Leaders across the city region are confident that the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Autumn Statement next month will contain details of a devolution deal, according to Ged Fitzgerald, chief executive of Liverpool City Council.
Speaking to Place North West at the second MIPIM UK in London, Fitzgerald said that the city region had made massive progress in its devolution discussions with central Government, and described reports that a Government minister had described the Liverpool’s bid as disappointing as “nonsense”.
“We’re well advanced in our negotiations, we had dozens of asks on the table to work through, and most of these are now over the line,” he said.
“I remain confident, as do the council leaders, that there will be a devolution deal ready to be announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on the 25 November.”
Councils across the country submitted their bids to the Government for devolved powers in September. A statement from the Liverpool City Region at the time of the bid said that the deal would “accelerate growth, improve public services and improve social outcomes”.
Requests for devolved power included; settlements to help plan and provide sustainable services for local residents and businesses, the creation of a land commission to oversee public sector estates, local control over Mersey Tunnel tolls, retaining business rates, and creating a Free Trade Zone around the Liverpool Wirral Port system.
“There are still some big points to clarified, such as the amount of money we will be getting out of the Government, specifics over transport, and discussions around skills,” said Fitzgerald. “It is in the interests of the Government to strike a deal, and that is well advanced. However, devolution is a journey, and it won’t start and finish with the Autumn Statement. We just hope to get through the gate on the 25 November, and then there will be various stopping off points along the way.”
Despite continuing rumours of infighting between the six councils which make up the city region, Fitzgerald maintained that the councils were “closer than they’ve ever been”.
“The devolution conversation is alive and well, and there is an increased realisation that we need to work collectively. Individual authorities in the city region can bring specialisms that the city can’t on its own.”
With discussions around the Northern Powerhouse dominating the first day of events at MIPIM UK, despite potential rivalry Fitzgerald stressed that the partnership between Manchester and Liverpool was growing increasingly stronger.
He said: “Too much is made in the media about the rivalry and competitiveness between Manchester and Liverpool. Of course we need to take pride in our own identities, but we also need to work together.”
Manchester and Liverpool hosted a joint stand at MIPIM UK for the second year running, which Fitzgerald said demonstrated how the two cities were “pitching jointly for investment. It is symbolic of Manchester and Liverpool joining forces to create a joint prospectus.”