Council meeting descends into acrimony
Plus the rest of the weekly briefing
Dear readers — this morning we published a long read about the problem of domestic abuse in the city region and whether the authorities are doing enough to tackle it. One reader tweeted “powerful, well-researched piece, well worth the long read”. Another said it was insightful and important journalism.
A warm welcome to the handful of new members who joined us after reading. In case you missed it, you can read that piece here.
Last week we published an interview with a highly-secretive “honour-based” abuse charity, who talked about why so many cases go unreported and the lifelong risk to their clients. We also put out a lovely story about community power in the Dingle and the people working to create welcoming public spaces. Those stories are members-only — sign up below to read them and get our members-only stories this week in your inbox.
☁️ This week’s weather
Lampard’s a blue
Frank Lampard poses as the new Everton manager this morning.
The big story: No referendum on the mayoralty, and tension over the future of the airport
The top line: There will not be a referendum on the future governance of Liverpool, and a city-wide consultation will begin later this year which could remove the position of elected mayor, after a motion was passed at a full Liverpool City Council Meeting at the Town Hall on Wednesday.
The key points:
The Labour group said a referendum was too expensive to justify with the current budget constraints, and councillor Christine Banks said: “I’m not going to support anything in our city that costs half a million pounds when we know what’s going on in our communities. I’ve met families where they buy two apples, and they cut it in four, instead of buying four apples.”
Lib Dem leader Richard Kemp supported the consultation and said the mayoral model under Labour had “cost the city £135 million through incompetence, waste and lost income”.
The Green Party were the only party to vote for a referendum.
Planning: The council formally adopted the Local Plan — the plan for how the city will grow and change in the next decade, including a commitment to yearly housing growth and a £1bn expansion of the Knowledge Quarter. Read our analysis of the key points in the Local Plan here. The future expansion of the airport is still to be reviewed — Labour moved a motion to get a full report into the potential impacts of expansion, which will come back to the council before a decision is made.
The context: Expanding the airport was part of former Mayor Joe Anderson’s strategy for growth in the city, but Joanne Anderson said a lot has changed in that time, including the council declaring a climate emergency and committing to being a “net-zero” carbon city by 2030.
The debate turned nasty when Lib Dem Councillor Richard Clein blasted the Labour group for “pontificating” and said the former chair of the planning committee, Tricia O’Brien was “definitely beyond her sell-by-date”, after O’Brien pointed out the Local Plan was “already out of date”. Newly independent councillor Anna Rothery and Mayor Joanne Anderson accused Clein of misogyny and he was asked to apologise to O’Brien, (he didn’t).
The bottom line: Attention is shifting to the debate over airport expansion — the Echo’s political editor Liam Thorp writes that “there seems to be a growing cross-party consensus on this issue.” Elsewhere, Tony McDonough writes in Liverpool Business News that blocking the expansion means “if it cannot grow it may shrink. Its size and standing could diminish and airlines may desert it.”
Other local news in brief
Liverpool will see growth of 2.8% per year until 2025, according to analysis by accountancy firm EY, marginally higher than the North West’s 2.7%. Significant gains are expected in property, accommodation and food services alongside growth in the health and sciences sector. The North West is set to grow 6.8% from its pre-pandemic size, behind the UK average of 8.3%. Read more.
Protestors gathered outside Woodchurch Leisure Centre in Birkenhead wearing swimming goggles and towels yesterday to warn that closing the facility would devastate the community. A protestor said: “This is in the middle of three council estates and the fact that they are even considering closing it down is absolutely appalling.” Wirral Borough Council said the proposed cuts aimed to secure long-term financial stability. Read more.
Violent crime rose by 17% in St Helens last year, according to the Office for National Statistics, compared to a decrease in overall crime in England and Wales. Stalking and harassment rose by 36%. The ONS urged caution interpreting the data and said the figures may reflect the “impact of high-profile incidents, media coverage and campaigns on people’s willingness to report incidents to the police, as well as a potential increase in the number of victims.” Read more.
‘After the sadness came the anger’: Are the authorities doing enough to help women who are abused behind closed doors? Read more.
