Merseyside Police is facing big cuts. And it needs new buildings
The force needs to save £15 million by 2028, while many of its stations are 'old' and 'outdated'
Dear readers — there was an exciting new arrival in the midlands over the weekend, and it wasn’t Wayne Rooney kicking off his tenure as Birmingham City manager. No, the fourth title in our growing stable (joining us, the Mill in Manchester and the Tribune in Sheffield) has launched: The Birmingham Dispatch. The i paper said we were giving regional papers “the wake-up call they need”.
While the arrival of The Dispatch won’t affect much here at The Post, it does go to show the growing desire for this type of journalism across the underserved cities in the north of England (much needed when “so much local ‘news’ takes the form of celebrity clickbait, salacious crime round-ups, and video clips repurposed from social media” so say the i paper). And if you do have any friends down in Birmingham, and think they might just be potential Dispatch readers, writers, or spreaders-of-the-worders, do send them the link.
At the weekend Jack and Daniel addressed Liverpool's most pressing social problem: its gaping north/south divide. The city sees differences in life expectancy of up to 12 years for wards only six miles apart, and while southern parts of the city are being voted as among the most desirable in the country, many in the north end feel left behind. There was a fantastic debate in the comments too, so do get involved.
Last week paying members received two great stories. On Tuesday Abi explored the council’s new activity travel strategy, and wondered whether Liverpool’s historically dismal offering for cyclists might finally be getting a long-overdue makeover. Then on Thursday we published a big exclusive, the second part of Matt O’Donoghue’s investigation into a council investment that turned £1 million into a paltry £50,000. The piece showed how council insiders had grave concerns about a deal they were claiming had been a success. Here’s a snippet:
The city’s administrators claimed in March 2020 that their investment into the Briggs Automotive Company (BAC) had more than quadrupled to be worth £4.4 million, a year after some in the council shared their belief that the majority of the money was already lost. Now, Joe Anderson — the former Mayor of Liverpool — tells The Post: “Yes — I admit this was a cock-up and maybe someone should have their wrist slapped”.
To read those stories and get two extra newsletters in your inbox every week, consider joining our (very very nearly) 1300 paying subscribers, who fund our operation and allow us to do the kind of journalism that Liverpool deserves. It costs around £1.25 a week, which probably wouldn’t even buy you a thimble of coffee on Bold Street. So why not?
This week’s weather
Tuesday 🌧️ Light rain and light winds with highs of 12°C
Wednesday 🌧️ Light rain and a gentle breeze with highs of 12°C
Thursday 🌧️ Light rain and a gentle breeze with highs of 14°C
Friday 🌧️ Drizzle and a gentle breeze with highs of 13°C
Weekend 🌦️ Light rain showers and a gentle breeze with highs of 13°C
This week’s weather forecast is sourced from BBC Weather and it’s for Liverpool.
The big story: Merseyside Police is facing big cuts. And it needs new buildings
Top line: Merseyside Police is in a tricky position. The force faces significant cuts over the next few years, while simultaneously needing to upgrade its outdated, ageing buildings, many of which are deemed not up to scratch. Its new Estate Strategy 2023-2035 sets out how that tight-rope walk might be negotiated.
Context: Merseyside Police is in a very tough spot financially. Last month Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner Emily Spurrell said there were “significant funding challenges ahead", with a need to save £15.3m by 2027/28, having just approved cuts of £2.9m for 2023/24. Spurrell said the force was "desperately underfunded" at the time, and one solution was to review the force’s estate strategy to see what might be recouped.
After the worrying news about cuts, the force was then told it needed to improve its safeguarding at the start of this month. A report flagged concern about the time it was taking to respond to calls, among other things. It was rated as “adequate” in investigating crime, responding to the public, and in its leadership and management (“adequate” is the minimum requirement). The watchdog did accept that there had been “significant operational challenges” in the past year due to a number of high-profile incidents including the fatal shootings of Sam Rimmer, Olivia Pratt-Korbel, Ashley Dale, Jackie Rutter and Elle Edwards. After the shooting of Olivia Pratt-Korbel, Spurrell told the Echo that cuts had made the job of the force “much harder”.
Nonetheless, there is a clear need to recoup costs. Merseyside Police has done this successfully over the past eight years, receiving £5.23 million in capital receipts from disposing of nine buildings. There are now plans to dispose of 11 more “old, outdated” buildings in order to generate an estimated £21.6 million.
Merseyside Police’s estate currently consists of 74 buildings. Nine of these buildings were built before 1945, and two of these were built before 1920. As the force says, “many of these ageing buildings are inefficient and expensive to maintain, and major repairs are required to ensure they are effective and efficient.”
Clearly there needs to be change. Despite the openings of a handful of new, state-of-the-art facilities in the past few years (namely the force’s new HQ: Rose Hill, the Matrix Training Venue which provides specialist facilities for teams fighting gun and gang crime, and the Speke Operational Command Centre, which brings the Matrix teams under one roof) a large quantity of the facilities aren’t up to scratch. Despite the impending cuts, the force has a lot to achieve in terms of updating its estate in the next 12 years:
Completing the refurb of St Anne Street — Merseyside Police’s busiest station
Building three new major police hubs in St Helens, Wirral and Knowsley
Building new police stations in Southport and Newton-le-Willows
Refurbishments at 11 further stations
As Emily Spurrell says:
All these projects are already making a huge difference – saving money, ensuring we are more sustainable, and equipping officers and staff with the right working environment to best serve our communities.
