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Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, has set out the Combined Authority’s initial analysis of the economic impact of COVID-19 on the city region and revealed the first steps of a four-pronged approach to drive economic and business recovery.

The emerging priorities for economic recovery focus on supporting businesses to adapt and thrive, jobs and skills, places and infrastructure and identifying opportunities to Build Back Better in the post COVID-19 city region.

National figures predict a drop in GDP of almost 6% and a 30% loss of economic output in the first half of 2020. The Combined Authority’s own research has shown 95% of city region businesses have already been impacted by the crisis.

The report, due to be considered by the Combined Authority next week, sets out a mixed picture for the city region. Before the crisis began, the Liverpool City Region had the fastest economic growth in England at 3.5% a year and well above average productivity growth. Over the last ten years, its business base has also grown faster than national rates, with real strengths in retail, culture and visitor economy, in health and infectious disease control, advanced manufacturing and high-performance computing.

Despite this progress, the city region still faces the legacy of long-standing and deep-rooted socio-economic challenges and inequalities, including in health, skills and employment levels, which has led to a greater impact from COVID-19 locally than elsewhere.

The city region is also heavily reliant on its culture and visitor economy. Plus its high degree of specialisation in the manufacturing, wholesale, retail and motor trades and education sectors – all of which are forecast to see a fall in output of at least 50% nationally.

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of Liverpool City Region, said:

“My top priority throughout this crisis has been protecting people’s health and safety, as well as their jobs and livelihoods.

“I have been working closely with our Local Authority leaders, the Local Enterprise Partnership, businesses, Trade Unions, the community and voluntary sector and national government, to assess the economic impact of the Coronavirus; understand the needs of our communities and develop region-wide plans for economic recovery.

“Before this crisis our region was making strong economic progress. As well as being the most productive region in the North, we led the country in GVA growth. As we rebuild, those strengths will be even more important.

“The road ahead will be a tough one, but I believe that our resilience and creativity gives us the ability to come back stronger than before. There can be no return to business as usual – and nor should there be. We have a unique opportunity to hit reset and Build Back Better. That means a fairer, more inclusive economy and society that is kinder to the environment and to each other.

“But the reality is that given the scale of the challenge we face, we will need funding and support from central government. We must be ambitious about our economic recovery and I want the government to recognise the unarguable case for investment in our region. That’s why today, we are setting out the preliminary evidence and the first steps in a four-pronged approach to our economic recovery.

“We will be announcing further details through the recently established Economic Recovery Panel and submitting comprehensive plans to Government over the coming weeks.”

The four priority themes for economic and business recovery focus on:

  • Seizing the opportunity to Build Back Better, to reshape our economy and society in a way that is greener, fairer and more inclusive.
  • An enhanced business ecosystem where commercial and social businesses are supported to adapt, innovate, grow and thrive in the post COVID-19 world.
  • A people-focused recovery that defends our progress over the last decade with skills and employment at its centre, improving health, wealth and wellbeing for everyone, driving inclusive economic growth.
  • A focus on investing in places and economic infrastructure that protects our culture and visitor economy, reimagines our towns, and attracts public and private sector investment in to our city region’s infrastructure.”

Councillor Pat Hackett, Leader of Wirral Council and Portfolio Holder for Inclusive Economy and Third Sector at the Combined Authority, said:

“We must recognise the reality that every one of the six local authority areas in our city region has been hit harder by COVID-19 because of long-term socio-economic challenges and inequalities, which, despite the progress we have been making, held back the potential of too many individuals and communities.

“Because of devolution, we have a pipeline of shovel-ready, world-leading projects like the National Packaging Innovation Centre, the Health Innovation Liverpool digital campus, the Construction Manufacturing Development and Training Centre, our plans to bring ultra-fast Digital Connectivity to the whole city region by 2023 and town-centre initiatives, that, with the injection of government funding, could be started almost immediately.”

Councillor Kate Groucutt, Deputy Portfolio Holder for Inclusive Economy and Third Sector at the Combined Authority, said:

“The Combined Authority’s economic team has been working closely with partners from our local authorities and across our business community and trade unions to assess the economic impact and develop our plans for economic and business recovery in the short, medium and long-terms. This analysis has been vital in developing these initial plans, which will ultimately help our economy bounce back and support people and communities right across our region.

“What we need now is real support and investment from the government both in the themes identified in our recovery planning but also in strategic, long-term projects, such as town centre regeneration across the region, the unique Mersey Tidal Power plan and Northern Powerhouse Rail which will bring jobs and economic growth years in advance of that envisaged in current plans.”