Examination of Witnesses (Questions 480-499)
MR CHARLES GEORGE QC and MISS JOANNA CLAYTON.
BIRCHAM DYSON BELL and MR JOHN McGOLDRICK examined
480. What is significant about the figure we see
for Wirral as compared, for instance, with Kirby or Liverpool
(Mr Bates) This
is a related issue related to how behaviour has changed over time.
Again what we are seeing here is what is sometimes described
as the "two-way road effect" which was identified by
the Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessments when
they looked at transport and the economy. In fact they identified
the reverse of this, but what they identified was that when an
area is inaccessible, and then a transport scheme comes in to
improve the accessibility, it does not actually always push economic
activity into the area, but it can actually suck the economic
activity out. A good example which is often quoted is the A55
in north Wales where previously Bangor had been very remote, had
a lot of local businesses there, and then as soon as the A55 made
it accessible from Chester, in fact all the local businesses moved
back to Chester because they could still access the market in
Bangor without actually physically being located there.What this
is in many ways showing is the reverse effect. What this is showing
is that in fact the difference between the red and the green bar
can be simplistically assessed as the amount of money that is
spent in each area. What it is showing is that in the Wirral,
a lot of money is spent in the Wirral, so basically the economic
activity is being kept within the local economy by the barrier
of the river, whereas if one looks at somewhere like Kirby, for
example, which is a similar distance out or one of the Liverpool
suburbs, a very large amount of expenditure goes into Liverpool
city centre, so this is the way in which actually the toll distorts
in reality the economy, but to the benefit of Wirral businesses.
If the barrier was removed, in fact what would happen is that
a lot of economic activity would inevitably get sucked into Liverpool
as the bigger centre with more facilities.
481. We know that the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce
were quite enthusiastic that the toll should come down. Do you
have any observation on that?
(Mr Bates) Yes,
inevitably they will because as a larger centre, they know that
they can out-compete in attractiveness terms to competing surrounding
areas if the toll is removed.
482. MR GEORGE: If we then turn to C14 -----
483. CHAIRMAN: Sorry, but there is an implication
in what Mr Bates has just said, which is that the tolls work to
the detriment of the people of the Wirral, and I am not trying
to state a case, merely it is a sequel to what you said, but if
the Chamber of Commerce within the centre of Liverpool is all
for lowering tolls and our witness said that the tolls have the
effect of holding business within the Wirral, does it not follow
that that is "to the detriment" of the people of the
Wirral because they are prevented to that degree from getting
into central Liverpool?
(Mr Bates) This
is where the whole issue of social equity and other issues start
to come into effect. If you believe that simply the free market
performances will inevitably deliver the best solution, then that
would indeed be the correct assessment. I would suggest that
in fact a lot of people want local services and local facilities
close by and indeed that helps create this local economy and gives
vibrancy to the local economy, so there is both a disadvantage
but also an advantage. It is a balance.
484. LORD BRADSHAW: It depends whether you
are a consumer of services and goods or whether you are a producer.
If you are a producer on the Wirral, the toll is a good thing
because it helps businesses there.
485. CHAIRMAN: Yes, absolutely.
486. LORD BRADSHAW: On the other hand, we
know very well that many people go to Chester to shop because
it is a nicer place and many other reasons.
487. CHAIRMAN: The only point I was trying
to make was a continuation of the argument which Mr Bates was
pursuing. I am not saying I am in favour of it or I am against
it. I am merely saying that logically that is the conclusion
to which you come.
(Mr Bates) Not always. Do not forget
that all the consumers of products are not necessarily accessible
to the degree that they can take advantage of this facility as
well. This is where I said the social equity issue comes in as
well because by definition local facilities tend to be to the
benefit of people with less accessibility, lower incomes, etcetera.
488. MR GEORGE: It is all quite complex
and becomes immediately apparent. Now let us turn to C14 entitled
"Distribution of companies across sectors in Merseyside".
The Committee can see from the graph that the companies are split
down into various sectors. We can disregard extraction and agriculture
because that is really tiny and then we see retail and other services,
manufacturing, construction and distribution, health and other
public services. One's first reaction when looking at the table
is to say that they are all very much the same. In particular,
when you look at the Wirral, it looks very much the same as the
others. What comment do you have on that?
(Mr Bates) I presented this to reemphasise
the fact that the region is very similar in terms of the way the
districts break down; there are a few slight differences. Sefton
has a slightly higher level of what are called other services,
you can see the pink bar, Knowsley and St Helens tend to have
slightly higher levels of manufacturing, construction and distribution,
but broadly speaking the region is very similar in terms of its
distribution of businesses and the Wirral is not different.
489. So far as the final three exhibits, I think
they all summarise material in a survey of businesses in Merseyside
which was carried out by Steer Davies Gleave for Merseytravel
not merely in connection with this Bill but in connection with
a whole variety of transportation projects in Merseyside. Is
(Mr Bates) That is correct. Obviously
Merseytravel see themselves both as a transport operator and also
as a regeneration partner and they are very keen to understand
how their activities can act to the benefit of the region's economy.
490. How many companies did you survey?
(Mr Bates) It was 161 companies.
491. How many of those were in the Wirral and in
(Mr Bates) There were 36 in the
Wirral and 33 in Liverpool. They were distributed around the
districts to reflect the distribution of businesses across the
492. So far as the methodology you used, was it
a fairly standard methodology or was it tweaked in any way?
(Mr Bates) No,
it was a fairly standard economic assessment study.
493. Your comments on Exhibit C15?
(Mr Bates) One of the questions
we asked business was the importance of transport costs to the
operation of that business because obviously we were interested
to understand the contribution we were making to it. As you will
see, only 13 per cent of Wirral businesses said transport costs
were very important, which is broadly in line with Liverpool,
Sefton and Knowsley. The big difference was St Helens, the district
furthest from the tunnel, where a lot more businesses saw transport
costs as important to their business.
494. What conclusion do you draw from that?
(Mr Bates) The conclusion one draws
from that is that transport is only one of a whole range of issues
that affect business costs and business operation and is often
relatively important relative to some other issues around employment
catchments and other issues.
495. C16 and C17 are a pair of exhibits, are they
not, in which you were asking companies about the strengths of
their business location and the weakness of their business location?
Which of those should we concentrate on?
(Mr Bates) I would suggest the weakness
one is probably the more interesting.
(Mr Bates) Yes. I think the key
findings here are that almost half of the businesses we spoke
to across Merseyside said they did not feel there was any weakness
in their business location at all and then the most important
weakness that did come across was actually the availability of
parking. What you will also see, for example, is that in the
Wirral we get a slightly higher pale yellow bar under site size
and indeed one of the feedbacks that we were getting from businesses
on the Wirral was that they were struggling to find sites of an
appropriate size.In Liverpool, again if you look at the bars,
you will see that social problems came up quite high and also
the age of the properties was an important business location weakness
that came through. Fundamentally, transport was not really coming
across and of the 131 companies we interviewed, only one company
mentioned the tunnel.
497. And then if we turn, finally, to C18 on business
creation rates in Merseyside.
(Mr Bates) I have presented business
creation rates. This is VAT registrations minus VAT deregistrations.
It is simply an interesting measure of the vitality of an economy.
The general theory goes that the more vital an economy the more
businesses are being created and if an economy is in recession
then you might find negative numbers. The simple message is that
the Wirral is very comparable to all the other regions, apart
from Knowsley, in Merseyside.
498. Mr Bates, that concludes your exhibits. Are
there any other comments you want to make before you conclude
(Mr Bates) No.
499. MR GEORGE: Thank you.