There are rumours that the long running row between World Heritage chiefs and Liverpool Council is about to deepen, opening the way for the city to be stripped of its international status.

UNESCO officials placed the city’s spectacular water front on a danger list in 2012 claiming the massive Liverpool and Wirral Waters developments would overwhelm the historic buildings. In July a UNESCO summit conference called for a detailed report setting out exactly what changes needed to be made to the multi billion pound 30 year development plan. It requested a response from Liverpool Council, Peel Ports and English Heritage by December but sources suggest there could be developments much earlier.

This may be because it is becoming clearer than ever that there is an unbridgeable gap between Liverpool and Wirral councils’ determination to back this transformational scheme and UNESCO’s insistence that Liverpool Waters would cause “irreversible damage to the Outstanding Universal Value” of the site.

Liverpool Council has insisted it takes the status issue seriously pointing to its vital role in attracting tourists. Others have said UNESCO officials are being unrealistic about the development needs of a modern city and if the price of going ahead with the development of 60 hectares of land to the north of the city centre is the loss of the status, then so be it. They also point out that there is no threat to the World Heritage status of Tower Bridge in London close to the 87 storey Shard building.

In one way it will be strange if this row reignites in August because this has been a slow burner. Peel first revealed its plans in 2007 and despite being given the planning go ahead precious little progress has been made. Of course the great recession came soon after the scheme was launched, but some take the view that UNESCO would be better advised to ease back on the threats and wait to see what projects actually come forward for development.


Jeremy Corbyn continues to inspire Labour activists with his clear policies on issues that his rivals obfuscate about. One of them is his belief that the UK should unilaterally abandon nuclear weapons.

It is an issue that has split the Labour Party since the 1950s when we acquired the bomb seven years after the Americans exploded two devices on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I have visited memorial sites to the devastation caused in both cities. One cannot fail to be moved by the huge death toll and the lingering suffering. I also reflect on the forecast that it was very likely that the casualties from a conventional assault on Japan would have been much higher.

Nuclear weapons have contributed to 70 years of peace between the superpowers but the cold words, mutually assured destruction, bring little comfort.

We are more preoccupied these days with localised terrorism than intercontinental war. Let us hope the two never become fused together.


It’s always good to have celebrities at big football draws. FIFA excelled itself last weekend when Vladimir Putin and Sepp Blatter presided over the draw for the 2018 World Cup.

It will be one of Blatter’s last appearances on the global stage and that’s thanks in no small part to a journalist I first met in Manchester in the 1970s…Andrew Jennings. I’m sure he worked for the radical magazine New Manchester Review. He later took his investigative skills to Granada and then to the BBC’s Panorama.

Andrew toiled on the story of FIFA corruption when most journalists didn’t want to know. Well done Andrew.




With inflation heading for 3%, the Governor of the Bank of England wants £25bn more quantitative easing. What are we to make of Sir Mervyn King’s views revealed by the publication of the latest Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) minutes?


He may have been influenced by Mark Carney’s indication last week that inflation targeting may be eased when he becomes Governor in July, or he may have run out of ideas to help our flat lining economy. In any event he was overruled by a majority of the members of the MPC.


Having been cheered up midweek by a speech by Sir Howard Bernstein, Chief Executive of Manchester Council at a Downtown event full of ideas about the city’s drive for foreign investment; reading the MPC deliberations was a reminder that we are in a dark forest economically with few chinks of light.


The Budget is less than a month away but there are low expectations that the Chancellor can pull any new rabbits out of the hat. The headwear is empty. Quantitative Easing, low interest rates and infrastructure spend have all been tried but the headwinds blow strongly.


There are indications that the mortgage market is easing and the infrastructure investment has long lead times but the recession continues to take its toll with Axminster carpets following HMV, Jessops and Blockbuster off our high streets. George Osborne was also a billion short on what he expected from the 4G sale.


Last December the Office for Budgetary Responsibility had factored in £3.5bn from the sale. It was an important factor in the Chancellor being able to claim that the deficit was falling. Some economists now claim the government overshoot this financial year will be £10bn.


Internationally there is talk of currency wars breaking out as countries try to boost exports. Japan has certainly embarked on this course. The pound is weak which partly explains the 10p hike in a litre of petrol since Christmas. By the way a friend of mine was asking the other day where are the fuel protests that we saw in 2000? A good question I thought.



Against this background local councils across the North are fixing their budgets for the forthcoming year. In our urban areas most people will face a rise in council tax. The politicians will argue they have no choice considering the cuts in government grant. Cynics will point to the fact that the metropolitan councils from Leeds to Liverpool have no elections this year. The Environment Secretary Eric Pickles is threatening to penalise councils like Manchester who have found a way round the need for a referendum if council tax rises by more than 2%.



Meanwhile the voters of Eastleigh have to choose between the two parties of government as they go to the polls next week. We can judge the seriousness of Labour’s challenge by the refusal of their candidate John O’Farrell to live in the constituency if he was elected.


So it’s between the incumbent Liberal Democrats who have a dull but worthy candidate and an off message Tory. I don’t expect the “Chris Huhne” effect to be too damaging and I’d bet on the Lib Dems getting some good news at last.