Times are tight. Uncle Joe’s said so. So how do we keep more of our money in our city? Maybe one way is for the council to use a little affirmative action? It’s the softer name they give to positive discrimination in the US. But its effects can be just as powerful.
Our natural inclination, at SevenStreets, is to shy away from positive discrimination – it has the whiff of nepotism and backhanders about it, and God knows we, as a city, have suffered enough/are still suffering.
But what about when the city has the talent, has the capacity, and has the value to provide services for itself and we still look elsewhere? What about that? What about benefiting from the skills we have, right here, right now?
It’s an awkward question – but, increasingly, it’s one that bears chewing over.
Should, for example, the national/international marketing IFB (International Festival for Business) be handled by (London-based) Seven Hills? The company, self described as a “campaigning communications agency working with corporate clients, entrepreneurs and fast growth businesses” has yet to answer our calls. Suppose that’s because we’re only a Liverpool-based publication, and the regional PR is handed by Paver Smith. You know, Paver Smith which handles national press for national companies. Just not quite capable enough to handle a Liverpool-based event, though eh?
What if the Council offered local companies the chance to pitch first? Would that be so bad? Remember when French radio were forced to play a percentage of home-grown acts? Enter Cassius, Daft Punk, Air, Phoenix and a rejuvenated French music industry?
What about LFC withdrawing its publishing contract from Trinity? Now, say what you like about the Old Hall Street set up, but their Sports Media division produces a fine product- for clubs from Celtic to, get this, Man U. But LFC? They say no (Everton say yes, of course.)
And what of Liverpool ONE? Seen their Liv and Liz campaign? Hold your head in your hands every time it comes on the telly? Us too. Notwithstanding the appalling creative (which was so obviously written by someone who’s only ever seen Liverpool on the telly and not actually visited here) the computer rendering of the ghastly birds is shoddy in the extreme. The executioners? An agency in South Africa!
Recently, one of the best 3D rendering agencies in the country – Liverpool’s Milky Tea – announced the closure of its graphics and animation arm. That they could have produced a far superior product is without question (they’re behind the Lloyds TSB ‘for the journey’ cast of characters.) Could, or should, Liverpool ONE look closer to home?
Of course Grosvenor can choose who they like for their multi-million pound campaigns. But what if the council had an Affirmative Action Tzar? Someone whose role it was to get Grosvenor in front of the city’s best animators, or to get Clarion (the Business Festival organisers) to meet our best agencies. A key person, encouraging inter-city trade, making the connections, joining us up.
Maybe this person exists? If they do, we’ve yet to meet them down Baltic way. We’ve yet to meet anyone.
What about when Liverpool bid to be one of ten cities to take a slice of the Urban Broadband Fund – a £150 million pot set up to create ‘Super-Connected Cities’.
Did the council elicit the support of AIMES – one of the UK’s leading cloud computing companies, based in Wavertree’s Technology Park – when it submitted its bid? No.
The result? Our bid was rejected. And our city’s internet provision lags woefully behind Manchester’s.
Oh, and while we’re at it, should our blameless and lovely new Central Library really have settled for a Costa Coffee-serving cafe? Or Liverpool University’s swish new Redmond’s Building (named after a local entrepreneur couple) really have opted for a Starbucks – surely it could have had faith in the offer of a cafe run by one of its graduates?
Obviously, private companies can spend where they like. But, just as the Independent Liverpool card encourages us to keep money in the city, shouldn’t the same be done when contracts are considered at the Municipal Building?
“The city council will be exposed to greater financial risk as it is now responsible for collecting £92 million of Business Rates at a time when income has flat lined and many companies are struggling” says Joe Anderson, this week. So, surely, we should be doing everything they can to spend money – and show faith – in the talent we have, right here.