Mayor Joanne on her 2022 highlights and the two reasons Liverpool is perfect for Eurovision
3 months ago
For Mayor Joanne Anderson, one thing has been top of her personal agenda right through 2022 and that’s changing communities for the better.
It could be anything from getting added value from developers, so they give something extra to neighbourhoods, to bringing in eco-friendly underground bins to help clean up streets and increase recycling.
And then there’s been the added bonus of having something pretty special to look forward in 2023 – the enormous global audience for Eurovision, all with their eyes fixed on our city.
Bidding for – and then winning – the right to host the contest on behalf of Ukraine was, she says, “a no-brainer.”
“I’d say there are two things we’re really good at in this city and that’s social justice and throwing a party,” she says. “That’s why Eurovision was perfect for us, because we’ll fight and support people who are under attack or vulnerable and we know how to have the best parties.
“Supporting Ukraine and doing this on behalf of them is a no-brainer for us, although I can’t take credit for the Culture Liverpool team and how fantastic they are. All I had to do was say yes, we’re going for it.”
Beyond the opportunity of Eurovision, which only came unexpectedly after Ukraine’s contest victory in May, Mayor Joanne’s year has been focused on her triple lock manifesto priorities of people, planet and equality.
In practice that has translated into trying to get the most for communities at a time when budgets are increasingly squeezed.
“We spend about £600million a year on procuring services and I’ve introduced a social value policy that helps us get the best out of our contracts,” she explains. “We ask companies what extra they’re going to do in a community, so maybe they’ll fix a roof in a church, create a community garden or make a playground safe for kids.
“That means the value of our £600million really increases because we’re getting lots more for nothing. It’s about ensuring we get the best value in everything we do at a time when we have less and less money to do things.”
Alongside that, Mayor Joanne has introduced a community assets transfer policy that means anyone who is having a positive impact in their community can apply for land or buildings from the council and instead of charging them market price, it’s paid back in social value.
“They have to demonstrate how they’re helping people in the area and the good they’re doing,” she says, “so it helps build community wealth and empowers communities. It’s been great for breathing new life into areas and generating jobs.”
She is also proud of the landmark developments that have been able to take place thanks to funding applied for through Liverpool City Region.
“The visitor economy is the strongest part of our economy but Covid taught us all that it’s difficult to rely on, so we’ve invested our money and time into health and life sciences to attract investors in that sector and high paid high value jobs.
“We’ve had great strategic developments which will have a positive impact from a regeneration point of view and great buildings like Hemisphere in the Knowledge Quarter which will be the first net zero carbon building in the region, and the Spine which is absolutely fantastic. We’ve also got The Depot in Edge Hill – I’ve got a poster on my wall with all the different films that have been made in Liverpool – so we’re nurturing creative talent too.”
The staging of the first Liverpool Against Racism Festival and the Taste Liverpool Drink Bordeaux Festival were among the other highlights which brought the city national, and international, attention.
Those kind of events, says Mayor Joanne, are important to Liverpool even in tough financial times.
“Out of every pound the council spends, only 2p goes on culture and tourism. We could spend nothing but what would that make us as a city?
“With Eurovision, the £2million we put into that was much less than other places and that money was already in our culture budget, we didn’t take it from anywhere else.
“We’ve seen a return on that immediately, and that’s without the additional impact on hospitality and jobs in 2023 which is estimated around £25million, so we’ve got everything to gain.”
After all the planning and hard work, is she looking forward to seeing the contest?
“Hopefully I’ll be invited, but honestly I don’t even care if I haven’t got a ticket. As long as everything goes to plan I’ll be happy.”