Bottom line: Clearly, we need more high quality police stations. Last summer’s spate of violent incidents proved that. Despite some more positive trends in terms of falling crime rates, serious violent crime remains a big issue across Merseyside. In 2020 the National Firearms Threat Centre found that more than 70% of weapons in the UK came through the port in Merseyside. Balancing that need for improved facilities with the looming cuts facing Merseyside Police will be a huge challenge.
Your Post briefing
Eight people were arrested at the Merseyside derby this weekend after a police officer and female fan were struck with bottles. Those arrested were held on suspicion for tragedy chanting and ticket touting, with Merseyside Police describing the behaviour as "totally unacceptable". The officer who was hit by a bottle was treated at Anfield for a laceration on his face, while the condition of the female fan has not been revealed. The police are now appealing for more information from Liverpool and Everton fans to help identify the people responsible for throwing the bottles.
Market traders in Birkenhead are considering shutting up shop after Wirral Council altered its plans to move the market. The market — which is currently located in the Grange Precinct — was set to be relocated to Grange Road, with traders generally happy with the move. However, the council has now submitted a plan to the government to temporarily relocate the market to the old Argos building on Princes Pavement. In response, traders have called the plans “grossly unfeasible” and threatened to leave the market altogether.
Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram has launched a new gaming initiative which is set to encourage people in Merseyside to enter the world of video game creation. Titled GameChangers, the initiative provides new funding opportunities and partnerships with video game creators across the region. Rotheram said it would "support the next generation of video game creators, [and] nurture their imagination".
Wirral Council has announced it will give out nearly £150k to local organisations to deliver events and activities in preparation for Liverpool City Region's Borough of Culture in 2024. As part of those plans New Brighton will host an arts festival, and both the Floral Pavilion and Williamson Art Gallery are set to host events later in the year. The council said there would be a "clear geographical spread" for the year of culture, after councillors raised concerns there would be a focus on eastern Wirral for the programme.
Home of the week
This three bedroom semi-detached house in Huyton is on the market for £170,000. It boasts a feature fireplace, a bright conservatory and neutral decor throughout. Find out more here.
🎃 Europe's biggest touring halloween show returns to Liverpool Olympia this Saturday with circus performers, DJs, and plenty of spooky decor. There are just a handful of tickets left — buy one here.
🍷 Head to Duke Street Market on Tuesday for an evening of wine tasting with R&H Fine Wines. The session is led by an expert and offers an array of reds, whites and rosés. Find out more here.
📖 Respected horror writer Ramsey Campbell sits in at the Athenaeum this Wednesday to host a talk about what horror means to him. Attendees can quiz him on any of his esteemed titles, including The Face That Must Die, Incarnate, and Midnight Sun. Buy a ticket here.
🛍️ Over 120 local and independent pop-up shops come together on Saturday at the Exhibition Centre Liverpool for Good Market XL. As well as opportunities to shop, there will be live DJs, masterclasses and talks throughout the day. Find out more here.
Our favourite reads
How did Liverpool make the remarkable transition from a bastion of working-class Toryism to the most left-wing city in the country? For Liverpolitan, writer and historian David Swift examines that question, and even looks at where Liverpool has similarities with Iran. Yes, Iran. Swift argues that unusually, “Liverpool has undergone this Labour revolution with a much weaker, organised Labour movement than other cities”, and has the history to back it up. It’s a very long piece, but fantastically well researched, and if you enjoy it then look out for Swift’s upcoming book next year, which will be called Scouse Republic? A Personal History of Liverpool.
The Guardian’s Rachel Cooke returns to Liverpool after a long time away, and finds both beauty and, well…the opposite of beauty. Two sights in particular make Cooke’s “heart ache”. First, the fact that next to “Peter Ellis’s beautiful proto-skyscraper of 1864, Oriel Chambers” now sits a branch of Hooters (Post readers might remember our trip to the ‘breastaurant’ last Christmas). Second, the fact that The Wellington Rooms — where past societies “danced the night away having been delivered there in carriages and sedan chairs” — sits derelict. Do you have a Liverpool sight or two that fills you with burning rage? Let us know.
Letters from readers
I live in Anfield and work in 'posh', pretty Falkner Street, in beautiful Blackburne House. It takes me an hour to travel in, via a walk and a bus ride. I partly do this as I can't, on my relatively low wage, rent near where I work. I know a number of people who do this. Not everyone who works in a fairly affluent area can afford to live there — and commuting in, up to an hour each way, is not unusual for people in the North end, ‘A tale of two cities: how do we answer the north Liverpool question?’, Tracy
What would really get lots of cars off the roads to the city centre would be to bring the former outer loop rail line back into use, providing an ecologically clean, quick way for people from Halewood, Gateacre, Knotty Ash, West Derby, Broadway, and Walton, etc to get into town. Funding was withdrawn in the late 1970s but the track bed is still there and is planning protected, ‘Two thirds of all journeys in Liverpool are made by car. Can the council’s new active travel plan change this?’, Bill Watson