It is self-evident that investment, jobs and skills are the key to solving many of the problems facing the country. That is no less true in my constituency, so I shall touch on those topics.
There has been a slowdown in private sector investment due to the impact of the recession and slow or stagnant recovery in the north. In my constituency, the only recent significant industrial investment is in a facility in Netherton at a manufacturing printers. The most strategic investment is in the new deep sea berth in the port of Liverpool at Seaforth. However, although there are plans to build a new road or a reconstructed road to the port, the plans for rail freight are abysmal, with just £10 million investment over the next three years. Perhaps there should be a halt to the road development until we get a better and more symbiotic relationship between rail and road investment there.
Bootle constituency has a chronic deficit of private investment as its employment base is in the public sector, at 23% in the borough of Sefton compared with 17% in the UK, and private sector job increases have not replaced public sector job loss. This is compounded by the underinvestment in public infrastructure on rail, ageing water and sewerage systems and undersupply of electricity to development sites. I hope the devolution deal will deliver on its promise to attract more investment into the area.
I want to give a thumbs-up to Mayor Joe Anderson, the chair of Liverpool city region combined authority, who has robustly made that case for the whole of Merseyside, as Ministers will testify. Gaining investment and jobs stimulated by the Liverpool2 development and improved road and rail access connecting it to the northern powerhouse will be critical.
On jobs, the stagnant recovery is reflected in job levels in Bootle, although the recession has not affected chronic unemployment. The issue of skills is a bone of contention nationally. We have managed to raise the level of skills, but there must be something wrong with an economy that can spend £20 million on a garden bridge across the Thames and £10 million on rail investment in one of the largest ports in the country. There is something wrong with that system and it must change. I hope this Queen’s Speech will change it, but I doubt it.