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17.11.15

Liverpool becomes fifth northern city to sign devolution deal

Liverpool has become the fifth major northern city-region to sign up to a devolution deal after agreeing to a £900m package with the chancellor today (17 November).

The agreement comes as part of the recent devolution momentum in the north, with deals already signed in Greater Manchester, Sheffield, the North East and Tees Valley.

Similarly to the Sheffield and North East deals, Liverpool will receive a £900m boost from Whitehall over the next 30 years, coming in equal shares of £30m per year.

As expected, the deal will include a directly-elected mayor from 2017, who will sit as chair of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.

Cllr Phil Davies, current chair of the combined authority and leader of Wirral Council, said each respective council will be meeting on Thursday (19 November) to hopefully recommend their authorities agree to the deal – which he believes is the best one they can secure at this time.

Chancellor George Osborne called it a “historic day” for the region and the Northern Powerhouse, commenting: “This revolutionary deal cements the area’s position as a gateway to the north, from North Wales all the way to Newcastle, and gives local people control over their own affairs for the first time.

“In becoming the fifth northern city-region to take on these new powers, the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse is now simply unstoppable and I want to thank the council leaders for working together to come to an agreement which will give Liverpool City Region a powerful new voice in national life.”

The deal also comes on the same day as West Midlands signed its own package, becoming the first city to do so outside the scope of the Northern Powerhouse.

Devolution package

The new mayor will exercise a number of new powers brought down from central government, including controlling a devolved and consolidated transport budget with a multi-year settlement to be agreed at next week’s Spending Review.

In this transport vein, the mayor will take over responsibility for franchised bus services, which will support the region’s delivery of smart and integrated ticketing.

Mandatory strategic planning responsibilities will also include creating a Single Statutory City Region Framework and a Mayoral Development Corporation, as well as developing with Whitehall a Land Commission and a Joint Assets Board for economic assets.

Like previous deals, the mayor will also be responsible for chairing an area-based review of 16-plus skills provision and receiving devolved 19-plus adult skills funding from 2018-19. The mayor will also work with Whitehall to co-design employment support for the ‘harder-to-help’ claimants.

Other powers include effective joint working with UKTI to boost trade and investment and working with central government to develop and implement a devolved approach to delivering national business support programmes from 2017.

Lastly, Liverpool City Region must build on its 2014 efforts to establish International Festival for Business (IFB) Liverpool as a vital feature of the international business calendar in 2018 and 2020.

Central government also hopes this cash will help unlock the economic potential of River Mersey, the new Superport and maximise HS2 opportunities.

Whitehall will also offer expert advice and support to ensure Liverpool can put forward a city-region-led proposal to undertake a science and innovation audit.

The city-region will also engage with the government to explore further options around a sustainable and viable business model for National Museums Liverpool.

Further specific funding flexibilities will be agreed between the combined authority and Whitehall after the Spending Review.

(Top image c. Neil Howard, Flickr)

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