A Mayor of Merseyside?
The wait is finally over: the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has finally drawn up its wish-list of powers that it believes should be managed locally in return for the creation of a Mayor of Merseyside.
The list includes:
- The creation of a land commission to oversee how the public sector estate is used
- The continuation of Government investment into the International Festival for Business in 2018 and 2020
- Local control over the Mersey Tunnel tolls
- The ability to restructure local skills and advisory systems to respond to local needs
- The retention of business rates income
- Designating the Liverpool Wirral Port system as a Free Trade Zone
- The power to manage local bus routes and fares
Cllr Phil Davies, Leader of Wirral Borough Council and Chair of the Combined Authority, has said these proposals, “cover a range of areas where we [the Combined Authority] feel that we can add value by having the resources and decision making at a local level.”
There are suggestions that, due to the scale of cuts the Merseyside authorities are facing, these proposals would help bridge the financial gaps, by allowing them to increase a variety of revenue streams. So far, the reception for these proposals has been slightly underwhelming, which is probably because the list has been in discussion for several months and is quite small in comparison to the extensive powers agreed by Greater Manchester politicians recently. That said, there are some innovative ideas there.
The creation of a Free Trade Zone around the Liverpool and Wirral ports is one such example. The Merseyside region is famed for its docks, and this will only encourage more and more business to flow through the Liverpool area, something that Joe Anderson, Liverpool’s elected Mayor, has spoken about several times. This is a great example of the region making the most of an exclusive benefit it has over other areas, and is likely to generate millions in extra investment.
Likewise, the city region has also seen the potential in utilising the Mersey Tunnel as a source of revenue. The tunnel was the centre of much controversy in the lead up to May’s General Election, when the Conservatives pledged to cut toll costs in a last-ditch effort to hold onto the Wirral West seat. Although the constituency was eventually won by Labour, the idea resonated with much of the public who were generally in favour of cutting the costs to travel between Wirral and Liverpool. It seems that Merseyside’s political leaders have taken this on board.
In terms of planning and development, it is still unclear what, if any, ideas are being floated to encourage regeneration within Merseyside. This may surprise some people, particularly as some leaders on the Combined Authority, such as Joe Anderson and Cllr Ian Maher, have been so outspoken in their desire to attract the investment and job creation that large development projects bring. This is just the beginning of the process though, and there is still time for such questions to be asked and answered.
Following the submission of these proposals, there is scheduled to be at least three negotiation sessions, with the deal expected to finally come into effect in spring 2017. Remarkable will be keeping a watching brief throughout this process, and will make sure we keep people updated when more information is released.
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