url-5

Birkenhead needs a reason to exist, and for people to invest in it. ‘Failed post-industrial town’ isn’t it. ‘Liverpool’s south bank’ could well be. The town (and Wallasey) is facing a fight for survival, of that there is little serious doubt. Unemployment runs at nearly twice the national average (at 6.6%). Long-term youth unemployment rose by 100% last year, and the towns’ shopping centres are little more than a procession of discount stores and payday loan sharks.

But their lifeline is just one kilometre away. And it might well be a rescue mission that benefits all of us. If only we were brave enough to take the plunge…

Here, then, are seven solid reasons why Google maps needs the word Liverpool to stretch across both sides of the Mersey…

1) Money

There are currently, separated by just 1,000 metres of water, two councils with a desperate battle on their hands. Budgetary black holes, services in crisis, summers of discontent predicted by Uncle Joe.

Liverpool, over the next four years, has to shed a further £143 million in savings on top of what’s already been announced. Meanwhile, five minutes away by Merseyrail, Wirral Council has to reduce its spending by £100 million over the next three years.

“We have no choice but to become a different Council, and this is going to mean radical and rapid change,” says Wirral’s Council Leader, Cllr Phil Davies. How radical? Withholding care from our most vulnerable, or engaging in a serious discussion about real change for the better? To negotiate, as Nelson Mandela said, about the things that you hold most dear.

Currently, Liverpool Council employs 19,000 staff (over 30 of whom earn over £100,000). Wirral council employs 12,000. Two councils, staring at each other from the banks of the river, running two separate departments for waste, schools, parks and leisure, housing, roads, libraries. Two of everything. And two salaries.

To put this into some kind of perspective, Glasgow Council employs 20,000 staff to keep a city of 600,000 souls running smoothly. The combined population of Liverpool and Birkenhead and Wallasey is 600,000. Yet, because of 1,000 metres of water (narrower than rivers running through many major cities), we have to pay 11,000 more salaries to fund the same level of services enjoyed by Glasgow’s council tax payers.

Does that even begin to make sense? And talk of West Wirral subsidising Birkenhead with greater Council Tax receipts is mere hand-out mentality. The greater gravitational pull of a larger Liverpool (plus the public sector savings) would easily make up for the shortfall.

2) Culture

If the Wirral is split at all, it’s right down the middle – Birkenhead has much more in common politically, culturally and demographically with Liverpool than it does with Heswall and Caldy. Let a leaner Wirral Council cater for the Dee side of the peninsula (let’s face it, they never bought into Merseyside anyway), and worry itself with the stuff that’s relevant to West Kirby (its increasingly aged population, farming, and, er agrotourism) and let the urban heartlands on both banks of the Mersey work together: the synergies are already there, and we laid the cables to connect us all 80 years ago, beneath the Queensway Tunnel. Let’s use them in a more joined up way.

The Prenton Park massive may well shout ‘we are not scousers, we’re from Birkenhead’ – but the tribalism of the terraces isn’t going to get Birkenhead, let alone Tranmere, into the Premier League any time soon. The town is dying. Either we accept managed decline, or we throw a lifeline across the water. Try throwing it west, to the gated communities of Gayton. They’d set fire to it. NewcastleGateshead realised they had more that united them than divided them, and they’ve grown as a result of it. We need some of that thinking here. Only Birkenhead doesn’t have any value as a brand. So it should make way for the money shot.

3) The River

Peel wouldn’t say so publicly, they’re far too shrewd (unlike us), but the Liverpool City Region is nothing more than a municipal fudge. Secretly, they see Wirral Waters (main pic) and Liverpool Waters as the north and south banks of a brave new city: and a river runs through it. Wirral born Peel Development Manager Richard Mawdsley, at a presentation for Wirral Met College last week, said, of the Mersey that it should be seen ‘as a feature, not a barrier’. Currently, as far as Birkenhead is concerned, it’s the latter. A sea-change in the way we see the river is the only way Birkenhead will secure a route out of its problems.

Some are already ahead of us. Stena Line already operates a service they advertise as Liverpool to Belfast – that it technically leaves from Birkenhead doesn’t seem to have stopped the world turning on its axis.

And while we’re at it, let’s look at other cities with rivers…

There are many, many cities across the world divided by a river at least as wide, or wider, than the width of the Mersey between Liverpool and Birkenhead. From Louisville Kentucky, to Kiev, Sydney to Seoul – vibrant, economically successful conurbations that join hands across the water. Build a bridge – like the Wonhyo in Seoul (pic), or the 1.5km Paton in Kiev, and suddenly, the Mersey’s banks are closer than ever, and any argument about the two locations being separate becomes all but academic.

Yes, the Mersey should be what connects us, not what cleaves us in two.

4) Identity

People with a penchant for looking backwards, not forward, will claim that Birkenhead, of Viking stock, and Liverpool, of Anglo-Saxon heritage are like oil and water. But is this a valid argument for the 21st century? Yes, the two have proud and discrete histories. And, yes, we’ve got previous form – usually coming to blows over ferry rights. In Lewis’s Topographical Dictionary of England, Birkenhead’s right of ‘ferryage across the Mersey, granted by charter in 1318’ was the hot political potato of the 19th century, as Liverpool sought to claim the river rights. Fortunately, these days, we have Merseytravel. And they rule over everyone.

Every major city in the world is, as the cliche goes, a collection of villages. A city in pieces and parts: distinct regions, each with their own identity, history and rhythms. London’s boroughs, New York’s, even Paris’ arrondissements are, at once, separate entities and part of a greater whole. Birkenhead’s identity, I’d argue, wouldn’t be lost, but strengthened. Look at how distinctive New York’s East Village is, or the Rive Gauche of Paris. Yet, conversely, how little known Almada is (it’s on the opposite bank of the River Tagus to Lisbon, but because it doesn’t sit under Lisbon’s jurisdiction, the pleasant town doesn’t benefit from the pull of the city’s brand. And doesn’t get anywhere near the same tourist cash.) Which brings us to…

5) Tourism

Where does the Grand National take place? Aintree? Liverpool? Sefton? Liverpool can’t say it’s a city-based race, for fear of seeming predatory towards its geographical home, Sefton. But no one in the world thinks the Grand National is a Sefton race – no-one other than Sefton councillors, that is. The racecourse ends just yards from Liverpool’s borders, but geography isn’t the issue here, it’s association. Liverpool is the brand. And the brand’s hero shot? Liverpool’s iconic waterfront. But for tourists wanting ‘that’ snap, the only way to get it is to hop over the water (it’s incredible at Seacombe Ferry at dusk!)

Hotels along the Birkenhead waterfront (one train stop from Liverpool ONE, remember) would have the view. But try getting a tourist to stay in Birkenhead. No chance. Try getting a tourist to stay on Liverpool’s south bank, in the cultural ‘Birkenhead’ district – a stone’s throw away from Hamilton Square (second only to Trafalgar Square in London for having the most Grade I listed buildings in one place) and, voila, a desirable tourist district emerges. See, it’s all about the association. Not the place. Cities with an easygoing ‘south bank’ see a healthy spike in tourism (Stockholm’s Södermalm (pic), London’s south bank, New York’s Brooklyn). These Sunday morning decompression zones, away from the buzzing nightlife and shopping of the centre, but comfortably close to dive into them, are tailor-made for tourism. And no-one’s arguing against tourism as Liverpool’s most-likely lifeline. Liverpool’s compact core doesn’t have a chill out zone. Yet.

The Wirral is already beating Liverpool when it comes to great restaurants, so why not turn Hamilton Square into a dedicated food zone, like London’s Borough Market? It’s closer to the city (and prettier) than Lark Lane.

Which brings us to…

6) Events

We all know about the unholy mess surrounding the Liverpool Marathon – with ‘commercial pressures’ (read Liverpool ONE, we’re guessing) putting a dampener on the proposed route and, to date, cancelling the event altogether. A suggested alternative, to finish in Birkenhead, was given short shrift. But if Birkenhead was a district of Liverpool, would it seem quite so ridiculous a proposal? Liverpool’s Strand is an important artery to cut off. Birkenhead’s Woodside (or the handsome piazza outside the Town Hall) would make for a suitably grand finishing line. It’s just, well, it’s just not Liverpool. New York’s Marathon (which jogs through all five boroughs) finishes in a park. Why can’t ours finish in the world’s first public park? In the Liverpool district of Birkenhead?

