Do we in ‘the north’ really want a northern leader?

As readers of this blog site will know I follow what Jim Hancock has to say on his ‘Hancock’s Half Page’ blog, indeed I often agree with him. However, I was a little taken aback by this quote from a very recent piece on Jim’s blog:-

‘Public support for devolution and elected mayors is rising, but not spectacularly according to recent polling. People want more say over housing, transport, and crime. But to energise that lukewarm enthusiasm, voters want to see results and a strong leader for the whole of the North’

I don’t think I have ever heard anyone, politician or public, say they wanted a northern leader in my earshot. The north (of England) is not one homogenous place with clear and common objectives etc. so why on earth would folk want a northern leader? And if you take this idea on board, surely there’d also be a southern leader too, although in reality that would be the government of the day as it always has been.

Jim’s comment was based on polling* and the political demise of a chap clearly looked upon (by some) as the quasi leader of the north, one Nick Forbes, who’s recently been deselected as a Labour candidate/councillor in Newcastle. I must admit I’d not personally looked upon Forbes as our leader and to be honest, I think reading about him in Jim’s blog article was the first time I’d heard of him! I have been involved in politics ‘in the north’ since 1980 so you’d have thought the name would have rung a bell with me.

I get it that folks want more devolution of powers, indeed I’ve spent my whole political life battling for such; well I’m a Liberal so I would of course. However, I’m very far from being convinced that folks want more elected mayors, never mind a northern leader.

* I’d be interested in the detail of the polling data and how the questions were phrased as in my experience folks have never really taken to the Tory Americanisation of our politics via elected mayors. Indeed, often where they have them the post and indeed the post holders become quite unpopular.

Bandwidth and Brexit – A guest posting from Bob Robinson

Do you remember when bandwidth was a problem? A time when you wanted to do things on your computer but were unable to do so. It struck me that Brexit has crowded out all other sensible conversation for ages. Stuff that should be done has not been done – where are the Transport for the North Plans for both the new Road and Railway?

Where is the new housing that we need? Where are the essential reforms for social care?

When facing an existential crisis, even one of your own making, smart managers recognise that delegation is a key coping strategy. Bureaucracy tends to centralise more easily than devolve but often it is the front line customer-facing staff who know more about the organisation’s issues in terms of both breadth and depth.

So why is this government so opposed to meaningful devolution to local government and regional bodies. Why are they talking about respecting democracy whilst not taking steps to reinforce local democracies? This “fingers in their ears – singing blah blah blah” paradigm has got to be challenged. We need a General Election at which this issue is front and centre.

Devolution frustrations as seen by Jim Hancock and Richard Kemp

jimhancock.co.uk/devolution-frustrations/

The article is on Jim’s blog site accessed via the link above

I remember Jim, as others will, from his BBC North West Regional News days and respect his views. I’m sure he and other devolution skeptics (and I include myself here) are right to think that government is not that keen on the process of devolving power to the regions of England, except that is when it suits them to be able to blame the regions for whatever the troubles of the day are.

It might seem odd me being a Liberal, having been brought up on a diet of power needing to be exercised at the lowest possible level of government, but I opposed the devolution deal for the Liverpool City Region. I opposed it as it was a second if not third rate deal that was hardly worth having. My views have not changed.

Yes we now have a City Region Mayor but for me that post, whomever holds it, is a bit like the Police and Crime Commissioner one in that no one really thinks either will bring any positive change to Merseyside.

What has also concerned me since first hearing that government wanted a city region mayor for Merseyside is that it would make the sub-region more Liverpool centric with the towns and communities surrounding Liverpool always playing second fiddle. I’ve seen little to change that point of view either. Bringing more power and influence to Liverpool is often at the expense of its surrounding communities.

Devolution as presently practiced in England is indeed half hearted and deeply flawed.

And later on the same day that I published this posting I found that Cllr. Richard Kemp was on a similar theme:-

richardkemp.wordpress.com/2018/03/16/the-north-wests-two-metro-mayors-add-little-to-the-development-of-liverpool-and-manchester-city-regions/

Southport & West Lancs – Its transport deficit

www.southportvisiter.co.uk/news/southport-west-lancs/we-need-better-transport-forgotten-11053533

This is an issue I have covered many times before but the link above to an article in the Southport Visiter is well worth a read.

Interesting to see a Tory MP getting involved (although it has to be said that she also voted for the cuts to disability allowances recently on the very very down side) in this issue. To date it has seemed to have fallen to John Pugh the Lib Dem MP for Southport to lead the fight with Rosie Cooper the Labour MP for West Lancashire helping him out, to push this transport issue forward.

