Power to the people: What do the people of Liverpool want from the new Mayor?
30 September 2016
Liverpool City Region will be sealing its devolution deal with the election of a new Mayor in May 2017. It is a ground-breaking process: shifting power, resource and accountability away from Whitehall, with the potential to unlock economic growth, and improve public services. But success depends on how far devolution connects with the public – affecting their day to day experiences and aspirations.
While there has been no shortage of debate about what devolution will mean for the city region, has the public’s voice been properly heard? Our research with Ipsos Mori and the NLGN has shown that while the public are open to devolving power and resources in theory, they are much less clear about what this means in practice, and what impact it will have on their own lives.
To help close this engagement gap, working with BritainThinks, PwC brought together 24 citizens from every part of the Liverpool City Region to spend a day thinking through what devolution should deliver for them. They considered whether the current city region boundaries reflected their own identity, what kind of personal qualities were desirable in their Mayoral candidates, and developed recommendations around what they felt should be the most important priorities for their term in office.
The results of their deliberations reveal a vibrant common identity, a clear sense of what they think a new mayor should prioritise, and an important role for local business to play in supporting those priorities. Here are the highlights:
Working together with a strong united voice can bring real benefits, but there are risks of confusing and complicated bureaucracy.
The jurors hadn’t thought much about their identity before, but felt bound together by the Mersey. They were very proud of the place to which they belonged and the people that lived there. A city region was seen to be a good opportunity to solve difficult problems that they had in common, and to give their region a stronger voice. However, there were concerns that the current city region boundaries tested the limits of common identity, and that the new Combined Authority risked complication and becoming an additional layer of bureaucracy.
It’s important to have an approachable mayor that’s a true local champion.
Many people felt that the Mayor should be someone with broader experience than a career politician –easily accessible in person and through social media, and who would build a strong team behind them. Integrity was the most important quality, as well as the ability to make decisions, bring people together, and get things done. However, there was some confusion about the number of existing ‘mayors,’ and their different roles and functions (some ceremonial, some executive) across the region. The jurors wanted more opportunities to hear about the new mayor, so people would better understand what was happening and make informed choices when it came to voting.
Topping the list of mayoral priorities are improving local skills through better engagement with business, and turning around the region’s most deprived areas.
Everyone should have the opportunity to benefit from, access and contribute to better jobs growth and growth across the Liverpool City Region. As well as calls for a more joined up approach to transport, there was great ambition and creativity around being the best place in the country for apprenticeships – with suggestions including a trade fair for apprenticeships and building better links between businesses and schools.
The jury also wanted to prioritise helping regenerate the most economically challenged areas – they were struck by how many of the most deprived wards in the UK are within the Liverpool City Region. They put forward a broad range of ideas to help tackle this issue – ranging from investment in housing, to business and community sponsored green spaces, to new incentives to encourage and support businesses in filling empty shops.
Over the course of one day, 24 engaged and enthusiastic local citizens set out their pride in their place, and a vision for what they wanted it to become. Provided the opportunity to be informed is in place, people have real appetite to have their say in shaping the future of their area. But for me, most striking of all is the role that local business must play, not just in supporting local job growth, but in playing a direct role in ensuring every citizen has the opportunity to benefit.