Chief executive of Downtown in Business Frank McKenna urges developers and investors to give Liverpool civic leaders time to turn the city’s fortunes around. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool business leader Frank McKenna is calling for a “reset and renewal” of the relationship between the public and private sectors in Liverpool.
Frank, chairman and chief executive of lobby group Downtown in Business was speaking after last week’s u-turn by councillors on Liverpool’s planning committee over the multi-million pound One Kings Dock Street residential scheme in the Baltic Triangle.
In December the committee refused the planning application, despite planning officers recommending approval. It was frustrating for Carpenter Investments which had worked closely with the council to get the scheme right.
In mid-January this year Alan Bevan, managing director of City Residential, warned the decision risked undermining efforts by council leader Liam Robinson and chief executive Andrew Lewis to get the development pipeline in Liverpool moving again.
Now the development will go ahead after a change of heart by councillors. Frank welcomed the decision and urged developers and investors to give city leaders more time to get the development pipeline moving.
Liverpool City Council has spent two years in turmoil after the damning Max Caller report saw Government commissioners being sent in to take over the running of the authority. The fallout saw damage to the relationship between the council and the private sector.
However, Frank believes it is now important to acknowledge there has been genuine progress made by Liam Robinson and Andrew Lewis adding that “strong collaboration” between the council and the private sector was critical to the city’s growth ambitions.
“We are well aware of the challenges the city council has faced in recent times, and this has inevitably left the business community frustrated as many initiatives have been stalled or scrapped altogether.
“We have seen that frustration bubble up in recent months, with comments and conversations that, I would suggest, are not necessarily conducive to positive private-public sector partnerships.
“Although I can appreciate that developers and investors are keen to get the city moving, we do need to take account of the fact that the city’s new leadership – at both political and officer level – have taken on a huge challenge, one that will take some time to get through.
“Not only have they inherited a poor culture, financial instability, and political turmoil, but Liverpool has suffered savage cuts for over a decade now, putting massive pressure on services, and resulting in a shrinking of personnel in those key ‘economic driver’ roles of planning and inward investment.
“From conversations I am having, at DIB public forums, and privately, I am confident that the new leadership team will turn things around.
“We need to demonstrate a little patience as a private sector – and I would simply say to the local authority to be open and honest when dealing with enquiries from the business community.”
Liam Robinson, insisted Frank, is “a genuine voice for change and progress”. He added: “Liverpool has huge potential, and the private sector genuinely wants to help the council achieve that.
“I believe that the new leadership team at the city council is keen to develop a partnership approach. The time is right for us to begin a new era of positive dialogue so that collaboration rather than confrontation is seen as the way forward.”