“Have faith and try and change the world”

These are the words of Lord (Phillip) Gould, the famous political strategist, shortly before he died in November.

I note from time to time a general lack of faith in the ability of Blackpool to continue the seismic and fundamental change it has been through in the past decade. 

Some of this stems from previous failures, such as the casino bid which fell at the final hurdle – and I do get that – it is hard to pick ourselves up repeatedly and keep fighting – hard but necessary.  But the more common critique appears to be one based in a fatalistic view of the town, and a fundamental mistrust of human nature, to which I am afraid I don’t subscribe.

£400 million has been invested in Blackpoolin the past 15 years. The tramway, Comedy Carpet, sea defences, Nickelodeon Land, the refurbished Tower, Madame Tussauds and the Winter Gardens are all rightly taking their place on the national stage. 

We have a strong arts and cultural offer that will only grow stronger in the coming years, so I don’t accept that the issues the town faces are insurmountable. 

What I do think is that we need to be realistic about what we, the Council can do, under our current financial and bureaucratic restrictions, and how we can best work with the private and third sectors to really make a difference.  I know that I have said similar things in the past, but perhaps now is the time to be thinking about how we can also best work with the rest of the public sector to lever in some of the support we need.

Liverpool City Council has agreed a “City Deal” with the coalition Government – which is an ambitious scheme to generate economic growth in the area.  The proposals include:

  • Designating an enterprise zone covering the ‘city fringe buffer zone’ and central business district , along with plans to develop a further five ‘mayoral development zones’
  • The creation of a ‘mayoral investment board’ to oversee economic and housing strategy and the Homes and Communities Agency’s land assets (the HCA have stewardship of a number of sites in Blackpool)
  • For the Department for Work & Pensions to work with the city to develop welfare pilots to deliver a localised programme of support for people leaving the Work Programme
  • A secondary school investment plan funded by the council to build up to 12 new secondary schools including at least six academies
  • The release of a further £75m from the Department for Communities & Local Government for economic development initiatives – subject to the Treasury clearing business cases – that will contribute to a £130m “single investment pot” of public and private funds

To my mind, this deal will allow Liverpool, and her new directly-elected Mayor to focus on those areas which are its greatest priority. 

I have already been quite clear that although, as a party politician I have grave reservations about the direction of travel of this Government, as a Leader, I am clear that it is my job, and that of my colleagues, to find a way forward for the town within the context of a coalition government. 

I believe that many of the things we have done so far (not least reducing the number of Town Hall employees paid of £100k a year from 10 to 1) would be welcomed across the political spectrum – whilst others, such as the decision to keep 2 libraries open, and expanding facilities such as Hoyle House, ought to be.

I am hopeful that by engaging in a more positive dialogue with Westminster and Whitehall than has been the case for some time, we can attract the inward investment that we need, or at the very least, work with the Government to provide us with the tools to attract that inward investment.

My blog has been up on the blocks for a few weeks because of by-elections (anything I said during that time would have been interpreted as a political statement, so I felt it wiser to say nothing!)

Can I however thank all of the candidates who took part, congratulate the winners, commiserate with those who didn’t quite make it, and make the observation that turnout, whilst low, was better than most of us expected – indeed better than it frequently is in mid-term local council by-elections, and bodes well for the future of Blackpool’s democracy.

4 thoughts on ““Have faith and try and change the world”

  1. I have myself as have many people i know a massive distrust for our current government and the direction they so desperately want to take us all in.Although i am very pleased at how well our council has performed under extreme conditions,i myself will never trust a government that acts so irresponsibly and without any regard for the people themselves.This is why people distrust democracy so much nowadays and do not vote,because they feel that their say has no effect.I personally feel that the future of this town should be decided by us all not by some idiot nazis in whitehall who have no idea about what it means to be living in Blackpool and just how much it means to us all.I do not want to see our council tied up in strings or their hard work taken credit for by people who made no effort at all.I understand that the offer of money must be very appealing as you all just want the best for us all,however what costs will this bring in the future for us all and how much control does this give to an obviously criminal and inconsiderate government

  2. I like your call for action and your thinking, but ideas need to be more radical. Living in Leyland but a keen follow of happenings in Westminster, I think Blackpool and for that matter the rest of Lancashire needs to be way more ambitious. Forget city mayors we need mayors for counties. This will help stop the infighting between Lancashire cities and towns that led to, for example, the Tithebarn scheme being abandoned in Preston. Crucially Lancashire needs to be granted by parliament a quasi independence. Can I point you to Graham Allen MP, Chair of the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee ideas for a new ‘Magna Carta’ for local government:

    (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/phillip-blond–graham-allen-we-need-a-magna-carta-for-true-local-government-6988803.html)

    I’m sure you are familiar with them. I would like to see leaders like you galvanising the public around these ideas, because only through gaining true power, including tax and spend powers, can Lancashire and Blackpool dictate it’s own future.

    I would welcome your thoughts on the above.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • Jim, I am aware of, and am following with interest the work of the select committee. The ability of local authorities to raise and spend money unfettered by central government is crucial, and I hope that we will see a Local Government Finance Bill before the next election which seeks to address our current over-dependence on a funding formula dreamt up in Westminster. I have to disagree with you though on the idea of a pan-Lancashire elected Mayor. I believe that Blackpool’s unitary status is very precious, and whilst I continue to build very good relationships with our neighbouring authorities of Fylde, Wyre and Lancashire County Councils, I feel that either a re-absorbtion into LCC, or the creation of a wider “City of the Fylde” council would be a retrograde step.

  3. Simon would just like to applaud your latest blog. We must all look forward and work to improve things together and political bickering is the last thing we need so well done! As for Blackpool we do have some doom and gloom mongers about who criticise anything that moves, but just look at Blackpool now compared to a few years ago. The prom, trams, tower….. It is massively improved with more to come. You can’t wave a magic wand and the improvements have been coming steadily ….. and people are bginning to notice. I often run events in Edinburgh and Bristol, when people hear I’m from Blackpool I wlays get comments about the improvements being made so the message is getting out there and I’m always keen to spread the message and encourage people to visit (would save a bit of travel on my part too!). Let’s stay positive, we are where we are and we can’t change that, we can change the future and move forward.

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