This is what Merseyside needs from the new Labour government

The view of Liverpool from the Spine Building.
-Credit: (Image: Andrew Teebay/Liverpool Echo)


The country has a new Labour government and, for the first time in a long while, the Liverpool City Region finds itself singing from the same political hymn sheet as those inside Number 10 Downing Street.

As Sir Keir Starmer romped home to a historic, landslide election win, his party picked up every single seat in this region - including Southport, which it has never held in its history.

This means that the country is now being run by the same party that runs every Liverpool City Region constituency and council and a region that has a Labour mayor in Steve Rotheram.

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After years of having to deal with successive Conservative governments in this Labour-dominated region, local leaders believe this moment could and should mark a step-change in how they are dealt with by those in power in Westminster.

Of course this won't mean our region will get everything that it wants, but it is surely more likely to get a fairer hearing from a more sympathetic government as it tries to rebuild following the damage done over the past 14 years. Here we take a look at what those in power locally will be pushing for from the new Labour government after its historic victory.

A fairer deal for councils

There are few more obvious places to start than with this region's battered and broken local councils. The last 14 years have seen enormous cuts to town halls across this place, leaving those running them forced to make devastating cuts to services and ending up in huge financial peril.

Liverpool's council has lost an enormous £500m in terms of what it can spend on services and communities each year. There have been similarly striking cuts made to councils in Wirral, Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton and Halton.

These cuts have disproportionately affected Merseyside's poorer councils who are far less able to raise money locally through council tax than more affluent areas. Around the country these cuts are leading to more and more local authorities facing effective bankruptcy.

The councils in our region will be imploring the new government to provide more resources to our struggling town halls but also to create a more long-term funding strategy so that they can better plan for the future.

Action on child poverty

In parts of Merseyside, more than two in three children are living in poverty. We know that poverty has a huge impact on the development and potential of our children and it is absolutely essential that child poverty is top of the agenda for the new government.

Many in this region will be pushing Sir Keir and his team to reverse their current decision not to scrap the two-child benefit cap, knowing that to do so would instantly lift 250,000 children - many in this region - out of poverty.

Back the region's transport vision

The Liverpool City Region's public transport offer is improving - but there is a lot more to be done to create the London-style, connected system that we need. As part of this vision, the region needs greater control of its transport network and Labour should back Steve Rotheram's mission to bring the entire Merseyrail network - including tracks and stations - into local, public control.

The government will presumably continue to support Mayor Rotheram's mission to also bring the region's buses into public control and must support the continued £2 cap on single bus fares.

In May, the city region combined authority produced a striking vision for a drastically rebuilt Liverpool Central Station and surrounding area which forms part of a wider plan for a higher speed rail line between this city and Manchester. This will surely be high up on the agenda when Mayor Rotheram talks with the new Prime Minister.

Green ambitions

One of the new Labour government's central aims is to achieve clean power in the UK by 2030. They say this will be done through investment in hydrogen, carbon capture and storage and marine energy. Mayor Rotheram has long talked about the opportunities the move to net zero can bring to this region which boasts an enviable array of natural assets.

The most ambitious plan that the city region currently has on the table is to build a huge new Mersey Tidal barrage project with extensive plans currently being worked up for what would be the largest tidal scheme in the world if it goes ahead. If built, the project will form a major new link between Liverpool and Wirral and it is hoped that the scheme will be able to generate clean, predictable energy for 120 years and create thousands of jobs in its construction and operation.

While the formal planning process for the vast project is underway, it will require billions of pounds of support from the government and, with the country in a difficult financial spot, Mayor Rotheram will know he has to make a convincing case for its long-term benefits with the new administration.

NHS

Nowhere cherishes the NHS like Merseyside but for too long our region's hospitals have been at breaking point. We have regularly reported on chaotic scenes in our emergency departments where the sight of long queues of ambulances waiting outside hospitals and corridors packed with the sick and injured are sadly now not surprising.

Labour has promised to start to tackle the crisis in our NHS with 40,000 new appointments every week and this will of course be welcome. But more will be required to get our nation's finest institution up off its knees. One immediate priority must be to resolve the ongoing junior doctors strike dispute and to ensure that those working in the NHS are paid a fair wage making it an attractive employment proposition.

Schools

Last year, analysis by University of Liverpool academics found that schools in Merseyside and across the north are losing out on hundreds of pounds of funding compared with those in the south of the country. Whether it is crumbling buildings or the inability to afford vital equipment, our schools are suffering and this is obviously having an impact on the prospects of children in our region.

A report last year, Child of the North, called for an overhaul of the current school funding formula so it takes into consideration attainment inequalities and the health burden borne by schools to prevent these disparities continuing to increase. While we are talking education, one big regional priority must surely be to bring some form of A-Level provision back to the borough of Knowsley. The last school to teach A-Levels in the borough stopped doing so in 2017 and that is simply not good enough.

Knowledge Quarter

Ask any political leader in Liverpool and they will tell you the sectors they are most excited about right now are in health, life sciences and research. Liverpool's renaissance from the difficult days of the 1980s and 90s has been built on its brilliant hospitality and visitor economy - which is now world leading.

But we know more is needed and the developments around the Knowledge Quarter and Paddington Village offer - along with the city's excellent universities - an exciting new chapter. This could be even more exciting with the full-throated backing of the UK government.

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