Scally Mag looks at the differences in some areas of north and south Liverpool, and asks if the north of the city has been left behind…
In many cities and towns across the UK you can find areas and wards within them, often geographically on the periphery, which tend to suffer considerably more from a socio-economic perspective than most others in the same region.
In Liverpool this notion is often seen through the lens of a north-south divide. There is plenty of playground teasing between residents of the north and south of the city about how the north is more ‘scouse’, how south enders are tight fisted, or how the south consists of many non-scousers.
However, when it comes to the statistics surrounding business, unemployment, and life expectancy, there is not much to joke about. The stark contrasts in figures regarding the aforementioned issues, in relation to wards in the north and south of Liverpool, is something that everybody in the city should be concerned by.
Not so long ago, an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) was set up to look at ‘left behind’ wards across the country. The aim of the APPG is to ‘improve social and economic outcomes for residents living in ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods, through the development and advocacy of hyper-local initiatives and policies to ensure that communities are stronger and more resilient in the future.’
‘Left behind’ is defined as a neighbourhood or community that suffers from a combination of social and economic deprivation, poor connectivity (physical and digital), low levels of community engagement and a lack of community spaces and places. One of these left behind wards is right here in Liverpool. In the north of Liverpool to be specific. That area is Norris Green.
‘Nogzy’, as it is often referred to by many locals, is an area of the city which has witnessed entrenched poverty and lack of opportunity. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) as of January 2021, shows that Norris Green has 1060 people of a working age or capability, out of 18296 total residents, claiming benefits. Norris Green also has 355 businesses, the majority of which are ‘micro’ businesses.
Compare these statistics to that of Cressington. Cressington is a ward in the south of Liverpool. It has a slightly smaller population of 15182 residents, yet only 490 of those who are of a working age or capability claim benefits. Cressington also has 520 businesses compared to that of Norris Green.
Similar areas and wards in the north of Liverpool, such as County and Anfield, have very similar unemployment and business figures to that of Norris Green. Similarly, in the South of Liverpool, areas and wards such as Allerton and Hunts Cross have statistics similar to Cressington.
South Liverpool has also saw investment in South Park Way station, which is an inter-regional point that keeps the south of the city more accessible to areas further out in the region. North Liverpool lacks in this regard, and the transport and connectivity to other areas is not as effective, if existent at all.
Despite the north and south of the city being connected by Queens Drive, Liverpool’s main artery which takes a 15 min drive in a car on a good day, the contrast in employment and business figures are worlds apart. One can only conclude that the north of the city does appear to have been left behind.
It is important to point out that there are areas in the south of Liverpool, such as Speke and Toxteth, which are disadvantaged. However, the fact remains that the north is home to more deprived wards.
We must establish why this is, and instead of using it as a rod to beat the other end of the city with, we should look at how this gap can be bridged so all residents of Liverpool can enjoy an improved quality of life with more positive outcomes. To place the blame for this divide at the foot of residents would be to miss the bigger picture.
There appears to have been a continued and significant lack of investment in the north of Liverpool which seems to have created an environment for residents which produce the figures mentioned earlier. Poor infrastructure and lack of investment in services and business is at the root of the north-south divide.
It is encouraging that the APPG has recognised this difference to an extent, but what are they going to do about it?
A report by the APPG on the importance of investing in social infrastructure suggests that ‘if they are to prosper for the long term, ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods must be a focus of the levelling up agenda. As reported to the APPG, investment needs to balance creating new economic opportunities with improving local levels of social infrastructure. Both are critical to levelling up social and economic outcomes.’
All this talk of ‘levelling up’ and investment from central government to areas such as north Liverpool can be taken with a pinch of salt. Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham has highlighted his concerns to the local press several months back claiming that central government need to ‘talk of levelling up seriously’. Nonetheless, given his role in overseeing devolution in the city, one could argue, given the statistics outlined earlier, that the north of Liverpool would benefit from an injection of investment in improving transport and business from his office at the nearest possible opportunity.
As with many social and economic issues, a reliance on government to make investments which result in improvements is problematic, given that such promises are often broken. The left behind wards in the city, like Norris Green, are slowly becoming the manifestation of David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ idea which basically means ‘fuck you all and fend for yourselves’ and has saw the increase in food-banks and community-based initiatives which sadly are fast becoming the norm, albeit important, in the climate we are operating in.
The unfortunate reality is that we will be waiting on investment from government to target the left behind areas in Liverpool for a long time. Waiting for when (or if) it arrives is the long game that does nothing to stop the bleeding. The short game, although in many ways panders to the ‘Big Society’ notion, is to continue to be Liverpool focused, draw on our collective strength and solidarity, and provide for those who do not have when we can. We need something ‘for’ Liverpool, and that something in the short term must come from within to bridge the divide.