Dougal Paver – Director of Stakeholder Engagement at Curtins
In the storm-tossed history of relationships between Liverpool’s public and private sectors, the late nineties and early noughties blew fewer ill-winds than fair.
A frustrated private sector had formed a new big boys’ club called the Mersey Partnership to manage its dialogue with the city council and promote the region’s wares nationally and internationally. The relationship prospered, with the council leading a public sector investment in TMP’s fresh approach that brought the four other boroughs on board.
The electorate caught up and vested a huge majority in the Lib Dems as they sought a more progressive and business-friendly administration. Using their majority strategically, the council began pushing through bold reforms and big ideas that ended up delivering successes such as Liverpool One and the ACC.
Yet not everyone felt included in this new politics. A latent suspicion of local developers, in particular, imposed a caution on the council’s dealings with them that frustrated an emerging class of local property entrepreneurs for whom Liverpool represented a known quantity.
The opportunity to exploit the momentum created by early regeneration projects such as Neptune’s Queen Square was in danger of being missed and there was frustration amongst local developers that the council wouldn’t parly. But who spoke for them?
Not the Mersey Partnership: far too cosy with the council and the wrong sort of club for many of the new kids on the block, it was said. And not the Chamber, seemingly unaware of what was emerging in front of its eyes.
And so in stepped Downtown Liverpool, adept at working the levers and pulleys of the public sector, but neither in thrall to them or paid by them. They dragged a reluctant council administration to the table, fundamentally changing the nature and tone of the dialogue with the city’s new entrepreneurial class.
To the council’s credit, it saw what was on offer and quickly changed tack, setting a course that subsequent administrations have followed. The benefits, in terms of jobs and investment, have been substantial – to the council’s credit, as much as Downtown’s.