Ben Stevenson uses the situation in Liverpool to make the case for city mayors.
2008 is Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture. Many good things have come out of this year for Liverpool. The city has reportedly had a 25% increase in tourism compared to 2007 – with about three million people having visited events or venues in the city by mid May. Liverpool now has a new 10,600-seater arena (a possible venue for a future party conference?), which was recently opened by the Queen. This week has seen the opening of Liverpool One – a £1 billion development built by the Duke of Westminster's Grosvenor Estate, which was visited by 200,000 people on its opening day. Also noteworthy this week has been Sir Paul McCartney's Liverpool Sound concert, which drew a 36,000 sell-out crowd. This concert is just one of a huge number of events that have taken place this year, and also in the years leading up to 2008.
So there is much for me to be pleased about as someone from Liverpool, and doubtless Liverpool City Council deserve some of the credit for many of the good things happening in Liverpool. However, the Council has also had its fair share of negative publicity recently. The Audit Commission recently accused Liverpool City Council of being the worst council in the country for financial management. In 2007, the Mathew Street Festival – the largest annual free music festival in Europe – was cancelled. The 2005 festival brought an estimated £32 million into the region, so the cancellation in 2007 was obviously costly for the city. There seems to be a problem of identifying who is directly responsible for the late cancellation. Ongoing disputes between councillors and the former chief executive of the Liverpool Culture Company, and accusations of bullying have resulted in councilors being investigated by the Standards Board for England.