The chief executive of business lobby group Downtown in Business, Frank McKenna, has urged the six councils who form the Combined Authority of Greater Liverpool to grasp the opportunity of establishing the role of a metro mayor for the region, following a speech by Chancellor George Osborne in Manchester earlier today.
Osborne announced plans for the development of a HS3 project that would see a new high speed rail link between Manchester and Leeds as part of his plan to create a “northern powerhouse for the UK economy”. He went on to support the introduction of elected mayors with devolved powers similar to those enjoyed by London mayor Boris Johnson.
Mr McKenna commented:
“This is the clearest indication yet that the government is prepared to devolve genuine power and responsibility to the right model of local governance.
“We have seen the benefits of an elected mayor at city level, but a metro mayor with strategic powers and additional financial freedoms could offer so much more.
“In terms of infrastructure projects, economic development and the skills and training agenda; having a regional figure that could drive those agendas would be hugely beneficial to the Liverpool city region
“I would urge the leaders of our six local authorities to bring forward proposals at the earliest opportunity to establish an elected metro mayor so that the city region can maintain the economic momentum it has enjoyed in recent times which has seen the region increase productivity faster than any other provincial region; and attract more visitor numbers than any other English city outside of the capital.”
On the issue of HS3, Mr McKenna welcomed the proposals, but warned that Liverpool’s exclusion from the plans was bad for the city and a barrier to the chancellor’s own stated objective of balancing the UK economy through the creation of a northern super city.
“It is hard to understand the logic of a northern super city without Liverpool as an integral part of that structure, and the city has to be a beneficiary of improved rail and road links going forward. Our job as a political and business community is to make the economic and business case for the HS2 and HS3 projects to include Liverpool.”