Hamilton Square was modelled on the graceful geometry of Edinburgh’s New Town: a place with more squares than a Moleskine geometric jotter. Lively ones, too. Sadly, Hamilton Square is windblown and forlorn these days. Birkenhead’s Town Hall ceiling still sags, while the Council dither over its future use, and a John Peel centre for performing arts seems an ever-diminishing pipe dream.

These days, the town hall’s only use is for births, deaths and marriages. The town itself? Always the bridesmaid. But the waterfront, the Square, and the swift transport links make riverside Birkenhead the perfect backdrop for concerts, Biennial installations, film locations pop up markets and expos. All we need is Liverpool.

7) Trade

There is no doubt, Liverpool is a strong global brand. Next year, the International Festival for Business will see 60 days of business expos, seminars and keynotes. Business leaders from across the globe will descend on the city. And event organisers, Clarion, have scoped out 70 venues across Liverpool to host talks, dinners and award ceremonies: but none in Birkenhead. Wasted opportunity? We’d say so. Imagine all those photo opportunities of ‘that’ view, from Wallasey Town Hall, or Fort Perch Rock, or Woodside Ferry Terminal?

There is also no doubt that The Great Float, the ‘inland sea’ that runs three miles inland from the Mersey between Birkenhead and Wallasey is unmatched anywhere along the north bank of the river. It is, simply, prime business real estate (with that stunning view of Liverpool’s waterfront). Unlike Liverpool, where the docks are built along the coastline, and the growth of a new cruise facility must be priority number one, Birkenhead’s inland system etches out a watery wonderland of trade and export opportunities.

The new International Trade Centre (which will be the largest in Europe, when it’s completed next year) will see companies from Asia set out their stalls. But they’re coming because, as Clarion’s James Gower puts it, “they understand Liverpool. It’s a city that punches well above its weight globally.” In other words, Birkenhead’s already trading on the fact that it’s, essentially, Liverpool. And Liverpool? It gets twice the docks, twice the brownfield development sites, and the ability to sell offices with a view to die for. Trade and commerce is our future. We’ve been municipally minded for too long. And whatever you think of Birkenhead as a part of Liverpool one thing’s for sure: it’s gotta beat ‘Liverpool City Region’. New York’s five boroughs work together as one council. Now that’s a city. What say we have a bit of radical thinking for once?

Liverpool can save Birkenhead. But, with a bit of joined-up thinking, we’d say the reverse was also true.

So, come on, tell me. What are the arguments against? Oh and, by the way, I live in Birkenhead, and love it. I’d just like to see it have a future as proud as its past.

  • John Walker

    …light the blue touch paper talking about streamlining Council jobs! Yet Merseyside Council geographies have long held back the primary economic driver of the region, Liverpool city centre (still ongoing with City not Merseyside Mayor..). Just look at the long, thin boundary of Sefton – with wealth, power and ‘demand’ 19 miles up the road?

    For the north Wirral economy a change may be useful, certainly so for Peel to deliver economic benefit on both banks of the Mersey. Cities compete globally (even over national identities in many respects), thus in offering more under the ‘brand Liverpool umbrella’ would work for both sides of the Mersey.

  • david

    yes, we’re aware this advocates a night of the long knives for public sector workers. But, you know, it’s a long game.

  • Interesting

    An interesting and thought provoking piece. The workforce figures look a few years out of date though, and include staff at the 150 odd schools in the city. Strip that away and the council employs closer to about 8,000. Only directors earn over £100k in Liverpool now – the rest will be secondary school headteachers – that’s the going rate these days.

  • http://www.facebook.com/koolchiefrocka Dave Coakley

    I’m from Wallasey but I have always believed in a greater city that spams two banks of a river. In an ideal world, for me, Liverpool would span the Mersey and would be ran by a democratically elected Mayor for the whole city region. That mayor would have powers over all transport matters and would pay the tunnel debts off making the road from west to east free. The city would then collaborate with private partners such as Peel to create a second overwater crossing….perhaps running over the top of a Mersey Barrage. There are however major barriers in the way of that dream. Some you have mentioned….a few you have not.

    Politics:
    WBC has twice applied for city status, itself. Why would the career politicians that make up Wirral’s corrupt council dilute their position by joining up with Liverpool? The council is also the biggest employer in the area. If jobs were to go to follow other city regions example there would be even more poverty in the short term. Wirral sees Wirral Waters as its future bid to become an undeniable city. It plans a University of Birkenhead/Wirral overseen by Wirral Met within Wirral Waters and it sees the float as the future downtown area of a Wirral city.

    The elephant in the room – the tunnels:
    If Liverpool became a greater city spanning the river, it would be the only city in Europe that places a charge on half of its inhabitants entering its city centre from the west. I really don’t think people in Liverpool have any idea how divisive the tunnel tolls issue is and how much they are resented by the people of the Wirral. The tolls are seen as a

  • http://www.facebook.com/koolchiefrocka Dave Coakley

    The tolls are seen as a tax to enter the city. An unfair tax in that 70% of the usage is by Wirral people. People dependant on those tunnels because there is no rapid rail in the east ‘rust belt’ of Wirral.

    Merseytravel is not without blame for the separatism that exists in ‘Greater Liverpool’. Their natural belief, as a Labour dominated entity, is to rinse as much money as possible out of the Wirral “toffs” in their nasty cars (conveniently forgetting the authorities purposely removed Seacombe rail station from the network, specifically to create demand for cars using the tolls). The fact that that money is then wasted on completely unnecessary and grand vanity projects such as the move of their headquarters to the waterfront (half empty), just adds fuel to the anger felt by the vast majority on the Wirral.

    Like it or not, as long as there is a river and a high charge for crossing that river, the city can never be a true city on two banks of a river.

  • James

    Agree with all of it except for splitting the Wirral. The rural areas of Wirral, Sefton et al benefit hugely from being part of the metropolitan area and should play their part, not just take the rewards. They would in any case be much better served as part of the city proper, just as the suburban, affluent parts of London are. It’s daft that we have the opportunity to offer so much more as a whole, and spread our visitors and wealth out and in turn generate more of everything.

    Of course any british government is unlikely to agree to any of this, as it suits them to keep us carved up. Talk of needing “bills” and it being too difficult etc etc – but they managed to resurrect the London assembly alright, didn’t they?

    The answer to me seems to be intra-council agreements, preferably led not by labour, tory etc politicians (as I can’t believe they would do it/be allowed to do it) but instead by a brand new group who put the city (as a whole) first. Merge the councils by winning power and implementing binding agreements on services and representation until we get to a point of a de-facto Liverpool Assembly status, attracting Chester and Southport to become part, with no british government involvement necessary. When you think about it, we have a fair number of MPs – if all of them were oriented to putting the city first and not to a party we’d have one heck of a voting block – a voice at last!

    And, as long as we don’t have a stupid name like newcastle-gatehead, which means nothing to the outside world and is just councilspeak. The city’s name is simply Liverpool; what people choose to put on their letterhead I say is up to them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/koolchiefrocka Dave Coakley

    ….and of course as long as city centre car parking and tunnel tolls continue to rise the complete opposite of what we want (a true cross river downtown area to rival the great world cities) will happen eg. More out of town cheap architecture shite like Cheshire Oaks (who must be rubbing their hands with glee at the latest tunnel toll rise vote) and Destination Kirkby type schemes.

  • James

    Re Wirral’s city status – don’t forget that London has a number of cities, and Manchester has two, but you’re right the career politicians clearly need displacing with new solely city oriented politicians for this to work.

    As for the tolls – it’s high time they were scrapped, and we need a (cheap!) cross-river merseyrail fare zone that lets people easily get about the “city centre”.

