Liverpool’s not there yet

There is a report elsewhere in today’s TFI about the united front that business organisations from across the city region have been able to sign up to in terms of support for a devolution deal for Liverpool – or ‘Devo Scouse’ as some have labelled it.

The fact that six business groups with all very different memberships, cultures, approaches and agendas were able to come together in the space of a month to reach agreement is something our political leaders may reflect upon as they continue to grapple with the question – is the prize worth the price?

The prize could include a huge package of powers, but not necessarily with an uplift in resources. Devolution is more about the notion that local leaders can get more productivity by managing existing cash more effectively, rather than the chancellor writing a big cheque. However, it may be fair to assume that the first tranche of Combined Authorities that are planned to be announced in the autumn will have one or two sweeteners to help them on their way. George Osborne will want to see some quick wins for his big idea as he gears up for his tilt at the big job.

For this reason, being part of the initial wave of devolved authorities holds some attraction, and it is the thing that is driving huge conurbations like Birmingham and the West Midlands and city regions like Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle to drive forward action plans that will meet with government approval.

The big sticking point for many though, Liverpool included, is the price. The establishment of an elected metro mayor.

I have rehearsed previously why I believe metro mayors are a force for good, including this blog here.

However, not so much the post itself, but the man who may get the job, is the main objection from a good number of local politicians in Merseyside.

So a devolution submission has been put together, ‘signed off’ and approved by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority on Wednesday. Negotiations will take place with ministers and mandarins, but agreement is far from certain.

It would be a shame if we let personalities get in the way of the fantastic opportunity that a devolution deal offers – but at this stage only a brave man would bet on Liverpool’s leaders doing the brave thing. Win the prize, pay the price, secure the what’ – and then worry about the ‘who’.