perhaps the most significant to us is the proposed increased powers for local authorities. This would see Rotheram’s combined authority taking greater charge of transport and housing, economic development and job creation. Beyond that, there is a proposed relocation of 50,000 civil servants out of Whitehall and a pledge to scrap the House of Lords — which Sir Keir Starmer wishes to replace with a second democratically elected chamber.
In Liverpool’s case, this could create a strange situation where the city region is poised to receive greater powers if Starmer were to win a general election, while the city council is still vying to prove it can handle its own affairs and unshackle itself from the government’s commissioners.
Combined efforts: In a Guardian column yesterday, John Harries describes the growing sense of the North as a “burgeoning political bloc”, something which is being driven by a cluster of metro mayors increasingly aligning themselves with each other. Five metro mayors — Rotherham included — met transport secretary Mark Harper last week to demand an improvement to the ongoing rail crisis. “The absolute bare minimum of levelling up means being able to get to work and college on time,” they said in a joint statement. Harries writes:
“It’s perhaps remarkable that this shift – catalysed by Burnham politically partnering with Rotheram during the pandemic, and also highlighted by the occasions when newspapers across the north have synchronised their front pages to call out the government — has only started to happen recently. “
Bottom line: None of Brown’s recommendations are being accepted straight away by Starmer, who is now expected to undertake a consultation process to decide upon which will be embedded into Labour’s plans. But sources have told Sky that the recommendations wouldn’t have been included in any report if he wasn’t “minded on implementing them”. It would mean a big win for Rotheram. Let’s just hope he doesn’t return to the decks to celebrate…
Your Post briefing
Merseyside is a graveyard of classic cinemas; the Futurist, Palais De Luxe, the Jacey and several others have all been lost over time; but Anfield’s Gaumont has been brought back to life after more than half a century of dormancy. Liverpool Lighthouse, a local charity, crowdfunded a full refurb of the art deco building, and after a painstaking renovation process it opened on Saturday with a showing of The Greatest Showman, having closed to film audiences in 1961. Candy floss trolleys and vintage “Now Showing” signs are part of the makeover. Creative director Rebecca Ross-Williams said the area has been “culturally underserved for generations” and that the venue would "once again bring the joy of film to our local community".
And another cinematic project rising from the ashes. Development work to turn the site of the old Littlewoods building into a £70 million film studio is finally set to begin. The process has been blighted by setbacks, including a fire in 2018 and the loss of John Moores University as a key tenant this year, but developers Capital & Centric have been green lighted to start on phase one of the process, with remediation works to be completed before the end of 2023. Whether or not Liverpool can live up to the “Hollywood of the North” tag it set itself is less clear, but at least the cameras are rolling.
The special educational needs support system in our schools is “not fit for purpose” according to Jeremy Barnes, the head teacher of All Saints Catholic Primary School in Anfield. Barnes criticised the initial £6000 figure schools receive from the government for each SEN pupil, saying it was often based on a “notional” number of SEN pupils predicted to attend the school, which often doesn’t tally with the real figures. He believes it makes it hard for schools in Liverpool and beyond to fully support SEN pupils, and said: “as a society, we have to recognise that we need to value these children”. Thomas Logan, Liverpool City Council’s cabinet member for education, said that Liverpool has made “big changes” that will have a local impact, but “we, like the rest of the country, are demanding that the government fix the system.”
The Wirral’s bin men are going on strike. Unite members employed by Biffa Waste Management have walked out until Saturday, demanding a 15% pay rise. Current hourly rates range from £10.76 to £11.95 and Biffa says that an above-inflation offer has been rejected by the union. Unite argue that only 15% is an accurate reflection of the true rate of inflation. The union has said they won’t hesitate to strike again if such an offer isn’t made.
Home of the week
For the minimalists. This Wirral house wages holy war on the senses, with more wallpapers, patterned fabrics and nick nacks than you’d wish to see in a lifetime. It does, however, also have three large reception rooms and five bedrooms so you can gut it out and start again to great effect. It’s going for £240,000.
🥕 The key to a Christmas dinner that’s the envy of your street? Locally sourced ingredients from Wirral Farmers Market, which is seeing out its 22nd year on Saturday. You’ll find meats, vegetables and the sort of cheeses that make you reach for the cheese board even after a decapacitating 17 roast potato dinner. More information here.
🏞️ Forest bathing (or ‘shinrin-yoku’ as it is called in Japan) is the act of immersing all of your senses in nature. It’s a well-being practice that is said to reduce stress, reduce blood pressure, improve sleep quality, concentration and stimulate creative thinking. And fear not, it doesn’t actually involve bathing. Not in this weather. It’s £15 for two hours in a beautiful nature reserve in Childwall Wood.
🎅 One for those with kids: Christmas with alpacas at Nanny Sharon’s alpaca farm. They’ve also got bunnies, guinea pigs, baby goats, ponies, and wallabies. And milk and cookies. No reindeer sadly. Tickets start at £5.
🎼 A musical journey from Paris up to the Arctic Circle at the Gustav Adolf Scandinavian Church. Q Quartet, the group performing the show, will be performing the work of five classic composers representing five countries as they move towards the “extreme north”. Once they get there? They’ll be laying on cake. £5.
Photo of the week
Light art installation The Light Before Christmas: The Angels Are Coming! courtesy of artistic collective Luxmuralis in the nave of Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral. Beautiful. Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images.
Our favourite reads
Sate your Jordan Henderson fever after last night’s England victory (in which Liverpool midfielder Henderson scored the first, in case you’ve somehow managed to avoid it) by reading this Telegraph piece: “The mouse that roared”. It describes how Henderson became a key leader in the England dressing room, mentoring young players and barking orders in training, described by writer Jason Burt as the team’s “second captain”.
A lukewarm review of the Everyman’s Christmas panto The Rock’n’Roll Panto Red Riding Hood from Mark Fisher in The Guardian. Fisher calls the production “placeless”, suggesting it lacks a strong link to the city from which it derives (essentially it sounds like the antidote to The Royal Court Theatre’s cheesy scouse-ification approach, a la Macca & Beth). He describes the play as “high on exuberance” with loud costumes, brash acting and a star turn from musical director Rob Green, but “low on wit”. It’s also three hours long, which is pretty damn long.
A distressing picture of the cost of living crisis from The Echo, who visited a newly set up warm bank. Liverpool Carer's Centre is one of many community groups and facilities allowing people to come by and take advantage of the central heating for a few hours a day, as temperatures plummet and the reality of fuel poverty strikes for families. In the words of one woman in the piece: “These days we just sit and freeze in the house all day until 5pm when we put the gas on in time for my granddaughter coming home. We can't afford to put it on before then.”
Letters from readers
Thanks for this. I have mild tinnitus (those speakers at Cream) and can struggle when out. I was at the England v India ODI at Old Trafford in the summer and was physically and mentally distressed by the air horns in the row in front of me. The noise was unbearable, but I thought it was just me being odd. It’s nice not to feel alone on this subject, ‘The unbearable loudness of being’, Rob Schofield
Interesting and disturbing article as I am a Unite Union Member. Makes you wonder where the missing millions are, was it just overspending on materials or was some of the money funnelled away. The fact they are all linked to Joe Anderson definitely makes it even more questionable. That’s hard earned union membership payments we’re talking about. Let’s hope the investigation uncovers the truth. ‘What does a £100m Birmingham hotel tell us about Liverpool’s politics?’, Carolyn Thornton