City Regions and their Metro Mayors – Middle aged white men! Big diversity issues here but the concept of City Regions is flawed too

ciltuk.org.uk/Portals/0/Documents/Focus/Mayors.pdf?utm_source=http%3a%2f%2fciltemail.org.uk%2fcilt2011lz%2f&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Focus+_+May+_+2018&utm_term=How+have+the+metro+mayors+changed+British+politics%3f+%7c+May%27s+Focus+is+out+now!&utm_content=22855&gator_td=iT217sLHzHCoAXs18511elTuBZj1y%2bUBNsQ2o7DKf48Ic4IydWBQNaS7%2fFOG2l2wyKQc4JXZU1IwHtb%2bpWgqMLq5FmgGg%2b0arS69lo9I6mhxB3EwtEt8pRb3rC8KyWS2Hs0%2bO4QDHRDiyF8uROrzpNskgsTlxZ1gq3d5tjGKKoeO55z6Y6P5Szll43dbyFFILza%2fFcHZo3LJ9DDTp8PbDQ%3d%3d

The article is on the web site of Logistic and Transport Focus and is available via the link above

So many white middle aged men, yet most of them will be representing very ethnically diverse regions of England – regions where around 50% of the population will also be women I might add. A diversity disaster is my first thought.

I have always opposed the concept of City Regions and elected Mayors for a number of reasons. I don’t support the idea of concentrating power in the hands of one person, whomever that person may be, as it is a poor form of representation which does not deliver good democracy. Secondly, the devolved powers (certainly as far as the Liverpool City Region/Merseyside are concerned) are 2nd or even 3rd rate. But probably more than anything else I see power and resources being pulled into the heart of a City Region often at the expense of its surrounding towns and communities.

I can’t comment of the other City Regions as I’m not well enough informed but looking at my own Liverpool City Region I see two obvious examples of a pull to the centre and a disregard of an important issue to an outlying town.

The pull to the centre is the removal of around 3,000 civil servants from a deprived area into Liverpool City Centre. The losing community here is Bootle where a mini-Whitehall had been established over many years starting in the 1960’s. Yes some civil servants will be left in Bootle but why on earth take 3,000 of them out to place them in a crowded city centre where property is more expensive and the parking charges faced by poorly paid civil servants are high. Surely a lose lose situation especially when you take away the spending power of 3,000 workers from the Bootle retail economy. What did the Liverpool City Regional do about this? Well whatever it was it was ineffective because decisions made in the real Whitehall could not be overturned? Or was it that despite the huffing the puffing by the powers that be locally it actually suited some to concentrate jobs in Liverpool City Centre?

My second example is of an outlying Liverpool City Region Town effectively being left all but unsupported, by any meaningful regional intervention, over an important transport link. The link is the railway line and service from Southport to Wigan, Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Airport which is about to suffer from a poorer service due to decisions being made by Network Rail, Northern Rail and the railway industry generally. The problem has been known about for a long time so it has not been a quick decision that has been difficult to address in a short timescale. Yet the main campaigners against the move to downgrade Southport’s rail service to Manchester have been two voluntary organisations – OPSTA (Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers Assn) and Southport Rail Transport Forum. Where exactly has the Liverpool City Region and its Transport Committee Merseytravel been during this process and what have they done to defend the loss of an important rail link to Manchester Airport and a much reduced service to Manchester Piccadilly? But looking back further to when the Liverpool City Region produced its first Long Term Rail Strategy the Southport – Wigan – Manchester Line did not even get a mention! That had to challenged and it was (successfully to some degree) but the 2nd iteration of this plan, published only last October, clearly makes the line little more than less than important to the City Region.

So my view remains that the concept of City Regions and City Region Mayors is badly flawed and that it can work to the disadvantage of towns surrounding a big city area. That neglect can manifest itself by things being drawn towards the centre or by issues in outlying towns being all but ignored. Look at it like this City Regions, as they are presently set up, are a bit like the overheated economy of the South East – a magnet for money to the City with crumbs from the city’s table finding its way to the outlying areas. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that as a rule of thumb any investment in an outlying City Region area will only happen if it is also to the advantage of the main hub.

Oh and just in case you’ve forgotten the other big issue – the City Region Mayors are all middle aged white men, just think on that.

Note – Both of the examples I have focused on above are within Sefton Borough

Bootle – Its present day troubles & a vision for the future

Bootle Townscape

Bootle Townscape

Click on the photos to enlarge them

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/police-crackdown-yobs-bootle-smashing-12387480

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/rooftop-restaurant-swimming-pool-development-12384716

The Liverpool Echo has both the stories on its web site – see links above

It is somewhat ironic that on the same day I found a very negative and a potentially very positive story on the Echo web site about the town I have worked in all my adult life.

Stanley Road Bootle

There can be no doubt that Bootle is presently going through some tough times indeed not least because of the recent withdrawal of retail giant M&S and the impending removal of all the 2500+ HMRC staff working in Bootle and Netherton to central Liverpool.

Well surely there has to be a positive vision otherwise the only alternative is further decline. We can only hope that investment private & public follows the vision.

Bootle – Yet more Civil Service jobs to be withdrawn!

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/closure-bootles-acas-office-see-12122910

acas

On the back of HMRC giving notice to quit to Bootle and Netherton ACAS has seemingly now joined the abandon Bootle movement of Civil Service jobs out of a Town that so obviously needs them. My last posting about the HMRC job losses is available via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/05/07/bootle-back-to-those-huge-civil-service-job-losses-in-the-borough-of-sefton/

The HMRC jobs some 2,500+ are going into Liverpool whilst the much smaller number of ACAS jobs are moving to economically overheated Manchester!

What on earth was the point of putting Civil Service jobs into Bootle in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s simply to withdraw them all now? Does no one in Government give a fig for the more deprived and economically struggling communities in the north of England?

Is this all part of the Norther Poorhouse policy to further impoverish the towns and smaller communities of the north by pushing all the jobs and investment into the major northern cities? What good can come from such a policy?

One of my major concerns about about the development of City Regions is that exactly this sort of thing will continue to happen. What’s the point of Liverpool being successful, for example, if its surrounding Boroughs are asset stripped to achieve that. I despair I really do.

Bootle – One blow after another

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/warning-over-redundancies-hugh-baird-11450896

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above

Poor old Bootle it’s one piece of bad news after another recently. First it is to lose over 3,000 Civil Service jobs, then Wetherspoons say they are pulling out of the Merton Pub, then M&S says it is leaving town and now redundancies at Hugh Bard College!

Time for some good news for Bootle please.

Bootle – Another hammer blow to the local economy as M&S says it is shipping out

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/bootle-ms-store-closure-announced-11437321

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above

In fact I got this story before I saw it on the Echo web site from staff in the store when I popped in earlier today. They are expecting closure August or a little later.

Coming only a short time after HMRC announced it is taking over 3,000 civil service jobs out of Bootle/Netherton this is another hammer blow to the fragile Bootle economy. One wonders if the loss of the civil service jobs in Bootle contributed to M&S deciding to sling their hook?

M&S has clearly been the anchor store for the Stand Shopping Centre ever since it opened in 1971. The Strand seemed to be on the up recently following around a third of the retail units being empty at the height of the recession. It will be interesting and indeed most probably very challenging to see how the new owners of the Strand find a new anchor store.

I think many of us will worry over the future for the Bootle economy.

Bootle – back to those huge Civil Service job losses in the Borough of Sefton

I posted some time ago about what I dubbed ‘Exit Bootle’ as HMRC announced that a huge number of Civil Service jobs were to be taken out of Bootle/Netheron and for some of them then to be relocated within Liverpool. My original posting is available via the link below:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2015/11/25/hmrcs-exit-bootle/

The devastating effect of these job losses on the fragile Bootle economy has indeed been completely ignored and therefore not taken into account by the those planning the move, this has been admitted to. Government seems to have adopted the stance of ‘this has nothing to do with us, it’s a matter for HMRC to decide upon’ or words to that effect!

But it’s not just Bootle where HMRC is going to effect huge job losses on a local economy, it is happening across the UK and MP’s representing those communities, many of them deprived by many social and economic indicators, are naturally up in arms. So much so that a debate on the floor of the House of Commons was held on 28th April and Peter Dowd the MP for Bootle contributed to it. Here’s a link to the Hansard report on the debate:-

hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2016-04-28/debates/16042848000002/HMRCBuildingOurFuturePlan

My thanks to Peter for his contribution in my capacity as a serving Civil Servant, a trade unionist and as a former Leader of Sefton Council. Taking jobs out of Bootle in their thousands will harm the economy and, as I have said before, it reverses a well trodden path that has been successful in providing jobs in Sefton. Let’s not forget that HMRC also took jobs away from Southport when they closed Southport Tax Office a few years ago.

Even at this late stage Government needs to stop washing its hands of the matter. Of course Government is responsible for a Civil Service Department reorganising itself in a way that will be economically destructive to many deprived communities across the UK. There’s no one else to blame.