Yesterday a most peculiar thing didn’t happen in Liverpool. Labour speaker after Labour speaker did not stand up to attack the Liberal Democrats for what we were doing in Parliament. Well they couldn’t really could they? There was an attack on duplicitous MPs who failed to support the needs of the people of Liverpool. Obviously though this was an attack by a principled Labour councillor on the 5 Labour MPs in Liverpool about them sitting on their hands on the welfare bill. Coincidentally one of them had just entered the public gallery two minutes before and was able to hear the onslaught.
Erica and I did not say a word on this issue. The failure of Labour MPs to vote against the Benefit Cuts is a canker which is working its way through the Labour Party and through the community. I have just been out delivering our Focus in the ward and two people stopped me with, “we now know what you stopped happening”, type conversations.
What we did spend more than half the time discussing was a statement from Mayor Anderson and a resolution that I moved which said more or less the same thing. The motion that I moved was eventually passed unanimously after I agreed to delete a small section. This is what Liverpool is now committed to:
Council notes the clear view from the Conservative Government that power will be given to city and county regions subject to them accepting elected city region mayors.
It believes that the prizes on offer of greater control over large amounts of resources should take precedence over concerns of people about the detailed form of constitutional change or their concerns about who might emerge as the ‘leader’ of the new body.
It therefore believes it vital that there should be an attempt to break the impasse amongst Council leaders by developing a discussion amongst all political parties in the City Region and amongst other players in the community including churches, community groups, think tanks and amenity groups about the form and function of a city wide administration.
It also recognises that constitutional change should not solely be the preserve of the Liverpool City Region cabinet.
Accordingly, Council requests the Mayor of Liverpool to convene a meeting of the leaders of all political parties represented on the 6 councils to consider a way forward that will:
• Maximise the involvement of all councillors and others that will take forward the City Region Constitutional agenda; and
• Minimise the concerns expressed by many over the details of change being imposed by the Government.
Cllr Richard Kemp CBE
I made it clear that the Liberal Democrats do not approve of elected mayors at any level but I also accepted the reality that this is the only option to us under the Devolution Bill currently going through Parliament. I was delighted that an amendment was passed in the Lords allowing local choice in the form of Government but the reality is that this will be reversed in the House of Commons stages where the Tories have a big English majority.
All the other 5 major English Conurbations have now agreed a way forward and Liverpool must not miss this bus which is a once in a lifetime opportunity to take powers from Whitehall and Westminster. I would prefer to see an elected city region mayor than miss up the chance of devolution.
The current level of devolution allowed in Manchester is control of national budgets of about £6.5 billion.Proportionately that would mean about £4.5 billion for the smaller city region. If we only spent that 1% better that would be the equivalent of £45 million across the city region. If we could only spend it 1% better we should all resign. Good estimates are that proper local decision making and enhanced service integration can lead to gains of 5% or more.
But it is not only the money. Enhanced freedoms would allow the Liverpool City Region to be much more imaginative, innovative and outward looking. Too much of our time and effort is spent seeking permission from or reporting to Whitehall and Westminster. That time and effort could be far, far better used.
Not every Lib Dem approved of our motion although it was discussed with the Liverpool Party and the other Lib Dem council group leaders in the City Region. But in Liverpool we believe it is the only way forward.
The other thing that is becoming increasingly evident and was on display in the Council yesterday is just how useless the Greens are. At one time they could not make up their mind how to vote on the devolution issue. Hardly surprising as the amendment they had moved would have had the effect, although they didn’t mean it, of stopping devolution in the City Region in its tracks.
I mentioned that they would be very good at a TV programme I had seen whilst on holiday where apparently you get points for being pointless. On that basis after moving two pointless amendments yesterday they could become UK champions of pointlessness!