  • Tim Tapling

    I agree with the vast majority of your comments , as a contractor who has worked extensively for MBWC .. I have seen first hand the damage that political infighting and ‘short term vision’ has wrought on Birkenhead and it’s population. The lack of any long term strategy by successive Councils and their abdication of all responsibility for the regeneration of the borough to the ‘developers’, such as Peel, Neptune & Riverside etc. has been a disaster . That said ; to further delineate the Wirral on the basis of Deeside versus Merseyside and to view Deeside as not being engaged with Birkenhead’s decline is in my view flawed : My reasoning is this .. Many of the people responsible for creating much of the wealth that has been and is being generated in Liverpool and in Birkenhead, currently / in the past, have chosen to live on the Deeside of the Wirral and their engagement in any future that Birkenhead has ,is absolutely essential, because they are the people whose business’s will be the investors, ‘movers & shakers’ and long term employers , just as they already are . Also, many of the people of the Wirral are just as deprived in terms of employment, culture and opportunity , as some of the areas of greater Liverpool, on both sides of the theoretical divide . They also often work and ‘play’ in Liverpool and make a significant contribution to the economy of Liverpool . Any plans to intergrate Wirral and Liverpool must include the entire community on both sides of the river. Historically the success of Liverpool and the Wirral have always been interlinked and this theoretical divide needs to be closed . A good first step would be for the Tunnels to be pulled into the national road network and tolls to be scrapped . This idea is a massive undertaking but I agree that this is the time to get busy to make this idea a reality .. we have all had more than enough of ‘sticking plaster’ reactive politics at the local level .. we need to get proactive and find our own solutions to bridge the river and turn the ‘greater’ Merseyside area into an economic powerhouse that the founders and creators of both Liverpool and the Wirral would recognise , as the culmination of their faith & vision that originally empowered & drove the building of both .

  • http://twitter.com/StuRobarts Stu

    Great piece – certainly an idea worth considering.

  • david

    You’re absolutely right – the tunnel tax is an abuse of power by those pocketing its receipts, pure and simple. It’s a barrier to growth, not a benefit.

  • david

    That’s a fair point, Tim. I see no reason why a super city can’t develop incorporating all the boroughs, similar to New York.

  • Tom

    The main thing stopping the integration is the tunnel fare- both mentally and financially it sets a barrier, that you are ‘entering somewhere different’. For those on low income it also is the difference between going into Liverpool and not. While to many it seem a trivial amount of money, to many it doesn’t. Without addressing the issues around that fare, no change will occur. Also worth considering are the promises made regarding the fare being lifted ‘once the tunnel was paid for’ that fell by the wayside.

  • Ian Prowse.

    Fabulous piece David.

  • Joe

    A good read, but I wouldn’t be so quick to write off West Wirral. I’m from Heswall, and like most of my peers I associate heavily with Liverpool rather than Chester and Cheshire.

    Attitudes have changed markedly in the past decade and I, like many others, would be all for a Greater Liverpool.

  • Andrew

    The future of Merseyside is Liverpool. This has been acknowledged by the local authorities in the Liverpool Vision attack brand of “Liverpool”. Look at how disunity has lost us HS2. HS2 Ltd assumes that Wirral is not part of Liverpool’s demand due to weird ONS Urban Area definitions.
    But what about East & North Liverpool? If Wirral is part of a Liverpool Local Authority, then isn’t Bootle, Crosby, Knowsley etc?
    I think the solution lies in a Liverpool City Region with a City Region Mayor. The natural boundary would extends beyond Merseyside, but how to include outlying areas and isn’t easily resolved. An interim solution could be a county name such as Greater Liverpool or Liverpool Bay Area.
    This is the elephant in the room issue of the city region; poor governance and lack of cohesive leadership, each LA fighting it’s own position and missing out on the bigger picture. Compare this with Greater Manchester (the name says it all really). This stems form Liverpool’s demise and the perceived need for neighbouring boroughs to distance themselves from the toxic Militant brand and “managed decline”. The tide has turned and Liverpool is growing in economic importance and population. We need to pull together more politically to get the kind of clout that Gtr. Machester does.

  • Mark McNicholas

    How about a Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake that would attract the world’s golf community (playing and watching) and media to the region?? Oh too late, already done apparently!! It’s how the outside world see us, not a parochial spat between north enders v south enders, purple binners v wools etc etc

  • James

    I don’t think that most people from outside of Liverpool perceive the tunnel, toll or river as the border of Liverpool, but that this is an internal issue to do with separating the populations.

    While this is important to remove to integrate the city centre as a whole, more pressing is that with the advent of councils being told they can keep business rates proceeds, Liverpool can’t afford to direct business over the river whether it be tourists, shoppers or companies.

    The city as a whole needs to create its own unitary authority, comprised on both sides of the river of politicians whose goals are aligned to this end – this has to come first to “integrate” the area as a city and start sharing those benefits out, and realistically it’s the only way those tolls could ever be eliminated.

  • http://twitter.com/philipstratford Philip Stratford

    Fantastic article, how do we get this on the political agenda? I don’t know much about LCC’s governance, but Wirral Borough Council’s has been appalling for as long as I’ve been old enough to understand it.

    At first I agreed with your suggestion of splitting the Wirral and leaving those who’d rather associate themselves with Cheshire (I met plenty when I worked in Heswall) to do just that, but in light of the comments from West Wirral residents here, maybe I’m wrong.

    I always tell people I’m from Liverpool when I travel. It’s easier. It’s a place they’ve heard of. And I’m proud to be associated with the city. If anybody who knows me ever disputes my assertion that I’m from Liverpool, I make the point that Wallasey (my home town) is, in practice, as much a suburb of Liverpool as most of the ACTUAL suburbs of Liverpool, and geographically closer, too.

    I also have to agree that the tunnel tolls would need to be scrapped. Not in the usual “It’s disgraceful, the debt should be repaid and the tolls scrapped” kind of way (though that’s valid), but because it would enforce an artificial barrier between the banks of the Mersey. Perhaps with the huge savings that could be realised with the merging of governmental and administrative functions, there’d be enough surplus in the budget to do without the subsidy that the tunnel toll provides.

  • James

    Being that I can’t imagine any existing politicians on either side as being willing to even listen to such suggestions (and probably outright hostility to the idea at a national level), I say the way to get it on the political agenda is to put it on there yourself.

    A group of passionate city citizens willing to take on the status quo, get themselves elected, win power in Liverpool councils and introduce it.

  • John Bradley

    :Liverpool has a Viking heritage Tue Brook us names after a Norse God, Croxteth and Toxteth are both Viking in origin.

    The original Plan for Merseyside included West Lancs, Halton and Elsmere Port and Neston and Chester. A proper county council will more responsibilities would be the best but I doubt that will happen either.

  • John Bradley

    Liverpool has a Viking heritage Tue Brook is named after a Norse God, Croxteth and Toxteth are both of Viking in origin.

    The original plan for Merseyside included West Lancs, Halton and
    Elsemere Port and Neston and Chester. A proper county council with more
    responsibilities would be the best but I doubt that will happen either.

  • Jane

    Fantastic piece. Really interesting idea, like the comparisons with London’s political structure and really well written. Don’t agree with the idea of splitting the Wirral and really dislike the comments about folk from Heswall/Gayton, where I grew up and my parents still live. Can’t abide stereotypes at the best of times…! I always associate more with Liverpool than Chester as do most of the people I know. Agree with Tim Tapling’s comments about the Wirral split. I would also have thought people from all over the Wirral are strong supporters of/heavily involved in Liverpool’s thriving music/arts/cultural scene, to the benefit of both sides of the water.

  • Gim Jill

    The future of Liverpool is Manchester so get over it

  • Dave R

    Radical thinking indeed – and innovative, insightful, progressive and, seemingly so obvious, it’s incredible why it’s not happening. No doubt politics will get in the way should anyone ever sit up and take note.

  • Kate

    An interesting article that raises good points. Growing up on the Wirral we were always involved with Liverpool for shopping and culture, however I was always amazed at some of the negative attitudes people in Liverpool had towards us. Whether it was the myth that everyone over the water was rich and posh, I don’t know, but Wirral suffered as much as Liverpool during the 70’s and 80’s, particularly in the industrial, urban areas between the motorway and river.
    It seems to me that a lot of the problem is to do with how the region is branded. ‘Greater Manchester’ consists of 10 different councils and have created a combined authority to determine what’s best for their region. It doesn’t have all the answers (& can argue amongst itself!), but could be a template that Liverpool/Wirral/Chester/Merseyside could use.
    The river is a barrier in the mind, not helped by the tunnel charges that underline the differences. Everything else can be overcome if people wish it.

