Liverpool City Region proposals are as exciting as a wet Bank Holiday

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To give credit where it’s due there would not be a Liverpool City Region if Joe Anderson had not persisted despite opposition from other Labour leaders

In an unusual attempt to bring harmony within the council in Liverpool my Lib Dem colleagues and I have tabled a motion to the next council meeting which congratulates Mayor Anderson on his efforts to get the Liverpool City Region in place and which then goes on to make a series of proposals for improving its effectiveness and visibility.

Current proposals for the way that Liverpool City Region is run and what it does is creating as much excitement as a wet Bank Holiday weekend and we need the LCR to become a ‘London assembly’ style operation.

We believe that at present and as envisaged for the future all the decisions will be made by 6 white men from the same Party sitting round a tabled with no alternative voices. The scrutiny of their decisions will be made, if at all, by a small and unexciting group with few effective powers of challenge who have been side-lined away from any real opportunity to challenge and question what is to be done”.

Our Lib Dem motion calls for a Lib Dem and Tory member to be put on the Board of the City Region Authority, without voting rights so that an appropriate challenge can be made before decisions are made.

It also calls for an ‘Assembly’, composed of councillors from the 6 councils, to replace the current toothless scrutiny arrangements. Lib Dems want to see the Regional Mayor and other people in leadership roles within the Authority being publicly held to account by informed councillors who have the power to make effective and informed decisions.

It also calls for staff to be brought in from Government departments and an external review by skilled people with both national and local government experience to overhaul the tedious bureaucracy which is being established.

There is a huge likelihood that the proposed arrangements will led by middle aged white men in suits and run by middle aged white men in suits. We need to create much more of a presence for the Authority in a way that will engage the public and businesses. We need external help to do this. Carry on the way we are and we will not achieve the leadership that this Region so desperately needs in the wake of the BREXIT vote.

Here is the full Motion

Motion to Liverpool City Council 15th September 2016

Mover:            Cllr Richard Kemp CBE

Seconder:        Cllr Andrew Makinson

Council believes that it has always been important that the Liverpool City Region should be made to work. It congratulates Mayor Anderson on the work that he has done to ensure that there is a Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and that this would not have happened with his persistence.

It believes that the importance of the City Region has been increased following the Brexit vote and the continued reduction in funding from Westminster Government. On that basis the City Region needs to be more bold and imaginative than originally foreseen to meet the continuing challenges the City Region faces.

Accordingly it agrees the following recommendations to the City Region Board about its future work:

 Short and Medium Term

In the short term we must come together to fight for resources from Westminster to replace those being taken away. We must work with Europe to see what can be salvaged from almost a £1 billion of capital and revenue programmes when other support inputs are costed on.

To do this effectively we must conduct a full audit of what the LCR gets from the EU. We know how much the public sector and quasi-public sector get largely because our councils are usually the organisations at the heart of pulling these complex, ‘cocktail’, bids together.

However organisations like the Universities have access to research and other funds that do not require our involvement.

Some small funds are available to voluntary and community groups.

The private sector can bid to the EIB for projects outside the purview of councils.

If necessary we must change the priorities for the money that we have available to meet gaps and fulfil different needs than originally envisaged. We must also work together to find alternative sources of finance from Trusts, Charities and the Private Sector to replace both capital and revenue funding. In particular we would welcome:

  • A review of the prudential borrowing capacity of the 6 authorities and other parts of the public sector. Whilst critical of some of the investment choices made by the Liverpool Council the principle of using our borrowing power to borrow money cheaply and then lend on at a margin can be attractive.
  • A review of the investment strategies of the Merseyside Pension Fund in the light of suggested government changes to their terms of reference.
  • A renewed bid to examine local banking mechanisms such as Peer to Peer lending and the expansion of the MSIF.

Medium to Long Term

In the longer term we need to up our game to create a Liverpool Assembly which meets the needs of our people and businesses.

We believe that we are in danger of creating another local government type structure which will appear to be an anaemic county council. We feel that if this is to work the LCR must become much more visible and accountable. The model which we would suggest adopting, in so far as we can, is the London Model where the Mayor, other politicians and senior staff are held publicly held to account through a highly visible Assembly composed of councillors proportionately from across the LCR on both council and political basis.

In terms of policy and actions we now need to:

  • Develop a long term vision and strategy for the City Region which realistically reflects its strengths and opportunities. Some of this must be done quickly but all sectors must be involved in its creation if they are to commit to its delivery. The starting point for this would be the baseline survey and report produced by the Heseltine Institute.
  • Deliver the strategy by bringing together from all sectors of the Community; business; public and academic sectors joint actions to work together in a way never yet achieved to future proof our City Region and prepare it for tough times ahead.
  • Harness the strategic thinking of the 3 Universities of the Region to develop a new range of products, actions and services which will make our communities and our businesses fit for purpose in changing times.

In terms of the development of the LCR we now need to:

  • Seek external advice as to our structures, methodologies and direction from people with a wider experience. We would particularly like to see the involvement of people like Lord Gus O’Donnell and Lord Bob Kerslake both former heads of the Civil Service with a wide understanding of regional, national and international activity.
  • Bring in to the officer team supporting the City Region expertise from the Foreign and Business Departments of Central Government.
  • Upgrade our office in London and create one in Brussels so that we can continue to create strong links with and for our major economic partners in places that will continue to affect us.
  • Review the governance structures of the proposed City Region to enhance transparency and scrutiny and involve as many people as possible in key decisions about the Region’s Future. In particular we would recommend:
    • The appointment of a representative of the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Parties as none-voting members of the City Region Board.
    • The development of the scrutiny role of the LCR into a proportionately representative assembly based on the number of councillors across the LCR held by the political parties which can meet publicly to hold the Mayor; Board Members with the sectoral responsibilities; officers and partners to account.
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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. . Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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