So now all is becoming clear in terms of the national picture 10 days after our election in Liverpool. The saddest fact of all? When given the opportunity only one of the ten areas that held a referendum voted in favour of an elected mayoralty. Only Bristol by a tine margin on a 20% turnout voted in favour. Interestingly in no city did the Labour party campaign officially for a Yes vote although a few Labour (and Lib Dem) members personally supported the YES campaign most main stream politicians, based on their practical experience voted and campaigned NO.
I have no doubt that given the choice Liverpool too would have voted for a continuation of the current system. That would have enabled us to do two things:
- Change the way we do things inside the council to take full advantage of the Localism Act. This would have enabled us to have any sort of system that we thought right and could have discussed it with local communities to ensure that they were fully involved in the decision making process.
- Deal with the governance changes so badly needed across Merseyside. This is a problem that can no longer be put in a box marked, “too difficult to deal with”. It has been suggested that I am personally in favour of a Mayor. That is clearly an option. In Manchester and Leeds they have found a solution without ‘legally’ changing governance. They have created a strong, transparent system which unites all 10 councils with the ability for them to ‘opt out’ on certain issues. This has created the legitimacy with which the Government were prepared to make major investments in a conurbation transport and economic system. All sorts of other options are available including a mini county council or a reconvening of the old Merseyside County Council which would also enable us to close down the grossly incompetent and superfluous Transport Authority by bringing it and the other 3 joint Boards back into a fully democratic structure.
We have haven’t been able to do these things so what have we got?
- The Tory’s favourite politician in local government – Mayor Anderson
- The contents of the No. 10 petty cash box.
We must never forget that whilst Joe signed up for coppers Manchester signed up for approximately 10 times what Liverpool got and Leeds signed up for approximately 8 times what Liverpool got. So what do we do next:
- We either:
- Convene a public meeting of all the political groups Leaders of the 6 councils on Merseyside to try and hammer out a conurbation solution; or
- We ask others to come up with recommendations on our behalf which can then eb validated by the people. If, as Mayor Anderson suggest, relationships between himself and his Labour counterparts in St Helens and Wirral are so bad then the debate on governance must be taken elsewhere with politicians assisting the process not leading it.
2. We go back to the Government to try and convince them of our resolve in governance issues and work with them to look at ways at delivering conurbation-wide activity for the economy and transport. In the short term everyone I spoke to signed up for the idea that I put forward of resurrecting the plan to build a train/tram link between the city centre and the Airport. This would not only improve external communications but take pressure off two major routes into the city where congestion clearly builds up. It is amazing that you can get a train into the centre of Liverpool from Manchester Airport but not from Liverpool Airport.
We all know that the only people that recognise boundaries of government are us. Businesses want to invest in a region – roads, motorways and train lines don’t stop at the Bootle boundary – people want to live where they want to live and are not constrained by our administrative boundaries.
David Cameron promised me that legislative time would be made available if Merseyside sorted itself out. Now is the time to be bold, brave and decisive. Let’s put Liverpool at the heart of Greater Liverpool and Greater Liverpool at the heart of the UK.