Anger, not shame at Merseyside's rating with Sicily

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The Independent Online
THERE will be no shortage of claimants in Liverpool for the European poor box. Merseyside's status as one of the poorest regions in the EC, confirmed yesterday, carried no stigma or surprise around Everton and Kirkdale, two inner city wards eerily quiet in the absence of work.

'It'll need to be a big cheque to turn Liverpool round,' a woman said. 'It's been obvious for years that people had no money and no hope. I think it's disgusting that our own government can't do more. They should be ashamed that it takes the Common Market to face up to Merseyside's problems.'

Sharing a poverty ranking with Sicily, and eligible for up to pounds 600m in regeneration grants, Merseyside is unlikely to agonise or re-appraise the essence of being Scouse.

'There are plenty of things that could be done - even more that should have been done. The money is welcome and overdue,' one man said.

Others, all unemployed, cited a consensual view of history which blames neglect by Whitehall for worsening problems on Merseyside which should have been foreseen 50 years ago. Liverpool was once prosperous. Its wealth was gradually sucked away. The region was used, then discarded.

'Prosperity was founded on slaves, shipping and cotton,' Rex Makin, a solicitor and local commentator said. 'People do feel very gloomy here. They are fed by the anodyne of football. They do not think of a working society. Their priorities are recreational, not vocational.'

Brian Boyle, deputy head of the inner-city Anfield community school, said education should be near the head of the queue for EC grants. 'As far as the children are concerned, they have suffered in Merseyside because the quality of their education has been harmed. There is a need for significant investment to improve the physical learning environment. But the children have no inferiority complex. They are very independent and work very hard with limited resources.'

(Photograph omitted)

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