John Pugh MP

But this is not just about Transport because there is every chance that by creating powerful City Regions based on cities like Manchester and Liverpool that surrounding towns and communities will be even more marginalised than they have been previously.

I have posted about how Merseytravel the public transport body for the Liverpool City Region is not stepping up to the plate for Southport. Is that because it is a Liverpool based organisation? Why can’t it stand with Southport folk who are trying to stop their trains to Manchester Piccadilly being re-routed to Manchester Victoria Station? Is it because Southport is not important to Liverpool’s politicians? Sadly I think we all feel we may know the answers to these questions.

So good luck to John Pugh and his rainbow coalition of MP’s in their quest. Without such campaigning everything will get sucked into the major cities. Some devolution deal!

Southport – Planning for a positive future

birkdalefocus.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/the-british-lawnmower-museum-and-town.html

Above is a link to the blog site of my good friend Cllr. Iain Brodie Brown, please take a moment to click the link and read his posting. It is pure community politics to my mind.

Southport viewed from the end of its pier

Southport viewed from the end of its pier

Click on the photo to enlarge it

There can be little doubt that the towns/boroughs surrounding Liverpool have not benefited from being a part of the Liverpool City Region. Indeed, my own view is that centralising power in Liverpool as both Tories and Labour are planning for, with a Metro Mayor, could well be the road to ruin for places like Southport St. Helens, Birkenhead, Maghull, Formby, Prescot etc.

Whilst Iain’s posting is all about what needs to be done to give Southport a bright future his fundamental concerns could well be about any of Liverpool’s satellite communities that sit outside of the Liverpool City Council boundary.

Centralising power and influence in Liverpool will just not work, except for Liverpool itself. Unlike the Greater Manchester communities, which mostly seem look towards Manchester, the same can’t be said of Merseyside. Southport has always seen its connections with Preston and Lancashire as being of great importance but it was wrenched away from such historical links by local government reorganisation in 1974. Much of Wirral Borough has historic connections with Chester and Cheshire but it too was forced into Merseyside.

Merseyside because of its odd geographic shape was never likely to be a runner as a viable unit of local government and the years that have passed since 1974 have only proved that theory correct. Sefton, itself a strange collection of diverse communities, realised this some years ago and it began a process of decentralisation. Bizarrely though Labour then slammed this process into reverse when its Bootle based party took control of the Council. What was their motivation to say ‘the Borough will work well as a one size fits all because we say it will’ not least because this approach had failed miserably when first tried?

Presently we are seeing the start of a process to take 1000’s of civil service jobs out of Netherton, St Helens and Bootle for them all to be centralised in Liverpool. Liverpool’s gain will be big losses for Sefton and St Helens Boroughs.

Make no mistake the Tories are wedded to cities being made more powerful at the expense of their surrounding towns and boroughs. What’s more Labour are pretty much behind this process, why else did the 6 Labour Council Leaders on Merseyside sign up to a 3rd rate devolution deal?

Towns surrounding big cities need investment, public and private, not dependency on the nearest City because that is the road to ruin except for the big cities of course.

The photo above is amongst my Flickr shots at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

Liverpool City Region – What an appalling political farce!

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/liverpool-mayor-joe-anderson-appointed-10621409

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above

Can this Liverpool City Region nightmare get any worse? First we are told by a Tory Government that we can only have devolved powers if we accept a Metro Mayor to lord it over all of Merseyside. I personally know of only one person who wants a Metro Mayor for Merseyside.

Then we find out that our 6 Labour Council Leaders are negotiating a deal which clearly includes us having Metro Mayor.

We end up with a third rate devolution deal (no control over the NHS or Police) and a Metro Mayor because that’s what our Labour Council leaders have agreed to.

Now we have Joe Anderson back in charge after his fellow Labour Merseyside Council Leaders (by a majority) blocked him from getting the very same job only a few months ago. It seems he now has their unanimous support!

In my view Joe is sadly a divisive figure who hardly seems to unite the people of Liverpool under is leadership as their elected Mayor. Indeed, the good people of Liverpool did not even get a say as to whether they wanted an elected Mayor because Labour-run Liverpool City Council just voted to have one without so much as a by your leave.

Now Merseyside is going to get an elected Mayor and again, guess what we have not had a say!

This is not democracy it is an appalling political farce that has been forced on us by a Tory Government and compliant Labour-run Merseyside Councils.

And I say all this despite championing devolved powers for our diverse communities for many years. Devolution being forced on communities is not devolving power it is telling us what to do and the terms under which it will be done. It is top down Tory imposition and Labour should hang its head in shame for for buying into it.