The devolution deal we negotiated with Government this week is no panacea. That might sound like a flat note when describing the biggest transfer of economic clout from central to local government in a generation.
Indeed, the £900 million package and raft of new powers over transport, planning and skills will help us develop our economy over the next three decades, in particular, helping us grow our private sector and generate higher value-added employment opportunities for a part of the country that sorely needs them. We will be able to make direct investments in the projects that will create the step-change in our economy we need.
In particular, the creation of a Single Investment Fund and Mayoral Development Corporation will see us gain greater control and influence over £3 billion of national funding. Also, we secured a long term Special Rail Grant settlement for the Merseyrail network, supporting Merseytravel’s on-going procurement of new trains. Meanwhile, greater control of skills policy and the Work Programme will see us better able to address poverty, low pay and worklessness.
The Deal is also an investment in our future. As a city-region, we will start investigating the possibility of making ourselves sustainable with energy generation from the most important asset we have – our river. As people, we will depend on our health and social care services more and more and this Deal will allow us to look at how those services to work together – providing better care, but also saving money by avoiding expensive duplication.
But the Liverpool City Region will only reach its full potential if we grasp this opportunity with both hands and commit ourselves to making it work for everyone in the 6 boroughs.
Like many in Liverpool, there are many in the other 5 boroughs who have been hurt by the cuts. Services have been squeezed and all 6 local authorities have had huge, painful, reductions in funding from this Government.
And that’s why we need the power to make an ever increasing number of decisions for ourselves. The cuts are a direct result of expecting someone from a different part of the country, who gets elected to parliament to represent the Conservative Party and their local, probably Southern, constituency and then in government give them the power of life and death over a part of the country they’ve probably never visited.
The creation of a Metro Mayor for the Liverpool City Region means that we can start to make decisions for ourselves and challenge Government over their treatment of some of the poorest in our areas.
It also means we can help ourselves. Much of the Devolution Agreement is based on the ‘asks’ our 6 boroughs made to Government. We have spent months deciding what powers and money we need in order to give our economy, our people, and our institutions the boost they need.
That’s why I was proud to lead my council in voting for the Deal yesterday.