The political upheaval of the past few years has laid bare what we in the North have known for a long time: that our Westminster-centric political system is a broken one. Too many decisions have been taken too far away by people who do not understand – and often don’t even care about – places like the Liverpool City Region. It is an approach that has seen Northern communities starved of investment and deprived of opportunity.
Thanks to devolution, we are now charting our own course, taking more decisions ourselves, with the needs and priorities of our people and our communities’ front and centre.
We are already starting to see this bear fruit. We have delivered more than £400m of investment across the region, created more than 9,000 jobs and 5,500 apprenticeships, and launched ground-breaking projects, from a Housing First pilot to the UK’s first UCAS-style apprenticeship portal.
This is just the beginning. We have laid the foundations for a fairer, more prosperous city region – and as a former bricklayer, I know the importance of good, solid foundations. But it’s what you build on top of them that counts.
When it comes to building a fairer economy, more than 7,000 of our young people are currently not in education, employment or training locally. Denied the chance to reach their potential. Not because they lack talent, but because they lack opportunity.
An apprenticeship – and the opportunity to study later in life – allowed me to make the improbable journey from bricklayer to parliament, and now mayor of the region I love.
That’s why I have pledged to create the “Young Person’s Guarantee”. The first of its kind in the country, it is a promise of a job, training or an apprenticeship opportunity for everyone under-25 within six months of them becoming unemployed.
But it’s just as important to make sure that people are able to get to those opportunities. Too many communities currently feel left behind because of a public transport system that does not work for them. Last month, we took delivery of the first of our £462m fleet of brand-new, state-of-the-art trains – publicly owned and the most accessible anywhere in the country. This is only a first step, though.
We need fundamental reform; a system that works for the public good, not private profit – bringing together our buses, trains and ferries into a simple tap-in-tap-out transport network, complete with daily fare caps and real-time tracking.
A properly functioning, well-run public transport system is a necessity if we are to tackle the climate emergency. In 2017, I set a target for our region to be net-zero carbon by 2040, a whole decade sooner than national targets, and became the first city region to declare a climate emergency.
In the Liverpool City Region we have the capacity to be leaders of a green industrial revolution. I have been developing plans to harness the power of the River Mersey for clean, green, renewable energy through a Mersey Barrage scheme. This would provide enough sustainable energy to power up to a million homes, create thousands of jobs, and will make our region a worldwide centre of excellence in a key industry of the future.
Moving forward, I will ensure that all of our policies are measured against their impact on our “Climate Emergency” and “Zero Carbon” commitments. We have been working with Homes England to develop a Decent Homes Standard. This will include a retro-fitting programme to improve insulation, and a boiler scrappage scheme to help address energy poverty.
The Liverpool City Region has a proud history of radicalism and innovation, and I am proud to be able to continue it. Our best days lie ahead. If we are to truly fulfil our potential moving forward, we have to start by making sure no one is left behind.
Steve Rotheram is Mayor of the Liverpool City Region.