Readers of this Blog with a long memory might recall that way back last December when Nick Clegg first announced the ‘City Deal’ programme I said how proud I was to be a Lib Dem. I did so with my fingers crossed because, as they say oop ‘ere. “There’s many a slip twixt cup and lip!”
However today my faith in both Nick and liberal democracy and the role that Nick can play into putting liberal democracy into practice inside government has been well rewarded.
Today conurbations have been given two things – money and power and in the long run it’s the second of these that is the most important although the £1 billion that Greater Liverpool can get as part of today’s announcement is extremely useful !
For almost all the time I have been a councillor successive Stalinist governments starting with Harold Wilson, moving via Callaghan to Thatcher, to Major to Blair and to Brown were arch centralisers. They believed in a command and control mechanism in which they and their bureaucratic Whitehall warriors with a PPE from Oxbridge but no real world experience tried to micromanage every last jot and tittle of activity throughout England.
Now, at last, we have a Government who does not believe that. A government that believes that the only way we can deal with the appalling economic and social problems that we face is to unleash the power of the cities outside London. They understand that the trickle down from the ‘City’ if it was ever possible is now just a pipe dream left over from Thatcher and Blair.
All the 8 core cities have got substantial powers and cash. Of these only in Bristol did people vote in a referendum for an elected mayor and, of course, in Liverpool where one was imposed on them against their will. We said a mayoralty was not needed and we have been proved right. All that a mayoralty has given us is a £100,000 bill which is the cost of the new mayor.
No government, of any colour has given so much in one package with so few strings as were announced today. Yes we know times are very hard as we deal both with the legacy of irresponsible borrowing from the last government and the stormy economic winds that are blowing throughoutt Europe. But even through all that the Government is stumping up large sums of cash to help our big conurbations because they know that inside these conurbations is both the greatest need and the greatest opportunity.
Today I feel chuffed at what is going on. There is a spring in my step as there should be in the step of every Lib Dem. Times are hard but a Government in which are participating is doing its best to help us. In 10 years time we won’t remember the cash. But we will be benefitting from a system where local decisions are made by local people about local issues. That means that whatever cash we get will be used to best effect with the minimum of interference.
The Government has played its part now it’s up to us and Manchester and Leeds and all the others to deliver the goods.