MERSEYSIDE stands on the cusp of a new age of prosperity, not seen for generations, a top think tank team group reveals in a new report today.
They say the award of European Capital of Culture 2008 has galvanised the local economy into new life, with growth up, unemployment down, and an economic fore-cast described as good.
The culture title has provided the impetus to address how to best tackle long-standing problems of socioeconomic deprivation and widespread dereliction, says the report by the academically-driven Liverpool Research Group in Macro-economics.
The group, headed by one-time adviser to Margaret Thatcher, Professor Patrick Minford, says Merseyside has the scope to generate its own flexibility and dynamism, and the signs are good that economic growth will continue.
Across the region, without exception, unemployment is extremely low - even in Merseyside where it is now below 5pc - and the working population is rising, indicating again that even Merseyside is no longer reducing unemployment by exporting labour to other parts of the UK, as for most of the past few decades was the case.
All parts of the region are forecast to grow between 2pc and 3pc which, at the prevailing very full employment rates, is a most encouraging performance.
"There is no reason why the local economy should not continue to do fairly well", said Prof Minford.
The group says this is basically due to the tough reforms of the UK economy carried out in the 1980s when the labour market was made flexible with much reduced union power and tougher conditions on unemployment benefit, with product markets subjected to much greater competition through privatisation and deregulation.
"The Labour government has fortunately kept much of these changes.
"However, it has slid back in some respects, such as in the Fairness at Work Act, and in its associated signing up to the EU Social Chapter.
"And its policies on taxation and regulation have been depressingly Old Labour, much to the chagrin of the business community whose enthusiasm for New Lab- our has gone into reverse."