THE BLOG

Liverpool's Rebirth Shows Why Mayors Matter

05/03/2013 11:34 GMT | Updated 05/05/2013 10:12 BST

Cities across the UK may have turned their backs on the idea of an elected mayor, but Liverpool did not - and almost a year on, I can tell you how important that decision has been for the city.

As a nation, we need our cities to stand up and be counted in tough economic times. The great cities - Liverpool, London, Manchester, Birmingham - are economic powerhouses which can put Britain on the road to recovery.

In 2014, Liverpool will confirm its status as a leading UK hub for innovation and entrepreneurship by hosting the International Festival for Business, a major showcase for British industry, which will bring a quarter of a million visitors of the city.

The festival will bring the world's investors to Liverpool, and show off the best of British business and innovation. It's a once-in-a-generation opportunity to promote our world-leading brands to the international markets that must become our key trading partners.

Like London, the last UK host of a major international event, Liverpool votes for its city leader, the elected mayor. My experience, as both council leader and now mayor, is that the city-wide mandate of the mayor is the best foundation from which to deliver the infrastructure and community projects needed to create jobs and growth.

A mayor offers not only a central point of executive authority, but one that is utterly accountable to the electorate. I am far more in the hands of the people of Liverpool now than as Council Leader, when my mandate comprised the 3,000 electors in my ward, and 90 city councillors.

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Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool, Charles Morgan, Managing Director Morgan Motor Company, Julie Meyer, CEO Ariadne Capital, Simon Kimble, CEO Clarion, Max Steinberg, CEO Liverpool Vision, at the London preview of the International Festival for Business 2014

The accountability of the mayoralty makes it easier to bring together key parties to deliver for the city and its people. My campaign to eradicate Liverpool's NEETS (young people not in education, employment, or training) is one example, led by our flagship apprenticeship scheme.

Developers, planners and community leaders know that I speak for local government in Liverpool above all others, and that clarity helps rid us of the great municipal disease of bureaucracy.

That is exactly what we have been doing in Liverpool, and it is, let me tell you, a city reborn. It is also, quite literally, a city in the process of being rebuilt - 2,500 new houses are currently on site, with many thousands more in the pipeline.

Next year, we will see £1bn of infrastructure projects come online, while the city's cultural soul and economic future combine at Peel Waters, the £5.5bn regeneration project for Liverpool's historic docklands.

As Liverpool demonstrates, the north continues to be an economic powerhouse, one that is modernising and adapting to meet the needs of international markets.

And it is very much as a global city that we have established ourselves in the last half-decade. As European Capital of Culture in 2008, and the first European host of the Global Entrepreneurship Congress last year, Liverpool is once more a thriving hub for the world's business and trading communities.

Next year, with the International Festival for Business, that status will continue to soar. The festival is set to be the biggest showcase for British brands in more than a generation. A quarter of a million visitors will come to Liverpool, and the ambition is for £100m to be generated in new investment.

It is fitting that we will show off the best of Britain in Liverpool, the city that more than any other epitomises the burning ambition and entrepreneurial spirit that the UK needs to fight back against the tough economic tide.

Liverpool is a trading city, part of Britain's proud history as a trading nation. And as the government has highlighted with its target of doubling exports by 2020, trade will be the key to our national recovery.

If we are to succeed in trading our way through troubled waters, one key component will be a close understanding of international markets. That's why the International Festival for Business is so important - bringing the key investors to the UK, and creating the connections that will result in new deals and contracts that bring value back to Britain.

But it is also vital that the world understands us. As an elected mayor, my position is unfamiliar and even disagreeable to many domestic observers. But to the rest of the world, it is the opposite problem - they can't understand a system where the mayor doesn't sit at the head of the municipal authority.

This was brought home to me in China three years ago, when I visited as Leader of Liverpool City Council along with the Lord Mayor. It caused confusion everywhere we went, particularly in high-level meetings that rely on ease of interaction and instant rapport. Now, when I meet the new Mayor in Shanghai this May, we will sit on equal terms.

In Liverpool, we are showing the way forward - with the scale of our ambitions, the scope of our international connections, and the structures that will underpin success now and in the future. In 2014, with the International Festival for Business, Britain and Liverpool will take on the world as one.

Joe Anderson is Mayor of Liverpool, and an ambassador for the International Festival for Business 2014 (www.ifb2014.com)