New homes, brownfield building and public transport are all on the agenda for Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram as he sets out his 10 major pledges for the area.
1. 25,000 new homes
Rotheram’s first promise is to build 25,000 new homes by 2022 to tackle the Liverpool housing shortage. Recent statistics showed that only one new home was built for every eight arrivals in the area, which is twice as severe as the national average where one new home is built for every 4.2 people.
2. Better cross-river transport
The existing Fast Tag scheme allowing people to travel through the Mersey Tunnels is expected to be made easier and more affordable. Rotheram has pledged to bring the cost down from £1.20 to £1, and a new ferry is also expected to be commissioned for better access across the river.
3. Tackling homelessness
In a bid to end “the scandal of rough sleeping in Liverpool City Region”, Rotheram will be working with the government to tackle this issue. His Housing First approach aims to get the most vulnerable homeless people into some form of accommodation as quickly as possible.
4. Rebranding the ‘Walrus’
The mayor plans to shake up the Walrus card, which is used on Merseytravel transport, to make it more similar to London’s Oyster card. He wants to rebrand and remodel the card to make it more modern and customer-friendly, with smart ticketing and new payment methods.
A “skills revolution” is expected to start with Rotheram lobbying the government to enable the National Apprenticeship Levy to be spent locally, with the aim of increasing the number of apprenticeships in the area. The idea would be to make degree-level apprenticeships available, and for a UCAS-style portal to be created.
6. Renewable energy
Working with former Dong Energy UK chairman Brent Cheshire, plans are underway for a potential tidal energy project in the River Mersey. Cheshire will bring together a business case for the project over the next 12 months before the multi-billion-pound plans can go ahead.
7. Brownfield building
Rotheram is expected to create the first ever City Region Brownfield Register, with brownfield sites being prioritised for new buildings. This is to protect the area’s green spaces after it emerged that locals were concerned about losing their parks and open spaces to building projects.
8. Improved internet
Making Liverpool “the UK’s most digitally connected region in the UK” will be no mean feat, but it’s also on Rotheram’s agenda. He wants to provide the best and fastest connectivity to homes, businesses, universities and schools across Liverpool.
9. Branding the city
To expand on the region’s global brand, Rotheram intends to bring in a new agency to tackle the reputation of the area. He said the aim will be to “capitalise on Liverpool’s positive brand…providing one front door for all those seeking to invest and do business here”.
10. Devolution ambitions
Along with other mayors of the north, Rotheram is asking the government to allow greater devolution of powers to the region in order to gain more control over local services and to gain autonomy from Whitehall.