Council Tax – How many more political mouths will want feeding on Merseyside?

I recently raised the issue of our Metro Mayor wanting you to dig deeper into your pockets to pay for his staff, wages and office running costs but of course we also have a Police and Crime Commissioner too and guess what they want you to dig deeper as well! Here’s a link to my post regarding the Metro Mayor’s grab for your pocket:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2019/01/20/metro-mayor-tax-another-call-on-your-pocket/

As for the Police and Crime Commissioner here’s what they are demanding in the next Council tax year beginning April 2019:-

My point is that I am very far from convinced that we need a Police and Crime Commissioner and the jury is certainly out over the Metro Mayor post because the 3rd rate devolved powers to the Merseyside Mayor make it hard to justify the cost of having one.

Bizarrely, both posts are the creation of the Conservatives who used to claim they wanted to keep the rates/Council tax down!

Whilst I was never a member of if it, in my time as a Borough Councillor or Council leader, my impression was that the former Police Committee made up of councillors from across Merseyside worked well and it was one of those things that was not broken and did not need fixing. But the Tories knew best and had been taken in by the American way of running Council areas with elected Mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners. Why they didn’t go the whole hog and call the P&CC’s Police Chiefs and give them a fancy uniform I don’t know.

But hey you get the grand positions and then surprise, surprise they want paying, they want to hire staff and they need premises to operate from. Seems the Tories have simply added folks to the public payroll and frankly what do we have to show for our generous ‘donations’ to either cause?

And before you ask, no I’m not saying that we all don’t have to chip in to run local services, it’s just that I don’t believe adding more glorified posts to the local payroll is the way to do it.

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting

Click on the chart above to enlarge it

Metro Mayor Tax – Another call on your pocket

The Liverpool Echo has the article on its website – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/steve-rotheram-going-charge-you-15694713

Now I don’t recall amongst all the hype from Tories in Government and Labour locally who backed us having a Metro Mayor, on what I called at the time a 3rd rate devolution deal, that there’d be an addition to all the Liverpool City Region council tax bills, do you? But then again it was probably always the case that there’d be more mouths to feed and such has come to pass.

I’d be much happier if the powers devolved to our Metro Mayor had made it worth us putting our hands deeper into our pockets but I’ve been consistent in saying it was a poor deal that should not have been embraced so lovingly by Labour leaders across Merseyside.

It’s not that I’m opposed to devolved powers, indeed as a Liberal, I’ve championed such moves for as long as I can recall when both Tories and Labour nationally and locally would have none of it. It’s just that I’m far from convinced that the limited powers that our Metro Mayor has makes the post worth having (and us paying for) and I’d hold that view no matter who was our Metro Mayor.

And where’s the detailed plan and the vision for say the next 20 years to take our City Region forward, you get the impression that at least initially our money will be going to put that together whereas it should have come before the plea for cash.

Tell us what you are going to deliver – then ask us to chip in not the other way round

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

Mersey Tunnels – When a toll reduction is a big let down!

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-42802041

The BBC has the story on its web site – see link above

Now what exactly was Steve Rotherham’s electoral pledge on Mersey Tunnels Tolls? Well I have listened carefully to the video on the Liverpool Echo web site from January 2017 and the pledge was very clear to me – Mr. Rotherham said he was going to reduce the cost of a single (Fast Tag) journey, for Liverpool City Region residents, through the tunnels to £1. No mention of it being only between 7pm at night and 7pm in the morning. Here’s the link to the Liverpool Echo article and video:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/tunnel-trips-1-5-things-12496167

So why has he watered down the pledge? Was it not fully thought through, costed and affordable when the pledge was made?

Is there any wonder folk lose faith in politicians who don’t deliver on pledges – Mr Clegg and his pledge to not increase Labour’s Tuition Fees comes to mind of course!

In my view tolls on tunnels and bridges should all be abolished and the cost of the upkeep of them funded from general taxation.

Liverpool City Region Labour Mayor adopts much of Lib Dem Carl Cashman’s manifesto – Well that’s what it looks like

Yes I know, many of those Lib Dem manifesto pledges that Labour voters rejected in the Mersey Metro Mayor election of a few months ago seem to have been picked up as policy by the newly elected Labour Mayor of Liverpool City Region. Just look:-

Not exactly the same words but you could not read Carl’s manifesto without saying hang on a minute! And what will Labour voters think of it; they seemingly rejected Carl’s policy options only last May!

Politics is a funny old world at times but this made me smile because much of what Lib Dem candidate Carl Cashman stood for in the Metro Mayor is now seemingly official Labour policy on Merseyside. Carl should be pleased as imitation is the best form of flattery, or so they say.

But of course just picking up Carl’s ideas is one thing making them happen in a meaningful way is quite another! Maybe Steve Rotherham needs to appoint Carl as his special advisor for implementation of the Lib Dem manifesto:-)))

Picture Credit of lead photo – Charlie Green

Merseyrail – RMT Guards Dispute – What the Liverpool City Region Mayor thinks

A new Stadler Merseyrail train artist impression

I recently contacted Steve Rotherham the Liverpool City Region Mayor about this dispute and here is his response:-

Thank you for taking the time to e-mail me about the issue of Train Safety.

Can I say that this is a dispute between Merseyrail and the RMT Union.

I am happy to use whatever influence I have to try and settle the matter but I am unable to instruct either party to come to an agreement. The contract for new rolling stock was signed prior to my election and I respect that decision.

The contract for over £460m of investment in new rolling stock, means our trains will be the most technologically advanced trains in the country. The business case was predicated on the driver having responsibility for opening and closing doors.

I too hope that a settlement can be reached asap as we need stability in our transport systems throughout the Liverpool City Region and we would not wish to imperil any investment in the future.

I have stated publically and in private to the RMT Union leaders that my door is open should they wish to meet to progress the issue and work to find an agreeable solution to the current impasse.

Yours sincerely

Steve Rotheram

Metro Mayor

Whilst Steve Rotherham is right in saying that the dispute is between Merseyrail and the RMT Trade Union my clear understanding is that the dispute was in reality created by Merseytravel, the public sector Transport Committee of the Liverpool City Region. By this I mean that it was Merseytravel who ordered the new fleet of Stadler trains which are intended to be run without train guards.

Merseyrail, the private sector train operating company, could be said to be in a dispute that is not of their own making. They may well be fronting up like they are up fight with the RMT Union but did they have any choice in reality other than to do battle with the RMT? My view is no they did not have any choice because the politicians who sit on the Merseytravel Committee dropped them right in it when they decided to axe train guards on the new fleet of trains.

This still looks to me like a dispute created by politicians but left to the private sector rail operator to fight.