Sign in: Staff/Students
Dr Alex Nurse is a Research Associate in the University of Liverpool’s Department of Geography and Planning
“For decades, successive governments have grappled with the best ways to govern our towns and cities and, in turn, to turn them into vehicles that deliver prolonged economic growth. To this end we have seen Regionalism, Local Strategic Partnerships, Metropolitan Councils and countless other initiatives wax and wane in the favour of Whitehall.
Currently, the initiative enjoying its time in the sun is the ‘City Region’ – essentially a collectivisation of local authorities based upon a shared economic area. Mostly, therefore, these city regions reflect the sphere of influence of the major city in the area, which is usually the economic powerhouse.
In order to make the best fist of the city region movement, we have seen the development of several instruments, beginning with the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) – instigated in 2010 as a voluntary partnership between businesses and local authorities specifically focusing on economic development. Yet to their critics, the LEPs didn’t go far enough, lacking democratic accountability the scope to take strategic decisions for the area, and the ability to compel involvement.
To respond to this, under legislation developed in the last days of Labour, the Coalition brought in the Combined Authority – essentially formalising the city region constructs.
On the 1st April we saw a significant expansion of the Combined Authority when, following on from a successful pilot in Greater Manchester (who’ve had a CA since 2011), four new CAs were formally created based around Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield. (As a side note, it is worth pointing out that all five of these Combined Authorities can be found in Northern England, perhaps hinting at a stab at that other perennial question of ‘rebalancing the economy’ – known to most of us as the north/south divide – but that’s not today’s exam question.)
So, on the 1st of April, leaders from the new Combined Authorities met for their first official meeting – usually a chance for some feel-good bonhomie, and to set broad agendas in play. Yet, according to leaked emails, Liverpool’s Combined Authority movement (comprising Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral –drawing comparisons to the old Merseyside structures) took only 3 minutes to reach their first major stumbling block. If it was an April Fools prank then it was well executed – but anyone acquainted with the processes leading up to the meeting would know it was no tomfoolery.
Even though, as Dr Stuart Wilks-Heeg argued on BBC News, the vote had quorum under legislation, Mayor Anderson was said to be seeking legal advice on how to extricate Liverpool from the newly instigated CA, a move that would see it feature on any list of shortest marriages. Yet by the week’s end, both he and Sefton leader Peter Dowd had renewed their commitments to the city region project, and steered towards calmer waters speaking of how their anger only illustrated their ‘passion’ for success.
Don’t cede the advantage
Yet we should ask how this situation was allowed to occur in the first place especially, as we have seen, that these discussions were underway for some time. Previous local governance structures have included an intermediary, often from a higher tier of government, who would act as an honest broker and critical friend. However this piece of the puzzle seems to be missing here, and whilst calming voices can be heard, they seem to come from without, rather than within.
For those acquainted with Liverpool across a number of years, the changes to the city are profound. Having successfully overcome the economic decline and political instability of the 1980s, and by demonstrating that it was a safe pair of hands with which others can do business, EU funds, foreign investment and the Capital of Culture celebrations created a city that would be unrecognisable from 30 years ago.
Now, local authority leaders should take care that this hard work isn’t undone and that the city region doesn’t cede an advantage to one of its economic rivals.”
You must be logged in to post a comment.
All recent news
Insider Imprint: New Issue of student-centred Life Sciences journal
Gaelic football club gives back to local community
Reminder: Being mindful of our neighbours
GALLERY: Digital Innovation Facility opening
Students’ bold designs that would transform Liverpool’s city centre
Becoming an Expert: Wei Huang is a 4th year PhD student with the Trustworthy Autonomous Cyber-Physical Systems Laboratory located in the Digital Innovation Facility➡️http://bit.ly/3MOJS0z
Congratulations to Professor Tom Solomon on his appointment as the new Director of The Pandemic Institute! Read more about this story and the exciting new funding call focusing on the unprecedented spread of monkey pox outside of African countries here: https://tinyurl.com/PandemicInstituteDirector
Dr @farnaznickpour & @inclusionaries_ lab are part of an innovative project with @DuchenneUK & @SMA_UK awarded £1.25M from @PostcodeLottery to design a revolutionary upper body mobility suit for progressive neuromuscular diseases.
Find out more: http://bit.ly/3LKjtQb