Liverpool City Region mayoral election 2024: Who will you vote for?

People across the Liverpool City Region will go to the polls on Thursday to decide who they want to be their Metro Mayor for the next four years.

It is a huge and important vote across the 1.6m people who call the Liverpool City Region home, with voting taking place on Thursday, 2 May.

For just the third time, the region – made up of the six local authorities of Liverpool, Knowsley, Sefton, Halton, Wirral, and St Helens – will choose its Metro Mayor.

Labour’s Steve Rotheram will hope to continue in post for another four years, while four other candidates are seeking to take the region in a new direction.

Mr Rotheram vowed to put the city region “back on its perch” when he launched his bid for a third spell at the top of the combined authority. If elected, Mr Rotheram said he wanted to “take back our future” in releasing power from Westminster “where they’d struggle to tell the difference between Kirkby and West Kirby.”

During his campaign launch last month, the Labour candidate said, “The combined authority has gone from strength to strength because of the buy-in of local leaders. We plan to go further and faster in building a better region for everyone who is lucky enough to call this place home.”

Mr Rotheram added how it has been “an honour” to serve as a councillor, Lord Mayor, Member of Parliament – “and now Mayor of the region I love”. Unveiling parts of his policy platform, the Metro Mayor said he wanted the Liverpool City Region to take the lead on digital technology.

He said, “Just as we once blazed a trail with the country’s first medical officer to oversee public health – I will appoint the region’s first Chief Digital Officer to oversee our digital health – and lead the AI revolution, because I want to exploit the potential of AI for Good.

“So – I will establish an AI task force – chaired by the Chief Digital Officer – to map out the practical applications of AI in the Liverpool City Region – specifically in transport, education and health.”

The Labour hopeful added how by working with the six councils in the region, targets would be stretched for social housing, a development arm to deliver publicly owned housing established, as well as a return to building council homes.

He said, “We’re now agonisingly close to the ultimate prize; a Labour mayor working with Labour councils, Labour PCCs and crucially a Labour government, which has never happened before.” Mr Rotheram added, “And – to paraphrase a Scotsman who enjoyed a degree of success down the road in Manchester – We’ll put the region back on our perch.”

Mr Rotheram isn’t the only one returning from 2021’s delayed election to contest this year’s ballot. Jade Marsden came second as the Conservative candidate last time around and will be hoping to go one better this time.

She said, “It’s very different from the last campaign as we were pretty much in the pandemic and out of it at the very end so we didn’t get to do that much canvassing and things like that. I’ve been doing an awful lot and one of the big issues surrounding the election is people don’t understand what it is, what it does and how it impacts them, which is making a lot of the boroughs feel disaffected.

“They don’t want to be a part of the Liverpool City Region and I think that’s the failure of everybody really for not promoting how vital it is and how Liverpool is an economic draw for the surrounding areas. That’s the main thing I’m hearing, a complete lack of understanding.”

Ms Marsden said she wanted to focus on the “democratic aspect” of the combined authority and give people more control over decisions made at Mann Island. She said, “I think we need a central point of call, whether it be a website, phone line etc, where people can make complaints, suggestions, give feedback on decisions made by the Metro Mayor.

“If that meets a threshold, you would have to justify your spending and it would be investigated by an independent body. People don’t understand that the scrutiny panels that exist at the moment are controlled by councillors and if they knew that when they voted for a councillor they might be on a scrutiny panel, it might make them think differently about the local elections as well, which we need to do better on.

A lot of comments when you’re knocking around are “Can you fix the potholes?” Well, no. That’s not the role of the Metro Mayor.”

Describing campaigning as a Conservative candidate in Merseyside as an uphill battle would be generous. This didn’t dissuade the two-time Metro Mayor hopeful from a second swing at the top job and said she had been heartened by responses on the doorstep.

She said, “I haven’t actually seen as much of a problem as there is in the rest of the country, because we’re in the position of where we are, we’re not hugely successful, we haven’t got that far to fall. The voters that are there are solid voters.

“Liverpool and the surrounding areas, they aren’t as likely to accept a Reform candidate because Tories in this area are quite liberal Tories. What you’re seeing in the polls is not necessarily what we feel from our voters when we’re talking to them.

“Politically Liverpool City Region is its own whole structure, isn’t it? It’s amazing just how resilient we are to anything else that happens in the country, which can be a blessing but also it can be a negative where we’ve got such safe seats, people aren’t being held to account as much as they should be.”

