Devolution deal for Liverpool City Region

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Liverpool city centre. Photo: Ida Husøy

Liverpool city centre. Photo: Ida Husøy

In a landmark decision for local democracy, the six councils that make up the Liverpool City Region have voted in favour of the devolution of more powers from Whitehall to Merseyside.

The new powers will include the ability for voters in Merseyside and Halton to elect a new city region mayor directly, as well as having a greater say over transport and housing plans.

There is also a £900m investment fund being set up which will see the city region receive £30m per year over a 30-year period, which is hoped will attract more private investment.

Councillors from Liverpool, Knowsley, St Helens, Wirral, Sefton and Halton voted at meetings held by each council last night. The Labour majority on Liverpool City Council won the vote with 69 votes to four.

Opposition to the agreement in Liverpool came from the Green Party. They asked for the deal to be amended to allow for a directly elected assembly, which would be able to hold the new city region mayor accountable.

The deal came after the leaders of the council’s that make up the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority “agreed in principle” to the deal after a meeting with the Treasury, where they discussed the final details at the end of last week. The Combined Authority will meet again today to discuss the outcome of last night’s meetings.

Video report by Eleanor Davies, Alexandra Duncan & Vaiva Gedvilaite, JMU Journalism TV

Liverpool’s current Mayor, Joe Anderson, described the deal as the “biggest shift in power from central government to local government in decades”.

The devolution package is part of Chancellor George Osborne’s wide-ranging plans for Northern England, with Liverpool becoming the fifth city to agree to take on these new powers.

Mr Osborne said: “This revolutionary deal cements the area’s position as a gateway to the north, from North Wales all the way to Newcastle, and gives local people control over their own affairs for the first time.”

Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears, said that the agreement will mean that Merseyside’s council’s will no longer have to “work alone in the economy”.

She said: “The six councils will work from the same blueprint with more devolved powers to deliver jobs, training, welfare support and economic resilience.

“I believe it is vital that we continue to give local government the powers they need to support their communities – they know their people and area best and they can create the right conditions to support and improve them.”

Merseyside is one of 38 bids in the UK looking to gain more control over their budgets, with a similar agreed in Greater Manchester.

About Callum Smyth, JMU Journalism