Sunday, 29 September 2013

City Region shot gun marriage


Labour-controlled Sefton Council, supported by the Conservatives, has voted to force Southport into being  a part of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority despite the efforts of the opposition Lib Dem group.

 At an Extraordinary Council Meeting, held at Bootle Town Hall on Friday evening, Labour and Conservative councillors supported the move to give powers over transport and economic development to the new ‘Combined Authority’ which comprises 6 Labour council bosses.

A Lib Dem amendment, voicing concerns over inadequate arrangements for scrutiny and transparency, was voted down by the combined weight of Labour and most of the Conservatives. The decision to seek to join the new super-Council (Common Authority) was voted through by 40 votes to 13.

The proposal is strongly-criticised has come under attack by Lib Dem leader, Birkdale Councillor Iain Brodie Browne and Southport MP John Pugh.
Cllr Brodie Browne commented:

We have to do what is best for Southport.  Submerging our identity further with Bootle and Liverpool is not in our economic interests.”

 “If we are to increase investment in Southport - whether in tourism, retail, manufacturing or service industries - we need to dramatically improve the rail and road links to Preston in the North and Manchester in the East.  Today they are a disgrace.  Those urgently needed improvements, for example at the Burscough Curves for rail or an Ormskirk by-pass, lie outside the Liverpool City Region.”

“I welcome the Government's desire to take powers away from Whitehall and Westminster and put them in the regions but this scheme for a ‘Combined Authority’ composed of the 6 Labour council bosses has serious design flaws.”

“The other big problem with the ‘Combined Authority’ proposal is the lack of detail about the transparency and accountability of this new powerful body.  We are all aware of the waste of millions of pounds of taxpayers money by Merseytravel. In significant part that was allowed to happen because of the secrecy and lack of accountably shown by the Labour bosses that ran it. The proposals so far published for the City Region fail to put in place the safeguards, particularly in terms of effective scrutiny, needed to stop that happening again.”
John Pugh MP added:

A cosy, closed club of Labour council leaders is no-one's idea of a good formula for economic progress in the region. But to leave out West Lancs just makes matter worse.  Anyone who manages to drive from Southport to St Helens (both in the City Region) and avoids going through the heart of West Lancs is probably plain lost. If transport connections are supposed to be important for the City Region you can't help thinking that Labour city bosses have lost the plot too."

The Lib Dem amendment read:

  Regrets that
                (i) the currently-proposed arrangements for scrutiny and transparency are wholly inadequate, substantially weakening good governance and accountability (particularly in the event of one party control or monopoly) 
               (ii)  there has been no serious attempt to incorporate the West Lancashire District in the Common Authority arrangements despite the crucial interdependence of and links between West Lancashire and several parts of Sefton - even though Labour-controlled Halton District, which is not in Merseyside, is included."

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