St Helens Council has approved the Liverpool City Region Devolution agreement at its meeting this evening (Thursday 19 November).
Council Leader Barrie Grunewald had recommended approval following months of negotiations involving all six councils in the city region.
Councillor Grunewald said: “I believe this is the best deal we can secure for the people of St Helens – and the wider Liverpool City Region.
“It’s a deal that will give people here in St Helens – and the rest of the city region – greater control and more decision-making powers on big issues like economic development, transport and skills.
“I’ve often said that our borough’s best days lie ahead – and I believe we can be at the heart of the next industrial revolution. It’s something this administration regards as a priority.
“In industries such as logistics and in manufacturing we can once again lead the way as a centre of economic growth. But to do this we need more control over skills, more controls over transport, and more influence on how Government money is spent locally.
“I’m absolutely clear that decisions about the future of this borough should be made as close to this borough as possible. This devolution deal brings some crucial decision making from the Government and closer to St Helens.
“It’s a better deal than it would have been if it hadn’t been for the efforts of those representing this town. When Government announced its plans for devolution deals there was little, if any, money on the table. Now there is. While £30 million a year over 30 years is not a huge amount, it’s better than nothing – especially given the funding challenges we, and local government as a whole, face over the years ahead.”
The devolution agreement includes almost £1 billion of extra funding over the next 30 years, greater control and decision-making powers in terms of local priorities for economic development, transport and skills, and the introduction of an appropriate governance structure.
Addressing local concerns on loss of local power, Councillor Grunewald said: “Some fear that devolution is a means for a takeover – it is not. We are too strong a body to be put under such pressure and I will ensure that remains the case.
“What we have ensured is that local Leaders will retain their influence over both the combined authority and mayoral plans and that we may reject such if necessary – on a two-thirds majority vote basis – so that all parts of the city region benefit from the resources being made available. There will also be a veto available on certain aspects.
“What I would also like to see is how we involve the public in this – and we hope that the scrutiny function that is agreed also allows for members of the public to be involved. After all, devolution is meant to be about ensuring people in their localities have a greater say. Whoever the Mayor is – then he or she must embrace democratic challenge and must embrace public scrutiny.”
The decision to sign up to the agreement was carried unanimously.