  • Steve

    Of course you could just go the whole hog and create a larger area called “South Manchester” or would that be going too far…. We do need progress but we don’t need 1 kilometer high tower blocks in Wirral, has no one learned from 9/11.

  • Jimmy

    The article highlights how Wirral is already considered to be ‘de facto’ Livepool
    by a lot of people from outside the area, and cites a load of Chinese investors
    who are due to come and invest in our borough as examples. If we are already
    benefiting from our proximity to Liverpool in this way, then I see little gain
    in making such a massive and significant administrative change to local
    government.

    I really don’t see how The Wirral would benefit from surrendering it’s major
    towns so that they can be consumed by Liverpool City Council, especially when
    it might just be the case that the borough of Wirral and it’s townships of
    Birkenhead and Wallasey might actually have quite a bright future ahead of them?

  • T.Pennington

    This is absolutely brilliant, but I would agree the tunnel tolls do make it feel like you are entering and leaving two seperate places. I think the fees would have to go. Marvelous thinking though.

  • David

    Few wirralians would argue against Birkenhead needing to die. Lets just speed the process up

  • James

    Wirral doesn’t benefit from being part of Liverpool, it simply feeds of the scraps.

    In turn, Liverpool only gets scraps itself as those with power in this country handily prefer not to see what everyone else sees (a single city) preferring instead to place us in a league below the reality (cue decisions such as HS2).

    Why would anyone look at things how they are and suggest that feeding off scraps of scraps is presenting anyone with a bright future?

    I agree that Wirral shouldn’t surrender anything to a city council though, instead it should be part of a new Liverpool Assembly.

  • Andy

    Very, very good article.

    The decline of Birkenhead town is both shocking and desperate, and I have rarely, if ever, seen a people so lacking in hope and opportunity. I visited last weekend, taking a walk on Sunday morning and Birkenhead left me with a severe case of the Blues. Only an Eastern European accordianist standing outside the old WH Smiths managed to capture the mood. He was the only man with a smile on his face. The contrast with the atmosphere on Bold Street was piercing and sharp.

    The Peel development is a generation away. The tunnel is more excuse than reason. Give people a reason to cross, and they will come. Create an art scene. Make it cool

    Seriously, the best bet for immediate re-generation would be to encourage in bohemian artists and free thinkers. Utilising the cheap (and excellent) buildings that surround Hamilton Square and areas of Birkenhead Park. Location, affordibility, heritage – tough, mean streets. Perfect for artists. Warehouse flats, pop up shops. London’s East End and the South Bank have shown how it can be done. Liverpool has as much cultural talent and more – they have been priced out of central Liverpool. So lets go

    Birkenhead Market was once the envy of the north-west. The current market is a travesty. Re-invent it on Hamilton Square. David, what a fantastic idea. How do we start? Don’t just write this article and disappear, use your contacts, make a few calls

    Come on. There needs to be a craft brewery in Birkenhead north, a gallery on the park. I saw the work of some great young artists in New Brighton, 6th form kids from Wallasey – making fantastic art. Give them a platform. If they need inspiration, they need only look around at the desperate situation around them and they’ll have enough for a lifetime

    I for one would be interested to hear from anyone with ideas or who is looking to invest (andilloyd2000@yahoo.co.uk)

    The responsibility is ours, not the governments. Anyone who cares enough to write on this blog has an interest. So let’s do something about it

    Andy Lloyd

  • jane2

    nasty narrow minded stereo types about West Wirral, you obviously have a chip on your shoulder.

  • sparks

    I would love a bridge , I lived in birkenhead for a time and felt trapped on an island. something horrible about tnot being able to walk to a city such a short distance away.

  • Virgil_Caine

    If we sweep aside the symbolic and cultural violence expressed that attempts to suggest that the Birkenhead/Wirral identity isn’t worth keeping and that the Liverpool cultural and historical identity is the only one for the area worth having. If we buy into the belief that basically everything on the Wirral/Birkenhead side is shit and everything in Liverpool is booming! If we also take on the underlying discourse of trickle-down economic development that sees benefit brought to all. And if we’re willing to allow Liverpool City to extend their tax base over the water from New Brighton down to Bromborough (roughly) in order to aid the expansion of the city and help deal with the large pockets of poverty throughout the city of Liverpool that have either been ignored or have had their areas gentrified and has resulted in people being pushed from their homes. Well if we agree with all that, well then maybe there is merit to this…

  • Ljx

    Bloody, bloody well said and so glad you mentioned the new international trade centre which will create hundred’s of jobs and maybe finally put Birkenhead on the map. I live in Claughton Village and have worked in Heswall for just over a year. Previously i have always worked in Liverpool and the annual tunnel cost is approximately £720 a year, that’s a holiday and a good one at that, then you add parking and petrol and it all becomes hellish expensive. Maybe now is the time to build a bridge, perhaps someone could whisper in Peel’s ear? PS I remember bringing a boyfriend over to the Wirral years ago and he said to me ‘Do you get Radio City over here?

  • James

    I haven’t heard anyone suggest anything of the kind, and instead the notion is that the two sides of the river need each other, are weaker when separated and will be greater than the sum of their parts when put together.

    No one has suggested abolishing anyone’s identity, but instead talk has been of strengthening identities within a stronger city. Frankly, few in the UK (let alone internationally) even know where Wirral/Birkenhead is, however as part of Liverpool the intention would be that people would know those names and what they’re about, just as people know Camden, Covent Garden, Richmond, Greenwich, etc.

    There exists too much poverty in the boroughs just as much as the city, and without a stronger city better able to feed its population with work (on both sides of the river) it will stay that way.

  • Virgil_Caine

    Why does it matter to be known around the world? What is the purpose to this? Why does the Wirral need Liverpool in this way? What is wrong with just being a local ‘hub’? Why does their need to be a re-drawing of municipal boundaries, in a way that further dislocates people from their sense of place? (there is broader question about representative democracy in general here) How will this directly solve the problems of poverty in Birkenhead? How will a greater sense of wealth redistribution be achieved through this that will guarantee a more equitable form of benefit to everyone? How will a revanchist city agenda be mediated and avoided through this process?

    I don’t expect answers to the questions above (they are all significantly bigger and more complicated than a message board allows for) but intrinsically what is suggested in the above piece and your comment is a highly problematic neo-liberal view to development which fails to consider the uneven nature in
    which growth takes place within capitalist economies. It also represents a very materplan’ like, top-down approach to development that follows a
    civic-boosterist agenda from a pro-Liverpool perspective. It also submits to a
    competitive cities, global economy ideology that sees the need to be grabbing capital at the expense of other places. Thus the need for Liverpool to ‘grab’ Birkenhead and beyond is a loosely small-scale geo-political move in order for the city to secure its own expansion and tax base for it’s own growth needs, resulting in a highly mixed set of benefits for the Wirral. It will not in it’s current form solve the problems of poverty on either side of the water. This is due to the underlying assumptions of political-economy currently in play and further expressed in the piece.

  • edmond

    interesting read, didn’t appreciate the slight dig at lark lane though, also the name birkenhead doesn’t sound very eloquent, change that and we could be in business

  • http://twitter.com/philipstratford Philip Stratford

    Really? That’s all you’re taking from the article? This piece isn’t anti-West-Wirral at all, and your inferred offence to the contrary speaks of a chip on your shoulder, rather than that of the author.

  • http://twitter.com/philipstratford Philip Stratford

    Your points are all really valid, and you’re right, those huge questions would need to be addressed, but they’re beyond the scope of an Internet message board. However, I don’t think what’s being discussed here is a ‘grab’ by Liverpool so much as a more strategic effort to bask in the reflected glory of a city which is clearly enjoying a renaissance and experiencing economic benefits which are bucking the national trend as a result.

    North Wirral’s history and fortunes have always been tied up with Liverpool’s. I don’t think anybody is talking about abandoning the Wirral’s heritage or suggesting that it’s unimportant. To my mind, all we’re really talking about is a re-branding exercise (sorry!) to something which would better describe a situation which already exists and has done for centuries. The Wirral (at least the North Wirral) already is like a suburb of Liverpool, it just doesn’t get any of the benefits because of being separated by a kilometre of water.

