For the past 4 years I have campaigned for the creation of a combined authority for the 6 councils that make up the Liverpool conurbation. Such a body is absolutely vital if we are all to attract investment from public and private sectors to make our economy fit for purpose. I was even quoted in the consultation documents issued despite the fact that all the councils in the area are now Labour controlled.
We need the body because we need be able to sell the advantages and strengths of our area which are obvious to us but not so obvious top those outside. As I travel the World I have been able to talk about Liverpool and I always meant the city region. An area composed not only of the City by the engineering and glass making of Saint Helens, the chemicals of Halton, the Port of Liverpool, Grand National and beaches of Sefton and the ship building of the Wirral. It is an area that hangs together but for too long we have been amateurs at working together. We have played second fiddle to Greater Manchester where the 10 authorities have worked together for two decades and have had a combined authority for the past 3 years.
They have been far more successful at getting investment than we have because they have spoke as one, because they have sold their conurbation together. Now the Liverpool conurbation has decided to play catch up but what a mess they are making of it.
They haven’t even been able to agree a name. Instead of the Liverpool City Region – a brand name that is renowned throughout the World apparently our name will be all the 6 districts names put together in alphabetical order starting with Halton. Effectively we are to be the greater Halton Partnership it would appear. Even many who live in the area would be hard put to say where Halton is although we all know Runcorn and Widnes.
Then in a massive snub for the Mayor of Liverpool it would appear that they have decided to have a permanent chair who will be not Joe Anderson but Phil Davies the Leader of Wirral Council. This does not surprise me. I know that Mayor Anderson is not well liked in the Party outside Liverpool but this enmity between Labour leaders will badly affect us all.
We need leadership to be visionary, practical and diplomatic. Whether Mayor Anderson has those attributes is not for me to say but what is clear is that the Liverpool city region needs to be steered by Liverpool. What Liverpool does affects the other areas in the conurbation for more than what they do affects any other area. Like it or not Joe Anderson is the leader of the most important part of the conurbation and that fact must be recognised.
Things are at a crucial stage. Nationally the economy is starting to pick up. We have seen those signs of growth in the whole of the area but especially in Liverpool where we are still building on the legacy of Capital of Culture and expanding our city centre’s retail and tourist offers. Now is NOT the time to let squabbling about pecking orders dish our chances of creating the sustainable growth that the city needs.
I am so concerned that I have asked Nick Clegg to try and mediate between the Leaders. Nick is well aware of the City’s problems and has fought to get the International Festival for Business here and to ensure that the Local Enterprise Partnership has the cash and tools to do the job. The full text of my letter is carried below. However, at the end of the day it will not be outside forces that will ensure the success or otherwise of the Liverpool Combined authority.
The needs of our unemployed are too important to be left to squabbling and bickering from Labour prima donnas. Grow up, act your age and find ways of settling your differences to ensure that Greater Liverpool gets the leadership it both needs and deserves.
Letter to Nick Clegg
Rt Hon Nick Clegg
Deputy Prime Minister
I am sure that you will be as appalled as I was to hear that the 6 Labour leaders on Merseyside have fallen at the first hurdle in their attempts to get a proper combined authority for the Liverpool Region. Yes that’s right they cannot even agree a name. Because there have been objections from at least two authorities the name of the new body will encapsulate all the names of all the 6 current authorities.
There is also strife within the authority over who should lead it. For the Manchester Combined Authority the Chair is the leader of Manchester City Council. That is as it should be. In the case of greater Liverpool the permanent chair is to be the Leader of Wirral Council. The core city is the most important council in the conurbation. What it does affects the whole conurbation more than the work of any other council.
I know that it is not your job any more than it is mine to comment on disagreements within the Labour Party. However, these two facts make me very concerned about the viability of the combined authority.
With a pigs’ breakfast for a name and clear divisions at the very top of the body I cannot begin to see how it might fulfil the roles of leadership which are desperately needed to bring jobs and prosperity to our region. What we need now is clear vision and purpose to develop economically viable strategies. What we have is a Labour leadership in Greater Liverpool fighting like ferrets in a sack.
Would you please intervene in this matter and try to mediate with the 6 Leaders to talk some sense that is clearly so badly needed.
Regards as always.
Cllr Richard Kemp CBE,
Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats