Downtown Liverpool has been a long time campaigner for a Liverpool city region Combined Authority.
It is a model that has worked and served Greater Manchester well for several years now, and the opportunity and potential that comes with a more collaborative approach between the six local councils in this part of the North West is easy to see.
However, our politicians have a knack of shooting the region in the foot, looking gift horses in the mouth and grasping defeat from the jaws of victory that is as uncanny as it is tragic.
The latest gaff, apparently courtesy of local districts who did not wish to see the word Liverpool dominate the title of the new local government body, comes with the proposed name which is, wait for it, ‘The Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral Combined Authority.’ That trip’s of the tongue easily doesn’t it?
Imagine calling the Downtown office and being met with ‘Hello, Downtown Liverpool, Lancashire, Manchester and Leeds in Business’!
The suggested name is nonsense but it is what this says about the reality of genuine collaboration amongst our local government representatives that is of most concern. If they can’t come up with an agreement on a sensible name for an organisation, what chance is there of them producing a coherent economic strategy?
For this reason I am urging Liverpool’s Mayor Joe Anderson to walk away from a body that at best will be a talk shop and at worse could do serious damage to the city’s future regeneration and economic growth.
Will the city Mayor be expected to continually placate and negotiate with those who actually believe that their districts are as big a brand as Liverpool? Would there need to be a ‘redistribution’ of opportunities that emerge via inward investment activity and marketing and promotion? Can Joe really be expected to dilute a Liverpool brand which has been in the ascendency now for over a decade? I simply ask Joe this question – do you think you could sign up to this backward looking agenda?
Parochial politicians and council officials may try to hide behind Eric Pickles and government ministers for the botched name fiasco. They are not being honest with us. Our Whitehall sources have confirmed that heavy private lobbying has taken place to abandon the publicly agreed name of the ‘Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’ to the humdinger we have been saddled with. Worse, political leaders are working behind the scenes to unseat Joe Anderson as the chair of this organisation.
The local daftness aside, it is equally contemptible for the government to propose this bizarre name for what they presumably want to see as a serious policy making body for the city region. It may amuse Tory and Liberal Democrat ministers to see Labour council leaders scrap like rats in a sack, but they ought to care more about the credibility of Liverpool and the wider region.
If it wasn’t so serious, and embarrassing, it might be funny. Business leaders are fed up with this nonsense. We need to demand maturity and vision from our political masters – nationally and locally!