  • http://twitter.com/philipstratford Philip Stratford

    Agreed, but that’s just the point. The outside world doesn’t see the Wirral as associated with Liverpool – they haven’t even heard of it. The example of the Royal Liverpool is a perfect one to illustrate the benefits that could come by association with the world-renowned city just across the water.

  • John Walker

    The Mersey Barrage, generating electricity with a road over the top? Peel has canned the idea after examining construction costs (£2bn+) versus energy returns. Shame.

    Agree, it’s not good being so close to the city and being unable to walk in, it’s such a barrier. I’ll head inland 1-3 miles to Allerton, Old Swan, Aigburth wherever to meet and greet friends, yet never venture those same distances to the Wirral side, it’s always much greater distances by train to Hoylake or West Kirby.

  • Sharon

    well said. birkenhead could very well be the brooklyn to liverpool’s manhattan. having seen the high line and DUMBO regenerating once total no-go areas you see how creative investment can transform an area and reengage the local community in a positive way, which will only serve to improve life in Merseyside for everyone.

  • James

    No, you are right it is about submitting to a competitive cities agenda, and a need to “grab” capital and expand.

    You might not think it important to be known, to grab capital and grow, but you just watch Manchester grab it from Liverpool (and hence Wirral) and grow. That might not matter to you personally, but I can tell you it matters to those in Liverpool whose jobs have moved to Manchester – with or without them. For someone on the Wirral, such a move is even more disastrous.

    It isn’t that my comment doesn’t consider the uneven nature of growth in capitalist cities – we live in a capitalist society, nothing’s perfect, I simply say we should get the best and most out of it that we can for our city, instead of sitting watching the decent jobs and prospects go elsewhere solely because we are seen as some little town at the edge of the country.

    I would also say (and the broad consensus of comments on this board seems to suggest) that actually it is the current municipal set up that is dislocating the population from their sense of place, not the changes being suggested. The representative democracy solution here is clear: a single city-wide decision making elected assembly.

  • david

    Thanks Andy (no relation?) we’re using this article as the catalyst for others – it’s not our job to impose our notion of what constitutes regeneration, but to act as an agitator, and to stir up opinion. We have a hungry website to run, but you’re right, there needs to be a next step. We’re looking into what that might be. Response from Wirral council might be nice… Hello?

  • David

    Fair point Jane. In my enthusiasm I ran away with myself somewhat

  • Jimmy

    Wirral clearly does benefit from sharing the Mersey, and from its proximity to Liverpool. The article even makes this point through referring to Chinese investors who are interested in one of the biggest investment projects in Europe, which just happens to be located in Birkenhead, Wirral, Merseyside.

    The Chinese are interested because they consider the Wirral to be a de facto part of Liverpool ALREADY, as do most people who don’t come from Merseyside. So what difference would this Liverpool Assembly make? Especially if current council boundaries remained in tact?

    The Wirral and Birkenhead really aren’t that bad of places, and the people who try to depict it as being the biggest dump in the world are normally the people who live there but haven’t lived anywhere else.

    I know loads of people who do frontline child protection work on contracts up and down the country, and I can assure you that the Wirral isn’t considered to be a bad place to work in.

    Name any town similar to Birkenhead (large, post-industrial towns) like Middlesbrough, Rotherham, Hanley, and I’d argue that the Wirral and Birkenhead are far nicer places ALREADY. And none of these towns benefit from sharing the Mersey with Liverpool, and none of them have anything like the plans that Peel have for Birkenhead. And that is why I’d argue that Birkenhead may well have a bright future ahead of itself, without having to become part of Liverpool.

  • Jimmy

    But Anfield, Kensington, Kirkdale and Toxteth are all suburbs of Liverpool that aren’t separated by a kilometer of water, and yet all of those Liverpool suburbs are just as deprived as certain parts of Birkenhead, if not even more deprived.

    What wonderful benefits is the suburb of Kensington experiencing through being a part of Liverpool? Tourists in Liverpool eschew Kensington for the exact same reason that they don’t visit Birkenhead… because there are no major tourist attractions there!

    Its like arguing that Huyton would benefit massively if they ‘re-branded’ it as being part of Liverpool and not Knowsley. But Huyton would still struggle in the exact same way that it does now, and it wouldn’t benefit from a massive influx of investment or an increase in tourist numbers just because it was considered to be yet another extremely deprived part of Liverpool.

  • david

    Sadly, there will always be suburbs – of every city – with more challenging issues than others. My point is that Birkenhead’s waterside is uniquely positioned to take advantage of its geography, opposite Liverpool’s waterfront. That’s cold comfort to Kenny, but that’s outside the scope of this article. My point was about the city having two waterfronts, and capitalizing on that potential. Anfield, god knows – successive councils and LFC have done for that place. Tragedy. Let’s hope Homebaked starts a revolution.

  • david

    i don’t have any issues with West Wirral, and I’m sorry if I sounded flippant. I love west wirral. But it’s clear that it is a very different place to the Mersey side. And the only chips I have on my shoulder are from Marigolds in West Kirby. Yum.

  • jingo

    fantastic article but why isn’t there a link to an online petition, come on people lets get this show on the road and get it in parliament, 100,000 signatures would be 1/6 of the joint population and couldn’t be ignored!

  • Jimmy

    I couldn’t agree more, Birkenhead’s potential is absolutely massive, and I would love to see it reach its true potential which would result in there being a wonderful waterfront on both sides of the Mersey. Whether Peel can carry out their vision remains to be seen, but they are big plans and they shouldn’t be sniffed at.

    I personally believe that Birkenhead belongs to The Wirral, and that it doesn’t need to become a part of Liverpool. I’d argue that becoming part of Liverpool would be more bother than what it’s worth, Wirral is known as being the ‘posh’ part of Liverpool throughout the UK already, lol.

    🙂

  • Chell

    “Two councils, staring at each other from the banks of the river, running two separate departments for waste, schools, parks and leisure, housing, roads, libraries. Two of everything. And two salaries.”

    “Let a leaner Wirral Council cater for the Dee side of the peninsula (let’s face it, they never bought into Merseyside anyway), and worry itself with the stuff that’s relevant to West Kirby”

    So you suggest to move this divide to be right down the middle of Wirral, not staring from other sides of the river, but leaning on each other’s backs?

    (Birkenhead resident, working in West Kirby)

  • Lesley

    Great idea. And as so many have said before me it needs to be backed up by a free tunnel. I live in Birkenhead but live in Liverpool and feel I am taxed heavily to get to work. If I work the evening I, unlike my colleagues cannot nip home to have a bite to eat, I am stuck in town as it would cost me another three quid to do this. And it is soon going to be more.

  • James

    Notice who the majority in favour of this are? Yep, people from the Wirral – those who stand to benefit most. You can’t, for cold economic reasons, just redraw this historical and cultural boundary; one that exists first and foremost in the hearts of minds of Liverpool people. Somebody made the claim about rebranding Huyton but remember, Knowsley is part of contiguous Liverpool and was part of the Liverpool Urban District. Most people from Huyton and other parts of Knowsley ended up there due to a population shift from Liverpool, the Wirral has always been the Wirral. Yes, Knowsley was similarly annexed but there is a point to be made about those occupy it. How would those poorer areas of Liverpool be affected by bringing Birkenhead and the Wirral into ‘Liverpool’? The effect could be far worse than those UKIP and Tory-types over the water might lead us to believe the Poles have on the city! Ok, so the pull goes both ways but if Birkenhead is so affected by unemployment it would be that area which stands to benefit. What about Knowsley? Yes, I understand exactly as David has said that he isn’t acting as a champion for the people the other side of the water but merely pointing out the untapped economic potential. However, if identity counts for anything (which, seeing as I’m so opposed to nationalisms, highlights a bit of a hypocrisy of mine) then we cannot sacrifice people who ‘belong’ to the city (from Liverpool, Knowsley and those from around the world who reside here) in favour of those who would like to. I’m sounding a little like some crazed far-right fanatic but it’s a point to be made and I think it is one that young people feel more than others: over THERE is not over HERE. The association exists on one side of the river, not both – it’s why you rarely meet a Tranmere fan in West Derby or in Kirkdale or in Allerton or in Kirkby.

