Arrangements for the Liverpool City Region Authority are being finalised this month and debated tonight by Wirral Council. Well, they were due to be debated but the dysfunctional outfit that Wirral Labour is they abused their majority to deliberately shut me out and refused to let me speak. How that makes them look anything other than completely ridiculous only they will know.
Unsurprisingly, Wirral Leaks has its own unique take on this sorry affair.
Anyway, here's my take on what's wrong with the devolution arrangements and what needs to be done to put things right.
This time last year I said "It would be a huge mistake
for these important decisions about local democracy to be made behind
closed doors. It's vital the public in the region get a say - otherwise,
these devolution plans risk floundering and becoming an unpopular
That remains just as true today. Most people tell me that they don’t know
the Authority exists. If they do know about it they feel they have no
say in it at all.
And they’d be right – they have no directly elected representatives to talk to about it.
And its not just me saying that. The House of Commons Local Government
Committee said, “There has been a significant lack of public
consultation, engagement and communication at all stages of the
But it doesn't have to be like that.
By refusing an elected assembly to hold the Mayor to account we have, at least, the opportunity for a more direct engagement with residents
as to how they would like the city region to develop and how their funds
should be spent. We could use the potential offered by modern
technology to engage with people in ways that other cities around the
world are already pioneering.
In Madrid, for example, the mayor has ring-fenced a “participatory
budget”, to be decided through online polling, with proposals submitted
via local assemblies. In the latest round, €24m has been allocated on
projects as varied as a centre for people with Alzheimer’s,
child care, tree planting and the restoration of fountains and
Its interesting that, when offered the choice, people tend to prioritise
public spending that improves their quality of life. What we have here
is a narrow focus on economic growth that never has and never
will, on its own, address the multiple challenges we face such as
inequality and environmental decay.
Keeping the Mayor and Authority honest
We all know what this document represents – our city region will be run
by a grand committee of the Labour party chosen by the Labour Party. It
will hobble around on one economic leg when we really need four strong
legs – social, environmental, economic and democratic.
So I would urge everyone to look beyond these top-down scrutiny
arrangements and embrace a more inclusive model. The Green Party
proposes a public forum with direct responsibility for scrutiny and
spending decisions and including representation from voluntary,
community, small business and trade unions to hold the mayor and
Authority to account.
That way we might actually get the kind of devolution we deserve.