Mayor Andy Burnham Mayor Steve Rotheram
Greater Manchester Liverpool City Region
Tomorrow, I will argue at the Lib Dem’s North West Conference being held in Liverpool that the Region’s 2 Metro Mayors are adding nothing but cost and bureaucracy to the local government arrangements that existed before they were elected last year.
This has become increasingly obvious in the past couple of days when we have been treated to pictures from Cannes where the Liverpool City Region sent not one but two Mayors and all their hangers on to attract inward investment into the City Region. On one picture we have one Mayor scowling while the other Mayor speaks and on the second picture we have the other Mayor scowling while the first Mayor speaks. What a picture of disunity they presented!
The question, “Why do we need two Mayors at MIPIM”, begs the question why do we need two Mayors at all in Liverpool (three if you include the Lord Mayor)!? It then leads to the wider question of the value that having two Mayors for the Manchester and Liverpool City Regions is adding to the efforts to improve services and attract inward investment.
As I look around at their first 10 months of operation of Mayors Rotheram and Burnham I believe that they have made little or no impact on the key issues which affect their areas. Nor do they seem to be doing the things which over the years would add value.
Greater Manchester is considerably more advanced with powers over the Health Service and Police being given to the Mayor and Combined Authority but all the work for this was done by the 10 local councils who continue to undertake most of the delivery. The Health Service element is led by Cllr Lord Peter Smith a wily and experienced old Labour bird who spoke eloquently about the work that they are doing across the conurbation to bring together warring factions with the NHS and to create a stronger linkage with all the work of the local authorities. Of course, Public Health and Adult Social Care are the key issues here but all the social determinants of health come under council control or influence.
In the Liverpool City Region, the picture is bleak. The 6 Labour council leaders have a long history of low level bickering which meant that the Mayor had few powers devolved to him and most of his money has been tied up before his election. Police and the health service are unrelated to the Mayor and combined authority. Some of the services have not been tidied up and still relate to Cheshire wide bodies not City Region bodies.
The common feature of both City Regions is that the election of a Mayor has just added more cost and bureaucracy to a system which should have been capable of delivering all the outputs and outcomes without them. Lib Dems said at the time that a small authority would be better. This could have been composed of councillors from the 6 authorities that would have been chosen proportionately to the Party numbers. This would have three effects:
- The regional activity would be allied in a host of ways to the add-on activity within the councils;
- We would have had an authority that was not just composed of pale and stale Labour men who effectively have no opposition to them. It is a scandal that decisions are being by such an unrepresentative group of people.
- There would have been the saving of more than £1,000,000 of costs for running an election, every four years, that few have any real interest in.
I am absolutely convinced that we Lib Dems were right to call for these small and compact authorities rather than mayoralties when the Government pushed the Mayoral model on us. We are also right to say in Liverpool that we now have a ‘spare mayor’”.