  • James

    Wallassey? I know, I think I saw that through a telescope once. It’s a good thing we have rail networks and bridges and boats, wouldn’t fancy swimming home from work. But I’m being silly. Sorry. On a serious note though I’m definitely in favour of the continuation of the tunnel toll. We’re not a car-friendly city, any ways of curbing traffic flows is welcome. Yes, we could apply internal tolls but it’s more practical to do it to those using the tunnel. Also, I imagine there’s a fair amount of ‘one-off’ or ‘once a week’ tunnel-users than there are people who’d come from ‘down the road’ as it were. Although maybe the tunnel toll is to blame for that.

  • griff84

    The future of Liverpool is China- we’re the ones with the docks, we’re the ones who will benefit. You lot can stay in your grey dump.Get over it.

  • Hugh

    The Open was held at the Royal Liverpool in 2010, in fact. Not being a golf fan, I can’t comment on how it went, however.

  • david

    It’s not revanchist though, is it? It’s the opposite of that (whatever that is) it’s not about reclaiming lost territories, but suggesting a way forward that combines the strengths of both/ and I’m not ‘pro-Liverpool’ – just pro a way out of the mire that Birkenhead has found itself in. What, in other words, is the alternative? I’ve not heard one from anyone else, yet. And my examples of cities bounding both riversides is surely a key to a brighter future. The future is cities with strong brands and identities. And villages. Not this muddy hinterland that Birkenhead and Wallasey inhabit currently. Poverty can only be overcome with private investment, and money follows money. Liverpool has a tough job on its hands with Manchester breathing down its neck as it is.

  • Ianhwk

    Not a good example though as the course is just referred to as “Hoylake”.

  • Alan from Bootle

    We’d need a bridge of course; something beautiful and elegant like The Golden Gate… but it sounds plain common sense to me; I seldom visit Birkenhead but if I could walk there… who knows. I say; GO FOR IT! 🙂

  • Dreadnought

    best bit of joined up thinking i’ve heard for years. Would be a massive catalyst to the whole region. It has my vote.
    We need tunnel tolls to disappear to create cohesion.

  • magnolia

    Obviously the whole of Merseyside should be ‘Liverpool’ and the real benefit would be to give the ‘City of Liverpool’ an intelligent balanced vibrant political identity. A city with no leafy middle class areas, no wide open rural spaces, no Conservative politicians, no professional class, is an unbalanced and deluded city. Some years ago I was asked by someone relocating to Merseyside, “Where’s the ‘posh bit’ of Liverpool”, “It’s on The Wirral” I had to reply. They moved to West Kirby, they are happy there and they tell people in London they live “in a beautiful part of Liverpool”. Until Scousers stop wallowing in their self regarding sense of ‘otherness’ the city and the region will never prosper.

    I’m in trouble now…..

  • http://www.facebook.com/carol.gardnerstockford Carol Gardner Stockford

    John if you like Liverpool that much why do you live on the Wirral. ??????????

  • Chris

    David Lloyd for Mayor

  • Ed Smith

    Why not greater Liverpool, though I like the ring of Liverpool bay and the conatation with San Francisco

  • Ed Smith

    Peel planned a tidal barrage bridge between Garston and new ferry would have provided a crossing and renewable energy but they got snarled up in planning

  • Ed Smith

    Shame we can’t get the under level of the queensway opened as a subway somehow, on foot we could use all four entrances in both directions.

  • John Walker

    Have to point out that the forthcoming ‘Second Mersey Crossing’ will be tolled, with the existing Silver Jubilee bridge also tolled but heavily discounted for local residents, who along with public transport will have sole use of this older bridge. What that means for the Mersey tunnels is some form of price parity. Were they free then it would be a nightmare for all users, becoming an even greater barrier to cross-river movement thanks to whopping amounts of congestion generated through vehicles avoiding said new bridge toll, transiting Liverpool to the M58 – M6 as one notable example.

    Perhaps this issue of comparable prices has held up PFI negotiations for the ‘Second Crossing’, for it limits profit and return schedules for financiers?

    Whilst I agree that tunnel tolls are not ideal / a barrier / a tax etc (the tunnel is not paid off thanks to poor management / corruption from the 60’s to late 80’s…your toll money paid for villa’s in Spain folks!!), much could be done by Merseytravel to offer improved choice in the form of rail services to lessen future tunnel demand (upgrading Bidston – Wrexham ‘Borderlands’ line), commencing major park & ride schemes closer to the tunnel entrances, implementing specific tunnel car share schemes (with free parking for participants if meeting up on the road). Yet any initiative will lessen tunnel users and subsequent Merseytravel income to flit away on?

    With the new bridge, Liverpool will be taxed on two fronts to enter and do business. That’s not a positive at all.

  • Ed Smith

    Lets get on this i’m up for starting up a local group to fight for this. i figure no local politicos are going to help though at some stage we may as well ask.

    edwardeps@hotmail.com

  • Ed Smith

    Or better yet a barrage crossing and renewable power, would be unique as well.

    http://www.merseytidalpower.co.uk/content/mersey-tidal-power-feasibility-study

  • Ed Smith

    The tunnel toll and lack of a bridge are a big reasons for that we have no choice but to cross but why would you choose to?
    Fix that and then it’s no different to the areas you mentioned, the benefit is mutual as well council savings for starters, increased clout nationally and internationally for seconds.

    You aren’t suddenly going to haemorrhage jobs somehow any one who will cross for work already does.

  • Ed Smith

    Anyone keen on starting up a campaign on this, it was mentioned today on radio Merseyside people now should know about it. get in touch lets have a go at actually doing this.

    edwardeps@hotmail.com

    Dave would you be willing link to/ host stuff on here if we get any kind of momentum? I have acess to free hosting on the end of a gig up/down if not.but building a site is a pain.

  • Gordon

    Brilliant article David. As an incomer, I grew up in Edinburgh, studied at Liverpool John Moores and work as an Architect, I think I can see some things as an outsider and some as a resident. I came to the pool in 1994, lived there until 2008 where I moved to Claughton 3 doors from the magnificent Birkenhead Park, an almost hidden gem, as is Hamilton Square. During the last few years, I have worked in the pool, Abu Dhabi and now work in Saudi Arabia. To fulfill, it’s true potential, a city must make the most of it’s assets. Liverpool has done this to some extent. When I came down, tourism was virtually non existant apart from Beatles’ tours. Liverpool One and city regeneration is brill but I agree we need links to places like Toxteth / Lark Lane and Birkenhead. Hamilton Square is another gem which I can’t believe is dying. Wirral Council need to wake up. The property on the squares in Edinburgh it was based on, St Andrews and Charlotte have always been booming with a mixed use of residential, business and leisure. Values are talked about in £millions! Why not give next to no rent schemes, grants etc. to atrract SME’s etc. food zones quality business, residential, have gala days, quality trade, jazz, folk, food festivals, i.e 24 hours and frequest uses. Regeneration would atrract new invetsment which would stretch outwards towards the centre and Oxton. Dedicated groups of people like the travel museum volunteers get kicked not helped! Pacific Road gets shut down etc. The global solution would be to integrate the 2 sides of the Mersey as a true Liverpool City Region as Peel, the ferry people and others recognise. Sadly, we do not have the councillors with this vision.
    Gordon

  • david

    A very good idea, Gordon. Alas, the properties on Hamilton Square are dormant because of greedy landlords. A friend of mine lives there, alone on one floor, and offered to run an artist led space in the (empty) floor below, for a peppercorn rent. No joy. It’s shorttermism like this that is killing the town.

  • Jen

    You make a compelling argument for re-envisaging the city. Its timely and far-reaching in its implications. An excellent article. Seven streets at its very best.

  • John Walker

    £2.3 billion plus cost put paid to it. Ohh, and the volume of lethal heavy metals in the River bed might be an issue. I recall someone form the University digging down at foot or so at Cressington to find tragically dangerous levels of mercury and other metallic nasties. Stirring all that up would once again kill the River.

  • John Walker

    A shame indeed, it’ll be a Health and Safety no-no mind you.. You can walk under the Thames in London!

  • Andy

    I think the idea of a Greater Liverpool sounds very good. Please don’t call it Liverpool City Region though – it sounds terrible, it will be shortened to LCR anyway, and sounds too urban. Greater Liverpool (aka Merseyside) would include towns, villages and rural areas as well as the City of Liverpool, and I don’t think ‘Liverpool City region’ reflects this.

