Lord Smith favourite for Greater Manchester super-council boss

Councillors in Manchester have backed moves to give Greater Manchester a new figurehead, as part of the first step to having its own directly-elected mayor. The plan would involve appointing a new leader to a “super-council” in the hope the Government will then hand over a package of new powers and finance. Lord Peter Smith, the leader of Wigan Council and the current chair of the Greater Manchester combined authority, is understood to be the frontrunner for the interim post.

The Manchester Evening News carried this story recently.

No surprise that Lord Peter Smith he is the front runner to be the leader over in Greater Manchester. I have seen him at work and respect his approach to local governance. He must be the major reason why Greater Manchester has been so successful in getting Governments to part with so much cash especially in the transportation area.

BUT hey don’t go a spoil it all by having a Metropolitan Mayor for Greater Manchester; that will be a bad move. Yes, Lord Smith could easily slip into such a post but think about who comes after him and don’t put too much power in one person’s hands!

Sefton’s budget meeting was not all bad news – a glimmer of hope re. Combined Authority

As well as the big party political bust up between the ruling Labour Party and us opposition Lib Dems over Labour’s budget for the Council last Thursday there was another matter on the Council agenda of importance.

I have commented before on the recently created Combined Authority for Merseyside, why Sefton Lib Dems would not support its setting up and subsequently the ridiculous farce because the 6 Merseyside Labour Council Leaders, who are responsible for setting it up, can’t even agree what to call it!

The report before Sefton Council last Thursday was at face value a technical one all about constitutional type issues for this new body but we saw an opportunity to try to make a significant move for the betterment of this flawed project. Our move was to propose an additional clause which read as follows:-

Commits Sefton Council to positively lead an exploration of all the realistic options to expand the Combined Authority to encompass those areas of Lancashire and Cheshire that are presently not a part of the Combined Authority but may aspire to such.

No one was more surprised than me, as the mover of this amendment, when the Labour Leader got to his feet and agreed with me! In Merseyside Labour’s horizons are usually very low but it seems that light has penetrated Labour’s darkness on this matter.

There are two important reasons why Merseyside has been seen to be and indeed has been dysfunctional and unsuccessful in terms of its local governance. Firstly, its Labour-run Councils over the years have not got on or even had a common agenda – fighting like ferrets in a sack comes to mind! I saw some of this at first hand when I was Leader of Sefton and there were then 2 other Lib Dem Council Leaders from St Helens and Liverpool Councils. I think it fair to say that we 3 Lib Dem Council Leaders often used to wonder if Labour had any other agenda than trying to unseat the Labour Chairman of Merseytravel because that issue did the rounds so many times. Most of all this was symptomatic of Labour’s long-standing Merseyside internal rivalries.

But the other problem is that Merseyside is far too small. It does not represent the real travel to work area of Liverpool with places such as West Lancashire and Ellesmere Port being outside of the governance structure. A glance across at Greater Manchester shows you how right that balance can be and how wrong Merseyside has always been since it’s creation in 1974.

Greater Manchester has virtually always displayed a public face of a common agenda and in doing so it has been successful. Merseyside has never had a common agenda and the consequences have been failure. Greater Manchester is clearly a governance area that makes sense and which encompasses the vast majority of Manchester’s travel to work area. Merseyside is too small and it does not represent Liverpool’s travel to work area.

Maybe a small step was made last Thursday to address the geographical problem, I certainly hope so. Whether Labour can sort out the generations of infighting across Merseyside is quite another!

Balls says Labour will make big spending cuts whilst locally Sefton Labour wants to spend, spend, spend

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-25885606

The past week has probably served to highlight Labour’s fundamental and ultimate dilemma – the spenders/borrowers V the cutters of expenditure who want, so they say, to balance the UK books.

Labour has always been a high tax and big spend party and their governments have usually ended in economic failure i.e. borrowed too much, spent too much. But Ed Balls and his chum Ed Miliband, who increasing look like the spitting image caricatures of David Owen and David Steel, are now telling us all that they will stop their ingrained habit of spending and borrowing too much in favour of the UK balancing its books and even running a surplus! This could be a significant turning point for Labour unless it is just party political spin to try to win an election.

However, let’s give Mr Balls the benefit of the doubt for a moment despite the fact that the mess we are presently in was created on his party’s watch! The problem being though that on the ground Labour is still a fundamentally tax and spend party, we see it in the outpourings of Merseyside Labour MP’s and Council Leaders day after day. What Mr Balls now espouses is so far away from some of his MP’s and Council Leaders that they may as well be in different political parties!

Only this week at Sefton’s council meeting the comrades were championing more/higher spending and talking about going to the government for more money. It’s as though these unreconstructed municipal socialists still think that taking a begging bowl to Downing Street, under any government, will lead to it being filled up! And these are the very same people that have ranted and raved at all the terrible cuts in public expenditure that have had to be made since our economy collapsed. They still genuinely seem to think that so long as Labour gets elected to run the Country again that the money tap will be turned back on. But that is very far from what Mr Balls is saying, in fact it is a million miles away from it.

Merseyside is suffering from a failure of leadership from the great and good Labour Council leaders. A glance across to Greater Manchester to see how it is striding forwards under the quiet but highly effective leadership of Lord Peter Smith of Wigan is all the evidence you need. Investment in public transport in particular shows how effective Greater Manchester has been as they have extracted money from governments of all colours in recent times to build a massive tram network and upgrade their traditional heavy rail. Merseyside has failed to get a tram system off the ground and is looked upon by governments of all colours as being a political basket case which can’t put together coherent long-term plans.

So on virtually the same day that Ed Balls was preaching fiscal prudence his troops here in the Merseyside Borough of Sefton were still ranting about the cuts that have been made so far: goodness knows how they will cope with the cuts to come especially if they come from the hand of Mr Balls!