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Our new 'friends' in the North

Ex NWDA supremo Steve Broomhead tells Larry Neild the new quangos aren't the answer

Published on January 14th 2011.

Our new 'friends' in the North

HEAD up the M1 and you see that sign directing you to The North. It’s as if it were some kind of separate kingdom.

Liverpool needs to be in their sharpish – with its own regeneration shopping list before Manchester creams off a big share

The gelling force within The North has been the NWDA, the Northwest Regional Development Agency.

One of the victims of the bonfire of the quangos, the NWDA will be disappearing to make way for a network of LEPs or “Local Enterprise Partnerships”.

I was never convinced Liverpool had anything in common with, say, Cumbria or Blackburn. There was more logic in Merseyside forming an alliance with North Wales.

But will the sons of the NWDA give us the voice we need?

LEPs are being established by leading councillors and major business leaders. There are no elections to the partnerships, leading to some criticisms they will be undemocratic.

Liverpool City Region has retiring Tesco big-wig Sir Terry Leahy on board perhaps thinking that every little really does help.

Terry took centre stage last week when PM David Cameron and Lord Michael Heseltine paraded around the Wirral Waters site.

Sir Terry says he wants LEPs to be more than mere talking shops, with authority and real powers.

The proposed Liverpool LEP has a shadow board including him, plus Rod Holmes, chairman of The Mersey Partnership; Peter Nears of Peel Holdings and chairman of SuperPort; Michael Straughan of Jaguar Land Rover and epresentatives from Liverpool University and other major companies in the city region.

Will the various LEPs become rivals? Greater Manchester has already announced it is going mob-handed to this year’s property jamboree MIPIM held on the French Riviera. Liverpool on the other hand is staying home.

The driving force behind the NWDA was Steven Broomhead. If anybody can crystal gaze about the future it is he, now a Professor of Entrepreneurship at Liverpool Hope.

Currently the system will see LEPs covering Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester, Warrington and Cheshire, Cumbria and between one and three covering Lancashire.

“At the moment there could be seven LEPs in the North West, unless the areas of Lancashire become one instead of the proposed three,” he told Liverpool Confidential.

“I still think there needs to be greater clarity about their roles, powers and how they will be resourced. So, for me, the jury is still out.

But does he think these new Cameron quangos are the answer?

“I would have to say no and would instead have gone for a regional structure, democratising RDAs using local authorities.”

Will Manchester dominate the region?

“Greater Manchester is politically astute, very organised and very entrepreneurial,” he said.

“There could be competition and perhaps some elements of rivalry. That is why I hope LEPs will work together on major issues such as the nuclear and automotive industries. At the moment there is no structure to facilitate cross-LEP co-operation.”

Will there be any tears for the passing of the NWDA? Think of the renaissance of Liverpool in the past decade and the NWDA has been a major force, pumping in tens of millions of pounds.

Steve added: “The NWDA spent a lot of money on the Liverpool waterfront and that support was critical. The agency also had a strong focus behind the scenes during Liverpool’s year as Capital of Culture.”

The Coalition government doesn’t intend to hand any money to the LEPs. Instead, local areas will have to compete for a slice of a regional growth pot of £1.4bn, covering the whole country.

Liverpool needs to be in their sharpish – with its own regeneration shopping list before Manchester creams off a big share.

And the big question is whether that mini-kingdom known as The North West will become a collection of business fiefdoms. If LEPs fail we could even see a campfire of the mini quangos.

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousJanuary 11th 2011.

In a glocal economic world we need to club together. The NWDA was not perfect but it was a co-herent and recognisable champion for our region. The North West as a region, with a population of over 7m, is larger than a number of EU member countries.
Fragmentration is a retrograde step, particularly as Merseyside, Cheshire, Lancashire and Cumbria will forever live in the shadow of Manchester.
Let's be honest if Manchester is in the premier league of sub-regions, the rest are Division 1 or lower. Not only is Manchester so big in size, Greater Manchester was established (as was merseyside) in Local Government Reorganisation of 1974. The difference is the 10 Greater Manchester authorities have worked closely since then whereas the local councils on Merseyside had an arm's length philosophy. The hearts of many business people sank when it was announced David Wade Smith has been co-opted by Cllr Joe Anderson as business 'champion' on his council cabinet. Looking at the make-up of the Liverpool LEP it's the same so-called movers and shakers dominating the scene for the past decade. Putting aside Liverpool One (credit for which goes almost entirely to Grosvenor), how many real jobs have actually been created in Liverpool since 2000. That number, which many believe will be very low, then needs to be taken against the number of jobs lost to the city. The guess is we will be in a deficit situation. But the agencies 'fighting' our corner will produce 'independent' reports telling the world what a wonderful job they are doing. Just as a football team often needs new players, we need new blood, but more importantly we need a huge dose of honesty. Instead we will see the Liver Bird burying its head in the mud of the Mersey.