    It sounds like there is a fair amount of support for the idea. Why not start an online petition, or even arrange a parish poll referendum?

  • Marie

    I’m Birkenhead born and bred and I think that the town lost it’s way when Wirral was formed. Why? Two reasons: snobbery from people living in the affluent west about Birkenhead and rivalry from Wallasey whose residents want their own island. Decisions about this artificially concocted borough with its peculiar politics are always a fudge at best to appease the different factions. Meanwhile kids born in Birkenhead have none of the pride in their identity felt by their Liverpool cousins. To the outside world we’re all Scousers so bringing Birkenhead into Liverpool city with the rest of Wirral as part of some Greater Liverpool is a great idea. The people of Birkenhead have always had family and work connections with Liverpool. Its the professional incomers who are insular and want to keep us apart but they mostly live in west Wirral with its grammar schools and they want to protect their property prices. Discuss?

  • Steve Lamb

    I 100% agree with Andy Lloyd. “The contrast with the atmosphere on Bold Street was piercing and sharp”; this has a personal relevance to me as I love Bold St and its surrounding area with cool shops, bars, and bohemian people milling around. I have however, on writing this, just come home from Birkenhead town centre and it was, as ever, an extremely depressing experience. The precinct is littered with charity shops and pound shops and (without wanting to sound snobbish) many of the people shopping there look hopeless and lifeless. Why do so many people wear tracksuits to go out in?

    I also endorse AL’s point about Hamilton Sq (which I live near). It
    has so much potential that has been totally squandered. It could so easily have
    been an arty quarter with markets, mini-festivals, galleries, cafes, and music
    venues but there is absolutely nothing of any interest whatsoever. What the
    hell is Wirral Council playing at? This neglect is painful to see for what
    Wikipedia states “is second
    only to Trafalgar Square in London for having the most
    Grade I listed buildings in one place in England”.

    The wasted opportunity that is Birkenhead Park is another travesty. There was a period in the late 90s when there was live music and festivals on during the summer but the only event I’ve seen advertised lately is a “festival of transport” – rock ‘n roll maaaaaaan. My town has become dilapidated and I am seriously considering moving to Liverpool to escape the overwhelming negativity.

    I would love to see Birkenhead come back to life and if that means throwing our hat in with the scousers then so be it. Though with the cuts for the city that are being announced by the inept Mayor Joe Anderson that might not be the answer either. Austerity Britain is grinding down the masses and taking away every scarce pleasure we have in order to prop up a sick economic system. The choice seems simple – revolt or fade away.

  • Marie

    I’m Birkenhead born and bred and I think that the town lost it’s way when Wirral was formed. Why? Two reasons: snobbery from people living in the affluent west about Birkenhead and rivalry from Wallasey whose residents want their own island. Decisions about this artificially concocted borough with its peculiar politics are always a fudge at best to appease the different factions. Meanwhile kids born in Birkenhead have none of the pride in their identity felt by their Liverpool cousins. To the outside world we’re all Scousers so bringing Birkenhead into Liverpool city with the rest of Wirral as part of some Greater Liverpool is a great idea. The people of Birkenhead have always had family and work connections with Liverpool. Its the professional incomers who are insular and want to keep us apart but they mostly live in west Wirral with its grammar schools and they want to protect their property prices. Discuss?

  • Mr Horden House

    I am born and bred Wirral, grew up in West Kirby but starting learning about life by living in Birkenhead.I live in Australia now and it is easier to say I’m from Liverpool (as when I mention B’head it is not on the radar however I always make the point that I lived nearer to liverpool than most luverpudians). I would think a sense of pride in your home is more easily identifiable with Liverpool city than B’head. Excellent article – thanks.

  • WEG

    I’m not sure you can delineate the area down educational lines like that – in fact, many of those ‘professional incomers who are insular and want to keep us apart’ send their children to school at Birkenhead, ironically, so I’m not sure that the divide is as stark as you imagine it to be. Regarding the point about grammar schools, I haven’t met a single Calday/Wirral Grammar school student who identifies themselves with Chester rather than Liverpool.

  • Mark

    We already have a Liverpool Bay!

  • http://twitter.com/meballet Me BALLET

    I totally agree Tom,but if we are all to survive they may have to start rethinking,maybe we need a facebook group to push for this change

  • http://twitter.com/meballet Me BALLET

    Well said Andy,will contact you

  • http://twitter.com/meballet Me BALLET

    I would very much like to see this regeneration and am forming a group in the area for this contact me via twitter @meballet

  • MikeMc

    I don’t ever see the tunnel fees disappearing. Even once the debt is paid off, do people really think the tunnel will become free or even have a reduction in price? No!
    They will continue to charge us. Continue to rip us off. That is the attitude of this country. This countries general attitude is to fleece it’s own citizen dry, while running to the aid, or helping out those not from here in anyway they can. Be it the government, councils or whoever, we are second rate citizens to them.

  • Jo0Lz

    This is something that Peel are obviously looking to enact with their proposals for redevelopment
    How do you get two local authorities to recognise a synergy?
    Then get the Local Government Boundary Commission for England to review things?

  • rbgArts

    I live on the Wirral and I do say I live in Liverpool to people I work with in Manchester. Great article and very good points. I’m originally from New York, though, and I would scoff at anyone from New Jersey saying they were from New York — but I do think that’s a different issue. Different states. Different mentality about Monster Trucks.

  • Steve

    Fantastic thought provoking article- a united Greater Merseyside could help push the region further forward. Would be nice to have a council which thought more like this…

  • Guest

    I found it a very interesting article and genuinely worth exploring the issues raised in it. Will it ever happen? That will depend upon the attitude of Liverpudlians.

    Employment is the key to regenerating Liverpool, and employment requires raw materials to do so (people). Manchester has got this very right, with the ability to draw upon a large number of people from within a 45 minute travel catchment area (by bus, train and car). Liverpool can’t do the same, partly because of the geography (not many living in the Mersey) and party because of tunnel tax adds both a cost and time to recruiting from the Wirral. And the longer the tax stays, the less likely the Wirral is to house people who are working, and that lowers the overall availability of raw materials.

    So what’s in it for Liverpool? I’d say “any hope of a decent future”…..

    Best of luck to all for the future. However I can’t wait to see if it happens, so I’m moving from the Wirral to be closer to Manchester (and the jobs). Sad, but true.

  • ex-Wirral

    I found it a very interesting article and genuinely worth exploring the issues raised in it. Will it ever happen? That will depend upon the attitude of Liverpudlians.

    Employment is the key to regenerating Liverpool, and employment requires raw materials to do so (people). Manchester has got this very right, with the ability to draw upon a large number of people from within a 45 minute travel catchment area (by bus, train and car). Liverpool can’t do the same, partly because of the geography (not many living in the Mersey) and party because of tunnel tax adds both a cost and time to recruiting from the Wirral. And the longer the tax stays, the less likely the Wirral is to house people who are working, and that lowers the overall availability of raw materials.

    So what’s in it for Liverpool? I’d say “any hope of a decent future”…..

    Best of luck to all for the future. However I can’t wait to see if it happens, so I’m moving from the Wirral to be closer to Manchester (and the jobs). Sad, but true.

  • Davey

    You’re in trouble because you are talking bollocks. No leafy suburbs? Ever been to Woolton? Or Allerton? No wide ‘rural areas’? We’re a city with some of the finest parks in the country. I’d say the big delusion is those people from over the water who seem to think they are better than us. And by the way, a city without any conservative politicians suits us down to the ground.

  • mark mcnicholas

    As a St Annies lad – where do you get the no grammar schools in Birkenhead palaver – heard of Birkenhead School?? Your view on life is no different to the shoite that says all those on the Wirral side are posh and all Liverpudlians are scallies. West Kirby / Hoylake – read Woolton / Calderstones. The City’s professional classes move to the leafier suburbs, Ask lads from St Eddies / St Marys / Liverpool College where they live – Anfield and Kenny, it isn’t – no different on the Wirral side of the river.

