Devolution deals agreed

It’s been a successful week for Chancellor George Osborne as devolution deals were signed off for both the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and West Midlands region.

The deals will see powers over transport, skills and training, better control of strategic planning, and millions of pounds worth of investment (£30m a year in Liverpool and £36.5m a year for the West Midlands) for both regions. However it will also mean, as expected, the creation of a Metro-Mayor who will be elected in 2017.

The deal on Merseyside will also be seen as a major win for Liverpool’s elected Mayor, Joe Anderson, who in the face of opposition from other Merseyside Council Leaders, has been fighting for a deal such as this for a while. Speaking to The Guardian, Joe Anderson said, I’m pleased, not so much that we’ve managed to negotiate with central government but that we have finally been able to get an agreement at a local level. Greater Manchester was able to march on ahead because we were navel gazing and worrying about the process rather than worrying about what we could get from central government.

So, will residents of Merseyside and the West Midlands see any differences locally because of these deals? Probably not, in the immediate future.

The extra funding provided to both regions has been already ring-fenced in order to, “bring in private sector investment” meaning any hope of supporting public services with the money has been dashed. Likewise, the plans for a Liverpool Opera House and the scrapping of charges on the M6 toll road were rejected by the Government, meaning both regions will have to find other revenue streams to achieve these aims.

The creation of a new enterprise zone in the West Midlands will be of interest to those looking for business opportunities in the region. This could mean the creation of more jobs, helping certain areas in the Black Country, which has been hit by massive levels of unemployment in recent years.

Ultimately, it’s business as usual for those in the West Midlands and Merseyside. Yes, a deal has been struck. Yes, George Osborne can claim that his vision of elected Metro-Mayors has spread across the North and Midland. And yes, both regions will gain more powers and funding from central Government. However, with even more powers over Health and Adult Social Care being handed to Manchester, one cannot help but feel both Merseyside and the West Midlands have not achieved all that they could have.

As Stuart Wilks-Heeg from Liverpool University put it, …the fact they’ve secured anything,  is quite impressive.”

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