Post-covid Liverpool faces two year recovery but is “not back on brink”, says urban expert

Liverpool “must plan for a long haul of at least two years” in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, but its response so far shows it has “the assets, experience, resilience, commitment and ingenuity” to prosper, according to urban regeneration expert, Professor Michael Parkinson.

In a new Heseltine Institute for Public Policy, Practice and Place Policy Brief, the author behind the seminal Liverpool on the Brink and Liverpool Beyond the Brink, lays bare the devastation wrought by covid-19 on the city – the highest rise in unemployment and the highest death rate outside London – but also urges leaders to leverage some of the unexpected positives, such as decreased car use and community mobilisation.

Liverpool’s resurgent economy is badly affected as many of its main drivers – tourism, retail, music, culture, hospitality; as well as retail, residential and office development – ceased in their entirety.

The city also has more of its people living in poverty than elsewhere, often accompanied by the underlying health conditions so vulnerable to the disease.

But Professor Parkinson, the University of Liverpool’s Associate Pro Vice Chancellor for Civic Engagement, said: “Liverpool is not back on the brink of disaster as it was in the 1980s.

“Its economy is more diverse, its people more resilient and its leadership stronger. Many partners have responded well to the crisis and its leaders have been bold and decisive.”

He points to the city’s burgeoning Knowledge Quarter and associated industries, such as the “health, green and digital sectors” as “assets which will flourish in future precisely because of the nature of this crisis”.

To build on this foundation, Professor Parkinson urges city region leaders to focus on three themes; productivity, place and people; work alongside public, private and community partners; and help support the recovery at national level by working with government.

Significant energy should go towards helping the cultural sector and ensuring “existing good businesses” survive; while skills, training, apprenticeships and community programmes should target youth unemployment, with a major programme to retrofit the worst of the city’s housing stock “an obvious contender to protect both people and places.”

Professor Parkinson also makes a strong plea for the city to “no longer be a willing victim for developers” as it rebuilds.

He said: “The city must hold its nerve, develop mature relationships with higher quality developers and use its land strategically for key projects, not do development at any cost.

“And leadership will matter. Just as they have in the crisis, the city’s leaders should be good partners but bold and decisive.”

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “This study by Professor Michael Parkinson is a very welcome contribution to the debate the city is having on how best to maximise Liverpool’s key strengths to help kick start the economy after the Covid-lockdown.

“The lack of economic activity since mid-March is going to have a huge impact on a vast array of sectors, be it tourism, hospitality and construction and the city has been planning to address this.

“Michael’s analysis is spot on – this recovery is a long term effort but the relationship between Liverpool’s public and private sector has never been stronger and the growth of our knowledge, pharma and maritime sectors means the city is in a far better place to weather a recession than ever before.

“The key is to focus on those strengths and deliver a plan that attracts investment, training and jobs that meet the needs of the future.”

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