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…………

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

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/

Merseyside Metro Mayor – Cllr. Carl Cashman’s launch event

For someone who thinks that the devolution deal that Merseyside got from our present Tory Government was at best 2nd rate and who doesn’t think a Metro Mayor is a sensible way forward for this region you may wonder why I went to launch event of one of the potential candidates for the job earlier today.

IMG_0001

Well I went, as did many other of Carl’s supporters, because the candidate in question thinks as I do. He is standing to be a candidate because he knows the devolution deal is poor and he is concerned, like me, about putting too much power in one person’s hands. What’s more I like Carl Cashman and have been supporting him as he has moved through the political gears to becoming the present Lib Dem Leader on Knowsley Council.

Carl is a bright young free thinking Liberal politician whom I greatly admire and if anyone has to be our Metro Mayor I quite frankly could not think of a person more suited to the role. He is strong on environmental issues, such as stopping Labour-run Councils from building on the Green Belt, and he has a keen sense of social responsibility. He cares about people and unlike the vast majority of politicians he really does put people before party politics.

IMG_0002 r

Watch out for this young man he is going places.

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!

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.