I see in today’s Echo that Cllr Anderson is once again peddling his version of the truth about the need for an elected Mayor in Liverpool. Unfortunately no-one agrees with his version.
Let’s deal with some facts:
- The Government offered the 8 core cities of England increased powers in December. They made clear at that time that the powers were dependent on councils revising their governance to enable them to control those new powers. A mayoralty was one way forward but councils were asked to supply their own methods of doing it for approval.
- This fact was repeated by City Minister Greg Clark in a number of public statements.
- This fact was repeated by the Deputy Prime Minister who intervened to make this point hours before the special council meeting.
- This fact was made absolutely clear in the report presented to council by the Chief Executive.
BUT what is also clear is that if a council itself decides to choose a mayoral route then the Government will allow it. Why? Because that is what localism is all about. This government does not dictate to councils what they should do.
So is the Labour Party in Liverpool leading the way or are they out on a limb?
11 cities were required to have a referendum in May. Of these 9 are controlled by the Labour Party. No other Labour controlled council was prepared to avoid the choice of the people in the way that Liverpool Labour party did. In all except one of the cities the Labour party will campaign against elected mayors in the referendum.
Currently the 7 other core cities 5 of which are controlled by the Labour Party are preparing their bid to get increased powers and funding. They will all get a package of approximately the same size as Liverpool but of course doing different things. That is what localism is all about. In none of the other core cities is the bid being put in based on a mayoral model. That might have to change after a referendum but the powers and the elected mayoral model are not linked.
Timing is also not crucial. In Liverpool, in theory, new powers will be available from May 7th. In the other councils the powers will, in theory, be available from Mid May at the annual meetings of the council. In practice however, there is a lot of work to be done before powers and cash change hands. In Liverpool for example the poor state of the Local Enterprise Partnership will certainly delay a full hand over.
So Liverpool’s elected mayor will not have the legitimacy of a referendum and will have no more powers or money than any other city. So why did Labour Council Leaders like Sir Richard Leese in Manchester, or Ian Greenwood in Bradford or Peter Box in Wakefield or Keith Wakefield in Leeds not go for the no referendum route? Because they are highly experienced!
The Tories, who desperately believe in mayors, homed in on Joe and the Labour Party in Liverpool as the least experienced Labour group in a large urban area in the country. I understand that Steve Hilton the chief adviser to Cameron spent many hours trying to convert Liverpool’s leaders and ultimately worked his charm on them. Amazing isn’t it that Cllr Anderson supposedly a fierce critic of the Tories should have been so manipulated by the chief Tory adviser.
My colleagues and I did not vote against the new powers in the vote in the council because Liverpool needs the powers and the money. Liberal Democrats have consistently made clear that they would do their utmost to protect the needs of the poorest communities in the appalling financial situation that the Country faces. By concentrating more money into the 8 core cities they are keeping that pledge.
But let’s not confuse the new powers which are good with the system of governance which is bad. Just as has happened in 2 other major urban areas Stoke and Doncaster, the mayoral system will corrupt the political, process and lead to major problems in the year ahead.
That is why February 7th will be seen in years to come as a very dark day for our beloved city.