In February the people of Liverpool were told three things by the Labour Party:
- That they had negotiated the best possible deal with the Government to use new powers and attract new money.
- That the deal would be the biggest and best because they were prepared to adopt an elected mayor without a referendum
- That they would be able to use the money and powers more quickly if we avoided the referendum.
Liberal Democrats said quite clearly that all three of these were untrue. We knew from our discussions with the Government that the amount of money received was not dependent at all on mayoral model. Regrettably just how true we were has now been revealed.
Leeds and Manchester have achieved £1 billion plus settlements instead of the £130 million which was all that Labour could negotiate for. Neither Leeds nor Manchester has agreed to move to the elected mayor model. All the money that they have generated is for employment, infrastructure and training whereas ours was only partly ‘city deal’ with a big chunk of the money coming for Academies which the government wanted to fund through a separate DFE source anyway.
No cheque is waiting in Whitehall to be sent to Liverpool on 4th May. Business plans for economic development and detailed proposals for the Academies have yet to be finished never mind submitted to Government. All the preparation could have been done between now and November if the people of Liverpool had decided to go for an elected mayor. New methods of governance could have been agreed in Liverpool which were a none elected mayor model by the end of May which would have enabled us to finalise things more quickly than that.
This means that what we said at the special council meeting on March 7 is absolutely true. There was nothing to be gained by avoiding a referendum. As I canvass in wards across the city the only time the mayoral model is mentioned one of two opinions are voiced:
- “We don’t want one – it isn’t right”; or
- “It should have been the people of Liverpool who decided not a back room discussion inside the Labour Party”.
They are quite right. In my estimation the people of Liverpool would have voted against an elected mayor model if they had been given the facts and allowed to express their viewpoint in a referendum.
In my manifesto I give a series of activities that I would want to take back to the government such as the development of a train/tram link through South Liverpool to the airport; an enterprise factory to create jobs; a new bond market led investment fund; a ‘curry mile’ for Lodge Lane and many others. These need funding and would provide good value for money for the government. These are the sorts of things that Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Newcastle, Wakefield, Birmingham etc are applying for and getting support for.
So Leeds and Manchester got approximately £10 for every £1 that Liverpool got. This isn’t a good deal for Liverpool it’s a bad one and I believe needs to be renegotiated – a pledge which I happily make.