London RoadJanuary 11th 2011.

Excellent analysis Anonymous. The day that people stop blowing smoke up each-other's arses in this city will be the day after we are all long dead by the look of it.

The dishonesty of the local media (not LC) in this conspiracy with TMP, DLIB and all the other Johnny-come-latelys is sickening.

Maybe they are all just too inept to realise there is anything to criticise. Things are very WRONG in Liverpool and life is about to bite it hard on the arse.

Help!January 11th 2011.

One of the Sunday redtops had a list of areas where hardly anybody in entire communities were in work - the rest were on benefits. As you'd expect one Liverpool community was in the top three. Congratulations therefore to the job creation efforts of Liverpool Lack of Vision and TMP, otherwise The Merseyside Partition agency. Seems most of the good jobs in this city are held by people being paid well for not creating jobs for the rest of us.

AnonymousJanuary 11th 2011.

The peasants of Merseyside are revolting as a result of the people running the place are even more revolting. Jobs for the Boys eh.

ArthurJanuary 11th 2011.

Will our LEP fight the corner of the over 50s. I hardly think so. So it was great today to hear Countryfile presenter Miriam O Reilly has won a brilliant ageism case against the BBC. I've started a tweet as I am sick and tired of the way over 50s are treated. We don't start to rust at 50 so don't throw us onto a scrapheap. My plea is simple - if organisations, firms, etc are hell bent on employing younger people then they can have younger customers, and us over 50s will take our business elsewhere. For that reason I won't watch Countryfile on principle. The way to demonstrate the power of the over50s is to hit where it hurts, in this case by non-viewing. I hope Joan Bakewell has a good go at the Beeb over this. It is all very well saying there are Age Discrimination Laws but those laws are not only toothless, they are gumless. It is virtually impossible to prove ageism as a factor. Miriam's case shows how the BBC tried to say it was not because of ageism. The US has its Tea Party we over 50s should have our nown Earl Grey Tea Party to show we won't be shunted into the shadows of society because of our age. It's more important than ever given the gradual rise in pension age. Here's a last thought - on Merseyside the biggest group of out of work people are those in their 50s, people just chucked on the scrapheap because of their age. Let the LEP do something about that.

ConfusedJanuary 11th 2011.

We have these high-flyers, aided by megastar Sir Terry Tesco, fighting our corner. Yet the today's Daily Post it was reported a flagship £500m government fund to bring jobs to Merseyside and the NW has not received a sing;le bid, with just 10 days to go before the deadline. You'd think Terry and company would have been at the front of the queue as though it was Tesco's biggest ever BOGOF deal. Nuff said I suppose.

X. CludedJanuary 11th 2011.

They should raise the school-leaving age to 43.

Donna ScrapheapJanuary 11th 2011.

Why should they care about the over fifties Arthur?
Anyone they are likely to know socially or professionally who is over fifty will be already retired on a fat pension or being paid a fortune to be a board member of some company for a couple of hours a week as per the usual with Tories.

Liam FogartyJanuary 11th 2011.

Liverpool doesn't need another cosy arrangement between councillors and self-appointed business leaders. It's vital the new body is accountable and transparent. Its performance should be subject to proper scrutiny. 'Partnerships' can do lots of things, but they seldom enthuse, inspire, drive or dream.
You can't crusade by committee. And a crusade is what we need right now to create the smarter, better-trained and better-connected Liverpool we all want. And that crusade will need a standard-bearer.
The idea backed by, among others, Peter Kilfoyle and latterly Joe Anderson of a directly-elected 'Mayor for Merseyside/Greater Liverpool' is surely worth considering. The Liverpool LEP needs clout and credibility. As things stand it has neither.

AnonymousJanuary 12th 2011.

Steven Broomhead has been a brilliant champion for the North West and should be knighted. He really had his finger on the pulse and changed the face of many parts of the region for the good. Perhaps he was too blunt for some, but the last thing our weak leaders need is a dose of reality. Good luck Mr Broomhead.

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