Northern Politics & Covid 19

I posted a couple of weeks back about struggles in the north of England to tackle both Covid 19 and our Government in Westminster. Here’s a link back to that posting:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/10/16/scousers-cheer-metro-mayor-but-its-not-their-own/

So that was my view back on 16th October but what about an alternative take on it all from a professional independent analyst – step forward former BBC North West journalist Jim Hancock and his blog piece – ‘TURMOIL IN NORTHERN POLITICS’:-

jimhancock.co.uk/hancocks-half-page/

Jim neatly points to an issue which has always troubled me with regard to devolution of powers in England and how Regional Mayors can’t really stand up to Westminster. He is of course right.

This is my take on that very issue – Much talk of Regional Mayors in recent times due to Covid restrictions but devolution in England is half-hearted, that’s why I opposed the imposition of Regional Mayors. Putting power in hands of one person was another no no for me. However, I’m fully behind regional governance (well I would be as a Liberal) but for it to be useful the powers need to be extensive. What I’ve never got my head around is why on earth Labour backed the Tories devolution plans when they were clearly putting in place another level of governance but with far too few powers……

I suppose the other big question is what would northern leaders actually do differently, to what Westminster demands in this pandemic, if they had the power to defy Government? My view is that there may be many options to close down society in an attempt to control Covid 19 until a vaccine becomes available. However, in reality they are like selecting from a menu of foods you’ve not tried before. You may dislike all of them but some will be slightly healthier options than others. I suspect that closing this or that business is marginal and your view on the closure will be greatly influenced by whether you use that kind of business or not. Gyms have been the very public argument and now they’re all open following the backlash against them being closed. But surely it’s the case that by opening them the chances of supressing the virus are potentially/slightly diminished? Or looking at it a different way if you open gyms should you not close something else?

There are no easy answers whether the options are chosen nationally or regionally…………

Lancashire – Still squabbling over local government changes

I’ve said before that the piecemeal reorganisation of what was once the huge county council (with numerous small district councils such as West Lancs Borough) area of Lancashire has ended up leaving a mess of everything that has not already become a unitary authority.

Former BBC and Liverpool Post reporter Political commentator and writer Nick Hancock debating with Sefton’s Cllr. Iain Brodie Browne.

Below, via the link, respected north west journalist Jim Hancock updates us on the tortuous ‘progress’ towards a resolution (scroll down to ‘Driver’s Umbrella’):-

jimhancock.co.uk/hancocks-half-page/

Lancashire should have been sorted out as one whole package

The process of doing bits here and there over numerous years via different governments has led directly to this mess and muddle. I support the move to unitary authorities as in my view having a County, a District and often a Parish/Town Council too has not worked.

Power to the Parishes!

Getting rid of the muddle in the middle i.e. the District Councils is the right thing to do. However, it should be being done whilst devolving more powers and responsibilities to the network of Parish and Town Councils across the County (and set up new ones where they don’t presently exist) – of course that’s not being done!

Lancashire – Is it about to get an elected mayor?

Map of the Borough of West Lancashire.

Jim Hancock has the posting on his blog site – see link below:-

jimhancock.co.uk/big-changes-for-lancashire/

Jim, as ever, has an interesting and informative take on the long running saga about how Lancashire will be run in the future. It is to put it bluntly a dogs breakfast of a local governmental mess presently as I guess most will agree. Trouble is there’s been no consensus to agree how to sort out the mess which pre-dates John Prescot’s attempt resolve it as Deputy Prime Minister many years ago. Those with long memories will recall he wanted to split West Lancs and put half of it in Wigan Met Borough and half of it into Sefton Met Borough. It went nowhere and neither has any other plan it seems at least up until now?

My gripe with Jim, as those who know me will expect of me, is that he seems to back Metro Mayors and I can’t abide them. Jim says this ‘The success of the elected mayors in Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region may finally have ended the squabbling in Lancashire over an elected mayor with a combined authority.’

Well Jim if having an elected mayor for the Liverpool City Region has been a success I would not like to see failure. Not enough devolved powers (I have often referred to the LCR deal as 3rd rate) and putting them in one persons hands is simply wrong to me. And just what has our elected mayor done that could not have been achieved without us having one?

But my other big gripe, which admittedly may not apply in Lancashire with it having no major cities, is that regional mayors operating from a big city have a detrimental effect on surrounding towns. Just ask Southport or Bootle or St. Helens or Birkenhead. A good example of my concern is the thousands civil service jobs being taken out of Bootle and centralised in Liverpool for HMRC. The jobs were put in Bootle for a very good reason in the 1960’s and 1970’s i.e to address an unemployment black spot and help the local economy. Taking them out reverses that piece of good work. And what has our City Region Mayor done to try to put a stop to this process?

Maybe as a Liberal I see the concentration of power in a single persons hands as fundamentally wrong but Tories and Socialists see otherwise? Maybe also as a Liberal I see true devolution of power very differently to the crumbs off the governmental table which is the present format of devolution. Frankly, no I don’t see Lancashire having an elected mayor being a big positive for a newly formatted local government structure in the county.

I like Jim’s commentary on politics in the North West of England and he’s often both well informed and right. However, we’ll have to agree to disagree that having an elected mayor in the Liverpool City Region has been a success. Indeed, I would go so far as to say it has been an abject failure for the majority of LCR – a bit like the present local government arrangements have been in Lancashire for a long time now.

If regional mayors are the solution you’re asking the wrong question.

Re-booting capitalism – RADIX – Norman Lamb

The article is on the RADIX website – see link below

radixuk.org/papers/re-booting-capitalism

I’m indebted to Southport Cllr. Iain Brodie Browne for the lead to this posting and what a breath of fresh air Norman Lamb is on this knotty subject.

I’ve commented before on how much I admire Norman’s thinking (with the rather glaring exception of Brexit of course) and as usual he hits the right notes, which makes me even more befuddled about how he lost his way over Brexit I might add.

Go on have a read, see what we radical Social Liberals actually believe in……

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.

Liverpool City Region – Was that submission for devolved powers from government deliberately poor?

The fact that it was poor now seems to be a fact not just my opinion – see my previous posting at:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/10/07/liverpool-city-region-underwhelmed-by-lackluster-submission-for-delegated-powers-2/

But the more I have thought about it the more I have come to the conclusion that the 6 Council Leaders must surely have known what a poor effort it was. That then leads you to consider why it was poor?

* Simply done too late and therefore rushed and ill-considered?

* Bearing in mind the now legendary bickering that has gone on between our esteemed Council Leaders on Merseyside could they not agree a more radical/credible submission?

* Was it an attempt to kick this uncomfortable matter into the long grass by seemingly making a submission (playing the game so to speak) but one that they hoped would be unlikely to be agreed by George Osborne?

* Were the majority of other 5 Council leaders trying to stop Joe Anderson becoming a City Region Mayor by attempting to slow down the devolution process via a poor submission?

* Or was it simply that our 6 Council leaders did not realise how poor the submission was?

How will this be outed I wonder?

NORTHERN POORHOUSE

And to finish this posting which is of course related to George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse strategy (whatever that may be in reality), which in itself seems to be built on John Prescott’s Northern Way (remember that?), a comment from a Labour Party friend of mine seems to be appropriate. For Northern Powerhouse read Northern Poorhouse! Seems to sum up our position in the north under the Tories quite well.