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

Labour crisis – Is the Glass half full or half empty?

You could not help but wonder yesterday what on earth was going on when Pat Glass MP resigned from Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet only two or is that 3 days after she accepted an invitation to join it as Shadow Education Secretary!

CJzYw4EWwAAicCx.png large

She clearly does not know whether her glass is half full or half empty. I bet this will haunt her for a long time.

My understanding, from what I would consider a reliable Labour source, is that Sefton Central MP, Bill Esterson is backing Jeremy Corbyn together with fellow Merseyside Labour MP’s Peter Dowd (Bootle) and Steve Rotherham (Walton). Steve Rotherham of course wants to be Labour’s candidate in Merseyside’s new Metro Mayor election in 2017. If my understanding is not correct I am happy to amend as I notice that the MP’s were far less clear, than my source, in this weeks Champion newspaper.

Will Joe or his Labour challengers just suck the life out of Liverpool’s surrounding borough’s?

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/labours-three-metro-mayor-candidate-11503354

The Liverpool Echo has a story about Labour’s potential candidates for Lord of Merseyside – see link above

Readers of this blog site will know that I am in no way a fan of Merseyside having a Metro Mayor to lord it over us all, indeed I think the whole carry on will potentially be the death of Liverpool’s surrounding council areas.

But whether we want a Metro Mayor or not this wretched Tory Government, whose bed Merseyside Labour has all to firmly jumped into, is making us have one.

So who will the Metro Mayor be? Just look at the potential Labour candidates – see link above! They are all from the Liverpool City part of Merseyside, a real worry here.

My concern all along has been that the City of Liverpool may well prosper by pulling everything towards it but that could well be at the expense of Sefton, St. Helens, Knowsley, Halton and Wirral council areas. Indeed, it has started to happen already as poor old Bootle is being stripped of over 3,000 civil service jobs three quarters of which are to be resettled again in Liverpool City Centre!

If we have to have a Metro Mayor (at least until hopefully a new government abolishes them) then surely we need one who clearly has loyalties outside of Liverpool City? Could this be a way of ensuring that the City does not suck the life, economic or otherwise, from the surrounding areas?

MP’s say ‘don’t force Metro Mayors on communities’

The Parliamentary Communities and Local Government Select Committee has told ministers they should refrain from imposing elected mayors on local areas as a condition of devolution.

The cross-party committee of MPs said regions who wanted “substantial devolved powers” but were not in favour of having a mayor “should be allowed to propose an equally strong alternative model of governance.”

The committee has also called for the role of residents to be more prominent in devolution, saying: “We have found a significant lack of public consultation and engagement at all stages in the devolution process.” [i.e. bugger all, not a sausage, less than nothing in the Liverpool City Region]

Elsewhere, the Guardian’s Susanna Rustin says that a push toward devolution highlights gender inequality which suggests none of the elected mayors will be women. She cites figures which show that despite 30% of England’s 18,000 councillors being women, just 14.6%, or one in seven, of 352 English local government leaders are female.

With thanks to John Dodd and the LGIU for the lead to this posting

Southport – Planning for a positive future

birkdalefocus.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/the-british-lawnmower-museum-and-town.html

Above is a link to the blog site of my good friend Cllr. Iain Brodie Brown, please take a moment to click the link and read his posting. It is pure community politics to my mind.

Southport viewed from the end of its pier

Southport viewed from the end of its pier

Click on the photo to enlarge it

There can be little doubt that the towns/boroughs surrounding Liverpool have not benefited from being a part of the Liverpool City Region. Indeed, my own view is that centralising power in Liverpool as both Tories and Labour are planning for, with a Metro Mayor, could well be the road to ruin for places like Southport St. Helens, Birkenhead, Maghull, Formby, Prescot etc.

Whilst Iain’s posting is all about what needs to be done to give Southport a bright future his fundamental concerns could well be about any of Liverpool’s satellite communities that sit outside of the Liverpool City Council boundary.

Centralising power and influence in Liverpool will just not work, except for Liverpool itself. Unlike the Greater Manchester communities, which mostly seem look towards Manchester, the same can’t be said of Merseyside. Southport has always seen its connections with Preston and Lancashire as being of great importance but it was wrenched away from such historical links by local government reorganisation in 1974. Much of Wirral Borough has historic connections with Chester and Cheshire but it too was forced into Merseyside.

Merseyside because of its odd geographic shape was never likely to be a runner as a viable unit of local government and the years that have passed since 1974 have only proved that theory correct. Sefton, itself a strange collection of diverse communities, realised this some years ago and it began a process of decentralisation. Bizarrely though Labour then slammed this process into reverse when its Bootle based party took control of the Council. What was their motivation to say ‘the Borough will work well as a one size fits all because we say it will’ not least because this approach had failed miserably when first tried?

Presently we are seeing the start of a process to take 1000’s of civil service jobs out of Netherton, St Helens and Bootle for them all to be centralised in Liverpool. Liverpool’s gain will be big losses for Sefton and St Helens Boroughs.

Make no mistake the Tories are wedded to cities being made more powerful at the expense of their surrounding towns and boroughs. What’s more Labour are pretty much behind this process, why else did the 6 Labour Council Leaders on Merseyside sign up to a 3rd rate devolution deal?

Towns surrounding big cities need investment, public and private, not dependency on the nearest City because that is the road to ruin except for the big cities of course.

The photo above is amongst my Flickr shots at:-

www.flickr.com/photos/86659476@N07/

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/