📉 Covid-19 update
Cases: The case rate for the Liverpool City Region is 707.7 down 14.7% from the previous week, compared to England’s, which is 971.6, down 2.5%. Cases are highest in Halton, at 904, and lowest in Liverpool, around 600.
Hospitalisations: The number of Covid-19 patients in critical care was 9 on 18th January, down from 20 the previous week. The number of patients in hospital with Covid-19 also fell to 678, down from 777. Remember, this number includes hospital patients who have tested positive for Covid-19 but may be in hospital for something else.
Vaccinations: As of 20th January, 72.5% of eligible people in the Liverpool City Region have now had two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, and 53.9% of people have had three doses. Booster uptake is still very low among the under 50s, at 32.5%, compared to 53.9% of over 50s.
Home of the week
This 3-bedroom terrace is just around the corner from Lark Lane and Sefton Park, and it has a fireplace and French doors opening out towards a courtyard. It’s on the market for £290,000.
Our favourite reads
We liked this feature in Outsiders Blog, about the left-field hip-hop nights in Liverpool in the late ‘90s. “We're sat there one night with Madlib during soundcheck, smoking Red Seal, talking about hip hop, talking about well-documented bootlegs, talking about Liverpool’s scene. The guy went on to be a living legend — a bit of an enigma — but on that night, him, Wild Child, DJ Romes and Peanut Butter Wolf were fresh, hungry, straight up amazing. No airs or graces, just real artists with a show that needed to be witnessed.”
A great historical feature in Wired about the first transatlantic communications cable made by Liverpool engineers, and the expedition to attempt connection across the seas. “On 16 August, the first message was successfully sent, and was swiftly followed by a telegram of congratulation from Queen Victoria to US President James Buchanan, which expressed a hope that the communications cable would create: ‘an additional link between the nations whose friendship is founded on their common interest and reciprocal esteem’.”
And we liked this feature in New York Magazine about the fateful voyage of the Lusitania in 1915, which departed on the Atlantic route from New York to Liverpool, and sank when a German U-boat pierced its hull, taking almost 1,200 people with it, including hundreds of deck crew from Merseyside. “Of course, deep below deck, the Lusitania was packed tight with weapons and ammunition bound for British allies. But the assault jolted America. Though it took two more years for the U.S. to formally enter World War I, the Lusitania’s attack shook the nation out of its isolationist innocence.”
Go deeper: How the sinking of the Lusitania created an air of xenophobia and sparked riots in 1915 Liverpool. This story is members-only — hit the button below to read.
🎨 The Landing is back at the Atkinson in Southport — the exhibition that displays affordable art by leading regional artists. This season, there’s a series of textile pieces exploring identity and place. More info here.
🎻 There’s a dementia-friendly concert on Wednesday by musicians from Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, playing Italian favourites such as Puccini’s Nessun dorma. Co-presenter Claire Henry will guide you through the concert, and there will be a quiet space to make it as comfortable as possible for the audience. Book here.
🎤 Also at the Philharmonic, we recommend this hip-hop gig on Thursday which brings together a wealth of talent from Liverpool to the African continent, including the popular Liverpool hip-hop artists No Fakin’ and L100. Book here.
🐅 There’s a light show with 3D animations to celebrate Chinese New Year at the Bombed Out Church on Friday night. 2022 is year of the tiger, so the show will tell the story of a brave tiger seeking to restore peace and harmony to the heavens. Book here.
🎪 A weekly artisan market is coming to Southport, starting this Thursday afternoon. There will be food stalls and beauty products, accessories and jewellery on sale too. More info here.
🍞 We’re big fans of Homebaked, the Anfield bakery popular among matchday regulars, who have just set up residence in St George’s Hall. Try their fresh bread with a bowl of scouse. More info here.
🐙 There are activities and games for toddlers in the aquarium every Thursday morning, as a way of learning more about underwater animals. Book here.
Letters from readers
Such a good, informative article on a subject about which very little is known (‘There’s always a chance abusers will rediscover their victims’). Well done Mollie, Alison Sheridan
Such a brilliant and important piece on the state of domestic Vviolence in Liverpool today (‘After the sadness came the anger’), Elly Smith