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…………

Merseyside or Liverpool City Region?

or

With Merseyside/Liverpool City Region being somewhat the centre of attention presently due to the recent spike in Covid 19 it’s been interesting to hear how the media and politicians interchange Merseyside with Liverpool City Region. I’ve even seen a posting on Twitter explaining what Liverpool City Region is made up of as even on Merseyside it’s a matter of some confusion with Joe and Jane Public.

First a bit of history. Merseyside was created as part of the big local government reorganisation which came into effect in 1974. It comprised and indeed still does comprise the council areas of Knowsley, Sefton, St. Helens, Wirral and Liverpool. Mrs. T did not like the uppity Metropolitan County Councils and the Greater London Council so she abolished them. The powers that were held by Merseyside Country Council were given to joint boards made up of councillors from the boroughs or they went straight to the borough councils. The lead photo is of one of the last surviving Merseyside County Council boundary signs that I know of. It’s on Cunscough Lane on the Bikerstaffe/Melling – Lancashire/Merseyside boundary or at least it was last time I looked. You’ll note that the County Council had a crest which is displayed on the sign.

Then many years later there was a developing trend, particularly amongst Tories, to ape US/Australian local/regional government process and with that came the creation of Liverpool City Region, a City Region Mayor and a Police Commissioner. It also meant that Liverpool City had two elected mayors leading to the City Mayor becoming known as the ‘Spare Mayor’ in some circles. I think it’s fair to say that Police Commissioners have been a complete flop whilst the regional mayors are hardly viewed as being a successful policy move either.

The difference geographically between Merseyside and Liverpool City Region (LCR) is that LCR includes the Borough of Halton (Widnes & Runcorn) and the graphic below illustrates the area covered by LCR

But why did Merseyside morph into Liverpool City Region? Well it happened whilst I was leader of Sefton Council and the theory was this. The Council Leaders were told that potential investors in Merseyside did not know where it was, whereas they did know where Liverpool wass. You can follow this through reasonably logically by thinking about the huge successes of Liverpool Football Club who together with the Beatles put Liverpool on the world map. I get all that but to be honest I was never particularly sold on dropping Merseyside for LCR but a decision had to be made so eventually LCR was the title agreed but not with much enthusiasm I think it fair to say.

The irony of where we are now due to Covid 19 is that LRC may well mean a clear area of the UK for outside investors but to locals, politicians and the media in the UK it’s still Merseyside.

The name change has not really worked and it possibly never will with locals.