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.

Liberalism – What’s it like being a Liberal?

This short piece on Liberalism was prompted by a question from an acquaintance who asked me this very question:-

Liberals by their very nature are people with inquiring minds who want to know as many facts as possible about whatever it is we are considering.

You will rarely see a Liberal reading say the Daily Mail or Daily Mirror because they are little more than propaganda sheets to us. We don’t like our news filtered, we want clear information (not biased opinions) so that we can make up our own minds as free thinking individuals. We try not to jump to conclusions without the necessary information to form a reasonable view.

Liberals are environmentalists by instinct; we are seekers out of corruption, fighters against vested interests and are invariably suspicious of those in authority.

We know that global warming is probably the greatest threat that mankind has ever faced and if we don’t seriously tackle our wasteful ways and our unclean energy use future generations will be left to pick up the mess that we have selfishly left them.

We believe in electoral reform because it will lead to better and more representative government and the devolution of power from Whitehall so to empower people and communities.

We believe in co-operatives and mutual companies and worker participation in running companies.

We understand that a decent welfare system has to help those in need and that the NHS needs to be properly funded.

Many of us will be pro-abortion – supporting a woman’s right to choose, pro-right to die – supporting the right to decide how and when your own life should end.

Many Liberals will be involved in opposing nuclear weapons, objecting to the selling of any weapons to counties that do not respect human rights and we will often be peace activists looking for diplomatic solutions to conflict.

We are internationalist in our outlook because we realise that being inward looking nationalists is the road to ruin not the route to prosperity. Of course we are pro-Europe but we do want the institutions of the EU fundamentally overhauled to make them more representative of the peoples of Europe.

Being a Liberal is fundamentally about freedom to choose so long as the choices we make do not knowingly have an adverse impact on others or the environment that supports us all.

So the Merseyside Leader’s delegated powers bid to Osborne was poor then?….

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-34520919

The BBC has the story – see link above

My posting of 7th October said:-

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

Liverpool City Region – Underwhelmed by lackluster submission for delegated powers

So our 6 Labour Council Leaders from across Merseyside have put in their plea to George Osborne for him to give the City Region some crumbs from his devolution table. I must say I am sadly underwhelmed by their bid though.

This posting is not an attempt to comment on the document page by page but I am picking out things that caught my eye, or are a particular policy interest area for me or where I think the document is deficient.

Firstly the laugh out loud moments from the 25 page document:-

We are working together!!!! – ‘We have a proven track record of being able to decide priorities locally’ and ‘We have also proven our ability to work together collectively’. No not made up it’s there in the document! Bearing in mind how our Labour Council Leaders have seemingly squabbled like ferrets in a sack for years in public via the press you wonder whether they were able to keep their faces straight when they signed a document going to Government saying they were now best mates who will stick by each other.

Metro Mayor!- But moving on through this rather uninspiring document which could hardly be said to be innovative or motivating we come to a paragraph on page 3 which effectively gives the Metro Mayor game away. It says ‘We also recognise that the “prize” of devolution may necessitate a “price” to be paid in respect of the government’s stated aim of introducing an elected mayor for the City Region. We are prepared to consider making a change in our local governance arrangements……….’ Is this the Merseyside Labour Council Leaders waving the white flag and falling in behind Joe Anderson, who seems to want to rule Merseyside? Yes I believe it is and in the words of Dave Allen ‘may your God go with you’.

We cost Treasury too much? – There is an interesting and I take it to be accurate statement to the effect that the Liverpool City Region area spends two pounds on public services for every one it raises in taxation and this means the City Region has the largest relative gap between tax raised and public spending in England. £9.5 billion generated for the Treasury but £18.6bn back in public spending. A sobering thought indeed.

More Cuts? – This also caught my eye ‘there are potentially efficencies and cost savings to be gained if greater control and coordination of government funding and activity is devolved to the City Region’. This could be interpreted as room for more cuts of course.

These are the tickets my family were given when we walked through the new (2nd) Tunnel in 1971

These are the tickets my family were given when we walked through the new (2nd) Tunnel in 1971

Mersey Tunnel tolls – One of the ‘Asks’ of government is that ‘Legislative clarity on the ability to utilise [Mersey] tunnel toll income for wider economic development purposes’. That should go down a bundle with residents of the Wirral in particular! This ‘ask’ seems to be linked to another ‘ask’ which requests government to pay off the loans to build the tunnels. Of course a proportion of the toll money is presently used to fund the debt repayments. I think tunnel users would want to know what their extra tax would be paying for if it was not to pay off the loans to build the tunnels. Indeed you could expect them to want lower tolls if the tunnel debts are paid off by government.

