1,200 homes, jobs, and breakfast clubs as Labour hopes to make 'massive difference' to town

The Birkenhead skyline could change if new homes are built
-Credit: (Image: Colin Lane/Liverpool Echo)

Birkenhead could see 1,200 new homes and free breakfast clubs in every primary school if Labour delivers on its plans.

The party has seen off a perhaps stronger than expected challenge from the Greens, with a 17% surge in the polls but Labour decisively held onto the seat with 52% of the vote and a nearly 14,000-vote majority. The seat has had a Labour MP since it was formed in the 1950s but Alison McGovern, its new representative, will be its first female MP.

Despite previously representing the constituency of Wirral South, Ms McGovern put herself for the Birkenhead Labour nomination in 2023 after boundary changes abolished that constituency meaning she now lived in an expanded Birkenhead seat. Throughout her campaign, Ms McGovern referenced her time growing up in the town as well as Labour’s plans which she said would tackle poverty there.

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According to independent research unit Centre for Cities, Birkenhead performs poorly in relation to productivity and jobs despite having a strong employment rate. Since 2010, productivity only increased 0.3% each year compared to 1.5% every year from 1998 to 2010.

At the same time, people have less spare cash and housing has become less affordable in Birkenhead, with prices now 7.5 times local people's earnings. Around 3,000 more children were living in poverty in 2021 than in 2014.

Labour has put forward policies it says will help speed up the town’s regeneration, build new homes, and offer new industry jobs with a focus on renewable energy. This includes moving forward an initial 1,200 homes in the town, an investment in insulation upgrades, giving councils more powers to buy up land, and more funding to speed up planning decisions.

The party also promises to tackle poverty in the area by bringing free breakfast clubs into every primary school, reviewing Universal Credit, banning zero hours contracts, and protecting renters. She said these things would help end the need for emergency food parcels and were part of “a comprehensive strategy to tackle child poverty.”

Ms McGovern said Labour would also look to link job centres up with health and education professionals to get people into better jobs so they were “not just ticking boxes,” adding: “There is a real problem in Merseyside and Birkenhead with inequality and poverty and getting people into good jobs is about preventing that.”

In a year, she said people will be able to see a difference despite some cynicism in the town, adding: ““We can get money for the NHS. We can get 2 million more appointments and a breakfast club in every primary school which I think will make a world of difference to parents.

“I think just about getting extra teaching staff into our schools so that teachers themselves aren’t under so much pressure.”

However despite pledges in Labour’s manifesto to increase public spending by almost £5bn, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned money for services like further education, prisons, and criminal courts “are still likely to be seriously squeezed, facing real-terms cuts that look inconsistent with the manifesto’s stated ambitions in these areas.”

Wirral's MPs Angela Eagle, Matthew Patrick and Alison McGovern
Wirral's MPs Angela Eagle, Matthew Patrick and Alison McGovern -Credit:Copyright Unknown

Speaking to the ECHO during the campaign, Ms McGovern said: “There’s big ways in which a Labour government could make a massive difference and that is making sure people have a good home, a good place to live, a really good job that pays them decently and people get a sense of respect from, and crucially having things that mean people have a good time at the weekend.”

She said Birkenhead had a lot of space to build new homes and could be one of Labour’s new towns, adding: “I can’t describe growing up somewhere and looking around. I can remember Birkenhead and Liverpool in the 80s and it just felt like well people don’t really care about us and we’ve got to show that we can make progress so that people here know they deserve better than some of the dereliction that we’ve got.”

Labour faced a stronger than expected challenge from the Greens in Birkenhead. Pictured: Jo Bird, Green candidate for Birkenhead MP on the campaign trail in Prenton
Labour faced a stronger than expected challenge from the Greens in Birkenhead. Pictured: Jo Bird, Green candidate for Birkenhead MP on the campaign trail in Prenton -Credit:Liverpool Echo

Asked how it will deliver change, Ms McGovern said Birkenhead “has so much to gain” from the party’s promise to create 650,000 jobs across the UK in renewable energy and argued this would help level up the town given its historic links with heavy industry..

She said: “We want to grow the economy because that is how we’re going to escape this low growth high tax situation,” adding: “For places like Birkenhead, we have a lot of engineering skills here, Cammell Lairds, and a lot of other heavy engineering.

“If you think about the big energy challenge that we have, we are really placed to benefit from the jobs that come out of that and Ed Millband has earmarked half a billion pounds to support new jobs in places like Merseyside where we have the heavy engineering capacity to build the kit that we need to meet that challenge.”

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