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Pushing the boundaries

Larry Neild says ut's a matter of time before six becomes one super council

Written by . Published on June 6th 2011.

Pushing the boundaries

LIVERPOOL and its neighbours are considering sharing back-office jobs and a number of functions – such as road gritting.

It’s a way of saving money in Broke Britain, and a way of helping town hall treasurers balance the books.

But could it eventually pave the way for the creation of one single Super Council spanning the whole of Merseyside?

Job sharing could, of course, lead to
hundreds if not thousands of job losses - particularly among admin staff. One
cross-boundary pay-roll department
could easily replace the existing six

The Coalition Government is encouraging collaboration between local councils in the wake of the massive financial crash. Liverpool is being forced to save £91m this year and more than £40 next year after receiving what was described as the worst Government grant settlement of any local authority in Cameron’s UK.

The chief executives of Liverpool City Council and its neighbours have already met to discuss the potential for sharing a number of services.

Legal departments could merge into one to span Merseyside, leisure services could be shared, payroll and treasury and even road gritting in icy weather.

Liverpool City Council Leader Joe Anderson has confirmed he started the ball rolling by raising the issue of procurement and sharing services, calling on the city’s five neighbouring council leaders – all of them Labour – to seriously consider the proposal.

157486_f03d52d2.jpgHere in Liverpool, Joe Anderson insists each of the five councils – Liverpool, Sefton, Wirral, St Helens, Knowsley and Halton – would retain their individual front-line responsibilities and their respective identities.

There already exists a Liverpool City Region Cabinet giving the six leaders and council chiefs the opportunity to discuss issues of mutual interest.

Former Walton MP Peter Kilfoyle always supported the idea of formalising the alliance by electing a city-region mayor, similar to the powerful mayor of London.

Job sharing could, of course, lead to hundreds if not thousands of job losses - particularly among admin staff. One cross-boundary pay-roll department could easily replace the existing six.

If collaboration becomes the norm, who can say where it will eventually lead a few years down the line?

Take the mighty European Union which now makes more law for Britons to follow than the UK Parliament. It started life in the early 1950s as the Coal and Steel Alliance, essentially a mechanism between France and Germany to end, forever, the prospects of a third World War being sparked in Europe.

That alliance grew into the Common Market, eventually drawing in the United Kingdom as full members.

The EU is now far more that original ideal of a trade and production pact between the six founding signatories of the original treaty – France, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Eventually I am sure we will see the creation of the USE – the United States of Europe – a single country divided into member states, much the same as in the USA, with a Supreme European Parliament.

While it may seem far fetched to compare the six councils of Merseyside with the mightiness of the current EU, who knows where a collaborative arrangement will lead to – perhaps the creation one day of Greater Liverpool or Liverpool City Regional Government.

Some will say this idea has already been tried with the creation in 1974 of Merseyside County Council, only to be abolished in the 1980s by Thatcher’s Government eager to dispatch Ken Livingstone and his Greater London Council. The problem with metropolitan county councils is they operated on a two-tier system of local government, creating rivalries and deep suspicions about power building.

A single-tier super council spanning Liverpool and its neighbours could become a powerful force, able and willing to punch its weight on British and international stages.

It’s not going to happen for some time, but my guess is it will .... eventually.

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AnonymousJune 6th 2011.

Merging the Merseyside councils? Not this side of the next millennium. The rivalry that exists between the councils has held us back for generations. We may not actually hate each other (I don't think), but we are not so fond of each other. They made a big mistake in 1974 when they created Knowsley. That council inherited thousands of Liverpool City Council council houses, and tens of thousands of Liverpool-born Scousers, exported in the great exoduses of the 60s and 70s. Liverpool should have consumed Huyton and Kirkby and Cantril Farm, sharing the other bits between St Helens, Halton and West Lancashire. Can you really imagine Southport allowing itself to be consumed within a Liverpool City Super Region. Wirral folk really would brick up the Mersey Tunnels and claim UDI. St Helens would build a glass wall and Knowsley would set the wild animals (from the Safari Park) onto any municipal invaders. Lets just say we tolerate each other. Mind you Liverpool with a population of around 1.8m wouldn't have be able to punch its weight. Yes go for it Joe.

MJEJune 7th 2011.

Spot on. I agree with the view Liverpool should include Huyton, Kirkby and Cantril Farm. I would go further (no pun intended) and include South Sefton - Bootle, Litherland, Crosby. This would help us lever in more funding from central govt (well before the coalition it may have) with having bigger population. I was going to say include North Wirral too but maybe a step too far.

SharpyJune 15th 2011.

And include the nowhere man of Halewood. In, but not of Knowsley

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