The present Merseyrail rolling stock Class 507/8 EMU's) at Southport Station.

The present Merseyrail rolling stock Class 507/8 EMU’s) at Southport Station.

A train ‘ask’ – There an ‘ask’ about our promised (many times) replacement rolling stock for Merseyrail to ‘reduce the financial risks’. This is linked to needing long term certainty over the Special Rail Grant that Merseyside gets each year. A reasonable request I would think here.

A blast from the past a former Ribble Lydiate bound 321 bus in model form. Sadly it's another lost route for Lydiate residents.

A blast from the past a former Ribble Lydiate bound 321 bus in model form. Sadly it’s another lost route for Lydiate residents.

A buses ‘ask‘ is to ‘secure the ability to franchise local bus services, to ensure that they have the required reach, penetration, quality and pricing structure and serve the needs of the Liverpool City Region’. This may well, depending on what it actually means, turn the Tories Bus Deregulation Act of the early 1980’s on its head (or drive a bus through it at least) and not before time I say. BUT bearing in mind that the thrust of this submission to government acknowledges in effect that austerity is here to stay then it does not mean more subsidy for bus services unless of course that is where the tunnel tolls may be siphoned off?

Campaigners, outside Maghull Town Hall trying to save Sefton Borough's high grade agricultural land from development.

Campaigners, outside Maghull Town Hall trying to save Sefton Borough’s high grade agricultural land from development.

Housing and Spacial Planning – Some very worthy stuff here but what is so obviously missing? Well as far as Sefton Borough is concerned it’s protection of its high grade agricultural land from development. So is the fact that the City Region is not making a request to government for local powers to protect it the final admission that the City Region and Sefton Council do not want to?

Energy – Some good stuff here about support for the proposed offshore tidal lagoon and also a request for powers to maximise the potential of renewable energy. But even then this is hardly taking the ‘green’ agenda and running with it, surely we should be aiming to be the most energy efficient City Region in Europe? Where’s the ambition to inspire?

City Region Mayor Powers – If there was any doubt that our glorious Leaders are now all but fully behind a City Region Mayor then this quote leaves no room for any doubt:-

*To consider whether an elected Liverpool City Region Mayor should take over the role of the directly elected Police and Crime Commissioner and the role of the Fire Authority.

There are other ‘asks’ about Children’s Services, Education, Cultural Partnership, Health – Wellbeing and Social Care, a Free Trade Zone, European Funding, Skills & Employment and Business Support but I have not touched on those areas in this posting.

My conclusion is that frankly the submission is too bland and it lacks ambition. Here was a great opportunity to lay out a radical plan to fundamentally change the health, wealth and environmental sustainability of Merseyside and it has been an opportunity lost. It strikes me, as a former Council Leader, as one of those documents written by Council Officers and then signed off/rubber stamped by politicians. Even if government gave it the green light on all the ‘asks’ I can’t see it changing the outcomes of Merseyside residents much at all.

I wonder if it will get the green light from government (with a few tweaks along the way) because all the Tories really seem to want is the appearance of devolution and a Metro Mayor. If so government will say they have negotiated a fine deal to empower Merseyside and local council leaders will say they got virtually every possible concession from government and the Metro Mayor has been forced on them. But in the real world not much will change other than we all get that damn Metro Mayor idea imposed on us and another highly paid politician to lord it over us.

Beware of Labour politicians promising to devolve power!

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/labour-pledge-liverpool-benefit-biggest-8997775

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above.

But there are two big problems here. Firstly Labour have not all of a sudden become a party that wants to give power away to local communities so that they can decided what is best for themselves. What Labour means by devolution is that local Labour political barons will be given power to decide what’s best for you and I. This is very different from how Liberals see power being devolved to communities and out of the hands of political parties. You can’t empower people if all you are doing is shifting a decision making process from one set of party hacks to another.

Secondly, and my previous posting (see link below) about devolving control over bus services on Merseyside refers of a couple of days ago, how could we have any confidence that our local Labour Council Leaders could do the job?

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/04/06/merseyside-leaders-on-the-buses-but-would-they-would-all-want-to-be-reg-varney-butler-driving-off-to-6-different-destinations/

Their record in recent times of public bickering, an inability to seemingly get along with each other and arguing over the the name of Merseyside’s new combined authority does not fill anyone with any confidence.

Labour are centralisers of power within their own clans, it is not in their nature to share power with ordinary people. Beware of Labour politicians bearing devolution gifts!