LIVERPOOL and its five next-door neighbours are set to be run by their own mini-government.
It will be the biggest shake-up in local decision-making since the reorganisation of local government in 1974, and will be operational in just a year’s time.
Local Government Minister Phil Woolas (right) met the leaders and chief executives of the six councils yesterday in what was a crucial summit to discuss regional devolution. The plan will see Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens and Halton creating a new sub-regional cabinet to decide key policies and strategies for what will be known as the Liverpool City Region.
Eventually, the city region could be extended to take in Chester, Ellesmere Port and Neston, Warrington and West Lancashire.
Mr Woolas revealed that a proportion of the city region’s business rates would be handed to the new cabinet to spend locally. A pool of cash will also be available to the new body to spend locally.
The Government has ruled out prospects of a city-region mayor running the area, but will instead endorse a cabinet. The chairman of the new body will be rotated between the six leaders.
After spending hours in discussions at the Liverpool mini-summit, Mr Woolas said he was encouraged by the response from the six authorities.
He added: “We have the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, a Mayor in London and devolution to Northern Ireland. Now it is the turn of the English cities to have devolved powers.”
He described his visit to Liverpool as important in the debate about governance of the future.
“This is about city regions and the devolution of power. I have met the leaders and chief executives of the six councils, the regional development agency, the universities and the chamber of commerce. These are the people who currently run Merseyside.
My proposal to them today has been to say: ‘If you work together, you will be given more power.’
The Government spends hundreds of millions of pounds across Merseyside and we feel that should be more influenced by local leaders than is currently the case. There are issues such as job creation, health, skills training that can be tackled sub-regionally.
“There is already a good working relationship between the six authorities and we are saying the more formal and organised that relationship is, the more power it will be given. It already works well on issues such as transport and skills training. Businesses tell us they want one-stop shops, rather than bureaucracy. Merseyside has the fastest-growing economy of anywhere in the UK, and I find that incredible.
“I must be the first minister in 30 years to come to Merseyside and not be asked for government money. The confidence of the business community in the Merseyside area is now very strong.