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28.08.15

Liverpool to submit devolution bid ahead of Spending Review

Council leaders on Merseyside have agreed to submit a bid to the government by 4 September for devolved powers and funding, including the election of a mayor for the Liverpool City Region. 

The city region combined authority – made up of Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral – will draft proposals that will form part of its input into the upcoming Spending Review.

Wirral Council leader Phil Davies confirmed the move, speaking on behalf of all six council leaders to say it was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.

Davies, who also chairs the Liverpool City Region group, told BBC Radio Merseyside: “We will be setting out a broad set of key themes we want to talk to the government about. This will then involve a pretty intensive negotiation with government around the detail.”

Asked during the radio interview whether the devolution proposals would genuinely give the region greater control, Davies said: “The test will be what we’re able to negotiate over the next few months. I think we need to come up with a really ambitious package.”

The agenda for a meeting on 2 September includes a series of themes being considered, including policing and fire authority functions, children’s services, waste and housing, and planning.

In an agenda for a Liverpool City Region meeting on 16 July, plans were already being set out to focus proposals on three core themes scoping transport, skills and low carbon.

However a board member had pointed out that discussions for devolution bids were at a “preliminary stage” and could still involve future decisions.

At the time, board members pointed out a need to keep businesses in the loop and demonstrate what devolution means “on the ground” for SMEs.

The more recent agenda report now says that more detailed work is in progress to “hone the emerging themes, and a supplementary paper will be shared with members” ahead of the meeting.

Current themes that have been “broadly endorsed at a strategic level” are still in the process of being “refined”.

And despite the 4 September deadline, the process of negotiation should continue beyond the Spending Review.

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