  • Michelle

    God lets do it, I’m born and bred but had to move away to get work. I miss the place and want to come back, 2 jobs in the Wirral globe today

  • Chris Overend

    “Until Scousers stop wallowing in their self regarding sense of ‘otherness’ the city and the region will never prosper.”
    Dead right. No-one on The Wirral thinks they’re better than anyone in Liverpool; I’ve heard Scousers say this before and it’s rubbish. And what’s the sentiment behind it? Is it “They’re not better than us; we’re better than them,” or is it “They’re not better than us; we’re all the same”? One way, it’s just as bad; the other, what’s the problem?
    In terms of social economics, it’s an estimate but I reckon 90% of people on the Wirral live closer to Liverpool City Centre than 90% of Liverpool, and can get there more cheaply – and quicker.
    Having the councils divided for two conurbations that are probably more closely related in identity, culture and history, than any other pair of river-facing industrial towns/cities in history, is madness, and would be dealt with if it weren’t for the people whose decision it would be—the councils of Liverpool and Birkenhead—each potentially losing power and influence.
    It’s a conflict of interests that they should make the decision – it should be taken out of their hands and enacted by Government, as it clearly makes sense. Good article.

  • Jacko

    The two worst things that ever happened to Birkenhead was being rebranded as part of Merseyside. Oh! and the ruining of the bus services by being merged as Merseytravel. The only good thing about this article is the reduction in costs with a merged Authority. But I wouldn’t mind betting who’s jobs would be lost in the Greater Liverpool shake up !

  • Paul Thomas

    Only forty years ago one could get a direct train line to London from Woodside. Why not campaign to get high speed two to end in Birkenhead? With a direct high speed link to London and Europe via the channel tunnel Birkenhead would certainly rise again. All talk of links with Liverpool are backward until the tunnel tolls are completely removed. How can a city be divided by a tunnel tax? No business would locate on both sides of the river if they were subject to a constant tax on top of the road tax they already have to pay for all their company vehicles.

  • James

    I think it’s a little quixotic. I’m not sure what problem it would solve and some of the numbers are way out (national unemployment is not 3%, it’s currently 7.8% in England, which is higher than this article’s quote for Birkenhead, which I can only imagine is wildly wrong if it’s below the national average). In principle we all know the east side of the Wirral is essentially a suburb of Liverpool anyway but why being a village of Liverpool would help Birkenhead or Wallasey I don’t know. The Bronx and Manhattan are both NY, Brixton and Mayfair both London yet the former are poverty-stricken and the latter paved with gold. And Liverpool doesn’t have a Mayfair, sadly.

    As a commenter points out, the tunnel fees would have to go to make any change have any effect whatsoever and it’s too much of a cash cow that’s relied upon ever more.

    WMBC serves a population of 312,000 people, Liverpool 552,000. That’s 864,000 people, a quarter of a million more than the 600,000 of Glasgow upon which the efficiency argument is based. Splitting the Wirral down the middle wouldn’t reduce the number of people that needed to be served in total so there’s no reason to think the combined councils could be downsized either. Even if they could be, how does that help the region? The biggest employer on the Wirral is the council; downsizing WMBC would mean directly increasing unemployment. Would just shoot ourselves in the foot.

    Culturally it would make no difference. Tourism would be unaffected, economically there’s no reason to think it would have any effect. The only positive would be that the sheer disruption of implementing it could give some the chance to shake things up for the better but equally, they could be shaken up for the worse. Having been privy to some of what LCC has done in recent years I wouldn’t trust them to clean my bathroom yet alone clean up Birkenhead. If it all worked brilliantly it might improve cross-river projects but I’m not convinced.

    Let’s face it, too, that Birkenhead’s parade of closed shops and poundtastic retailers is being repeated up and down the country. The economy is a mess. A massive, scary, worse-than-anyone-wants-to-talk-about mess Making the word Liverpool bigger on a map isn’t going to change that.

  • Pingback: Urban Reporting | Hulse19()

  • Pingback: Wirral and Liverpool – We two are one? | a sense of place()

  • Pingback: Henry Moore at Williamson, Birkenhead - SevenStreets()

  • Ray Rowland

    I would give you top marks for wasting so much time typing so much rubbish, you have given up before you even try, Birkenhead is not here because of “tribalism” Birkenhead is here because those that work in Liverpool prefer to live in Birkenhead, don’t believe me , then do some proper research.

  • OurParty

    What utter nonsense.

    Birkenhead is in difficulty precisiely because it is always lumped in with Liverpool.

    What Birkenhead needs is to reconnect itself once again to the bustling and thriving South East of England via train and motorway. For instance, there used to be a direct train link from Birkenhead to London Euston and the journey is easily half an hour quicker than going via liverpool Lime Street. Why can’t money be spent reopening this line? Hell, why not have High Speed Two come to Birkenhead?

    Similarly, a cursory glance at any map of the UK will show you that if the M53 were extended from the Clatterbridge junction to the M54 at junction three; car journeys from Birkenhead to London would also be around forty minutes faster than travelling from London. The M53 should also be widened to three lanes down its entire length and linked directly to the A55 to help businesses trade better with North Wales.

    So actually, in terms of location and transport it should be Birkenhead which has Liverpool’s container port and Birkenhead Woodside should be Merseyside’s main transport hub not liverpool Lime Street.

    In terms of linking Birkenhead to Liverpool it would also make more sense to link the whole Wirral to Wales. Wirral students would then get free tuition at University and all Wirral residents would get free prescriptions.

    Indeed, it is time to electrify the Bidston line and connect Birkenhead properly to Wales and the potential extra business and shoppers that could bring to the town.

    Unfortunately, I can see none of these steps coming to fruition as the real story behind these attempts to hand Birkenhead over to Liverpool stem from the snobs of West, and South Wirral, who want desperately to re-join with Cheshire. They are fooling nobody.

    Wirral has been mismanaged by successive Tory/Lib/Labour in fighting and tribalism. It is time to invest in our infrastructure and connect us directly to London and continental Europe via train and rail. Why not even open an international airport at Hooton?

    Those wishing us to merge with Liverpool are wanting to kill Birkenhead. There arguements are short sighted, unimaginative, outdated and make no sense.

  • Trebor2013

    You can have the London Cable Car, otherwise known as the ‘Emirates Air Line (or a massive white elephant) – which goes from the O2 Arena to ExCel (an exhibtion venue), or to put it bluntly, from nowhere to nowhere. No one uses it apart from tourists (and even then it’s just in the summer)…..Londoner’s don’t use it as it’s not useful to them, and people tend to go either to the O2 or to ExCel – not both places.
    If Liverpool and Birkenhad City Councils got together to persuade TfL, the GLA, and the boroughs of Greenwich, and Newham, to sell the Cable Car to them, I honestly think it would do much better business going over the Mersey, than it does going over the Thames. It would be an alternative to both the ferry and tunnel, but would not adversley affect either. The only snag is that it would have to go over the narrowest part of the Mersey as it wouldn’t be long enough to stretch from central Birkenhead to the heart of Liverpool. But it’s definitely worth a punt.
    It could take Birkenheaders (?) over to Liverpool, while more Liverpudlians would discover the gem that is Port Sunlight; and the wider Wirral. The views of the Liverpool skyline from the cable car would be awesome. It could be a winner – a tourist attraction that both sides of the Mersey would share, and also another way of getting commuters over from each side of the river. It may not do this in London, but if in the right location, it could really benefit another city.
    We don’t need the Cable Car in London, what we need is a bridge – which should have been built from the start, but Boris went for the exotic, and now it’s all gone pear shaped as most of the individual cars are usually empty. It was never meant to be in London, but another city could turn it into a major success. Could Liverpool be that city?

  • Peter

    As if. If us Scousers think Birkenhead is bad, we think Manc land in a whole lot worse.

  • B

    The one-eyed city?
    ‘In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.’ That is, if everyone else is blind, you have the ultimate power.

  • JNS

    One word: wool

  • Wirral

    I live in Birkenhead, I tell you something I wouldn’t be a scouser if you paid me. The Wirral peninsula is not a suburb of Liverpool, it’s no more scouse than north wales. I am proud to be a wirralite, I talk a bit scouse but apart from that I am not a scouser and have no desire to be. Many parts of Liverpool are utter shit holes, they make Birkenhead look positively luxurious