Downtown Liverpool joined forces with the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce and Pro Liverpool yesterday morning to discuss the future of our city region with Mayor Joe Anderson and 200 business leaders.
The issues that have caused most controversy and consternation in recent weeks – the name of the proposed combined authority that brings together the six local authorities from across the Liverpool city region, and who should lead that body, were high on the agenda, but seemingly have still to be fully resolved.
As Liverpool’s leading politician Joe Anderson is clearly doing his best to cajole, compromise and convince his fellow colleagues from Halton, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral to do the right thing, but in the end he must resist giving in too much, otherwise the potential power and influence of the new body will be lost before it has even got off the ground.
That being said, one cannot do anything other than admire the passion and fire in the belly that Joe Anderson demonstrates when he articulates the case for Liverpool to collaborate not just with neighbouring districts but other core cities too in order to deliver continued progress and economic growth for his home town.
As the excellent Michael Parkinson of the University of Liverpool stated at the breakfast seminar, the opportunities that exist for attracting inward investment are all the more powerful if we can get the whole region rowing in the same direction. But his more pertinent point was this: With an ever shrinking pot of public funding, governments will want to spend their cash with partners they trust to deliver.
Manchester has that credibility in abundance. Liverpool city region, in no small part because of petty rows over name checking Halton in every strategy document, or marketing the latest car boot sale in Wirral as an official IFB event, has a reputation in Whitehall of being a ‘risky’ partner; a bit of a basket case.
Government ministers, particularly Eric Pickles, have been immature in taking advantage of a local row among Labour council leaders and MP’s with the absurd name he has saddled the Combined Authority with, but he should never have been given the open goal to shoot in to in the first place.
It is time for our local authority leaders to put their parochial agenda’s aside and accept Liverpool, once and for all, as the attack brand for the city region, and Joe Anderson as the best personality to lead a Combined Authority. Then Whitehall may take us a little more seriously than it appears to at the moment.