Mersey Mayor almost there

Boe Johnderson

The establishment of a metro mayor for the Liverpool city region came a step closer last week following a meeting of the leaders of the six Merseyside local authorities and local government Minister Greg Clark.

There may be some continued chest beating, huffing and puffing from those leaders who still see the insistence of an elected mayor to be an imposition too far; but pragmatism will surely dictate that to win the devolution of power that is on offer, the prize is greater than the perceived sacrifice.

For Downtown in Business, this provides another tick in the box for the many campaigns we have been involved in over the past eleven years. Our organisation has been a long-time advocate of metro mayors. Indeed long before George Osborne introduced his notion of the Northern Powerhouse, we were arguing for decentralisation of powers and resources, alongside a much needed modernisation of local governance structures.

To my mind local government should not see the introduction of metro mayors as either an imposition or a sacrifice. It is an opportunity to reinvigorate local democracy, and introduce some much needed accountability and transparency over a whole myriad of decisions on big strategic issues that are currently taken behind closed doors.

From European funding bids, through to decisions about skills funding; transport strategy to planning policy; a combination of unelected representatives of the Local Enterprise Partnership and the six Labour men who run the Combined Authority, own this agenda with little or no challenge.

An elected mayor for the region will not only provide Greater Liverpool with an opportunity to deliver more effective and relevant strategies to grow our economy and create jobs, but also adds a much needed democratic and accountable element into areas of policy that absolutely need scrutiny and transparency.

Hopefully, too, it will help to re-engage the electorate with politics. Turnout for local polls are woefully poor, as electors have drawn the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that the only election that matters is the one that determines who governs at Westminster. The office of Metro Mayor will have genuine powers and resources to make significant decisions on behalf of their city region, and will become important figureheads for the localities they represent.

All being equal, in simple terms, Liverpool will have its own Boris by 2017. That is a win for Downtown – and more importantly a win for our city too.