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Liverpool City Council Funding

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:14 am on 29th October 2019.

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Photo of Jake Berry Jake Berry Minister of State (Cabinet Office), Minister of State (Cabinet Office) (jointly with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) 11:14 am, 29th October 2019

It is a pleasure to appear under your chairmanship, not for the first time, Sir George. With a general election looming, and given that there are marginal seats across north-west England, it might be the last time for a while.

I am proud to have been born in Aigburth, to have attended Liverpool College, and to have spent my entire life before the age of 18 living in the great city of Liverpool, so I was really keen for the opportunity to respond to the debate. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate, which is important not just for his constituents, but for north-west England. As a fellow north-west MP, I think a thriving Liverpool city region is about creating a thriving northern powerhouse.

I want to focus briefly on facts, because the hon. Gentleman talked a lot about the role Liverpool has played in cutting the deficit since the economic crash of 2007-08. I do not want to get into the politics of what might or might not have caused the crash, but it is absolutely clear that in an environment of reducing budgets, local government across our United Kingdom—but particularly in England, for the purposes of this debate—has played its part. However, the core spending power in Liverpool has increased every year since 2015; the increase this year will be some £9.2 million. I hope that reflects the fact that we are moving from a decade or thereabouts of recovery to one of renewal, in which local authorities must play their part, as an economic partner of Government, in driving the wider economy.

Wider investment in the Liverpool city region is so important to the hon. Gentleman’s constituents, and the constituents of other hon. Members; I am sure they would want me to focus briefly on that, before I address the two questions raised in the debate. I was really pleased that £172 million from the transforming cities fund went to the Liverpool city region. Having spent a considerable period of my life going around south Liverpool on a bike, and given that we are looking to address the climate emergency, which Liverpool City Council has been very forward-thinking in bringing to the fore, I was pleased to hear that £16 million of the fund will be invested in walking and cycling infrastructure in the city.

Another £460 million will be invested in the Merseyrail system—the Liverpool tube system, as it was described to me by a friend from London who recently visited the city. I went to school on those trains, sometimes via a slightly roundabout route. For my first job, I used to travel on the Merseyrail from Cressington station all the way to Moorfields. The trains were pretty terrible 20 years ago—or even 35 years ago, when I used to get them. I am very pleased that the money, which comes from a partnership between the council, the Liverpool city region and the Government, will be invested in the transport infrastructure.

Those of us who have spent long periods of our life sat on the Runcorn bridge will agree that the £1 billion invested in the new Mersey Gateway—£600 million was direct Government funding—shows the Government’s ambitions for the region. Many of those ambitions have been focused through the Liverpool city region devolution deal; the core funding for the devolution deal is some £900 million over the initial period. More importantly, it is about taking power, money and influence away from Whitehall and returning it to the great city of Liverpool. Those of us who grew up there in the 1980s know that Liverpool is rejuvenated, and has undergone a renaissance since the very dark days of deprivation, industrial decline and political chaos. The devolution deal is a really important step in ensuring that the renaissance continues.

I do not have to tell any MPs here who represent Merseyside seats, including you, Sir George, that Liverpool is the only city ever to have had its own Department in Whitehall. At one point, Liverpool contributed more to the Exchequer than the entire City of London. Arguably, Liverpool is the city that invented globalisation, and it certainly has always had the mercantile economy at its heart. Anything we can do to drive jobs and growth back into the city is something that we should work on together.