In the last election, the Liberal Democrats finished bottom of the four hopefuls. Rob McAllister-Bell is hoping to change that on 2 May.

Speaking to the LDRS, he came out swinging against his Labour opponent. He said, “We’re getting a good response on the doorstep, very few people can name Steve Rotheram and none of them could name what he’s achieved over the last seven years.

“There’s been absolute ridicule about this trackless tram proposal. We’ve got an ambitious plan to expand Merseyrail and we truly are looking at getting what was promised in the last two Labour manifestos, a network that competes with London for the 21st century.

“Just standing in Andy Burnham’s shadow and saying ‘I’ll have that’ isn’t what we’re prepared to do.”

Alongside proposals for Merseyrail expansion, Cllr McAllister-Bell – deputy leader of the Liverpool Liberal Democrat group – said he wanted the city region to be “as caring as its people” and wanted to ensure a bed was available every night for those who needed one, citing it as his “top priority”. He added, “I understand if people do need to use it, at this time, the resources across the city region just aren’t good enough.”

The Lib Dem candidate said he felt under the current leadership people were “not listened to” and called for greater scrutiny of decision making. He said, “We think the Lib Dems are the main challengers to Labour in the city region, the Tory vote is collapsing and we’re the only other party with councillors in all six districts.

“We’re fighting to win but at the very least we want to change the debate and create a more ambitious plan for the city region. I have family right across the city region and I’ve worked in each district and they are crying out for change.”

Referring to his Conservative opponent’s point about confusion over who fixes the roads, Cllr McAllister-Bell said he had a thought behind how to break through the democratic divide. He said, “It’s about soft power.”

“You can’t go out and say I’m going to go and get the potholes fixed, but you can say I’m responsible for the transport in this city region, and the buses are travelling on poor roads, we need to do something about it. I’m prepared to be a better voice for the Liverpool City Region and absolutely shout about the stuff that is within the remit and that people care about.”

Who Labour’s main challenger is remains a matter of debate and one hotly contested by Tom Crone, the Green Party candidate this year. The group leader on Liverpool Council said this election represents a huge opportunity for his party.

He said, “Last time we came third behind the Tories and looking at the polls, they’re in the doldrums, they’re going to suffer at elections for a little while now. We’re in poll position to be the real challengers to Steve Rotheram and I’m relishing the chance to take our argument, to take our critique of his seven years in power straight to him.”

Like the others, Cllr Crone said the city region had “so much potential” but was being “held back by a lack of ambition and vision”. He set out how he would seek to change that, should Mann Island go from red to green on 2 May.

He said, “As a Green mayor, I’d like to unleash that potential and create a greener, fairer Liverpool City Region. I want to address inequality, I want to invest in public transport, active travel, protect green spaces and deliver the warmer homes for people which will have huge benefits right across the city region.

“We’ve got a problem with recognition and for me it comes from a few different things. I do support devolution but there are problems with how it’s happened here in Liverpool.

“One big problem is that Liverpool City Region has suffered from being a one-party state. We’ve got six Labour dominated boroughs and a Labour mayor, and I don’t necessarily think that’s been healthy, I think there’s a bit of complacency.

“There’s nobody asking the tough questions and making sure the bold decisions are getting made. This is a massive election for the Green Party and a huge opportunity.

“The number of councillors is growing hugely and here in Liverpool, the opportunity is massive.”

Unlike in 2021, there is a fifth name on the ballot, independent socialist candidate Ian Smith. Mr Smith – who is a ward councillor in Sefton – was previously a Labour member but said the city region had a “rare chance” to alter its story of decisions being made by “people who are not aware of the needs and priorities of our region.”

In a campaign leaflet posted on his social media, Mr Smith said, “It’s an opportunity to take back control from London and deal with the problems that really concern us, establishing a future based on our common goals and values.

“My vision is very clear: I see a region that is united, ambitious, egalitarian, and environmentally sensitive. In my ideal world, a thriving city region would produce highly skilled, valuable jobs in the industries of the future while guaranteeing that all young people had access to the training and education required to realise their full potential.”

The independent candidate said he wanted to prioritise inclusivity while also carefully balancing development and preservation in future planning “so that we may embrace progress while preserving our legacy.” Mr Smith added how he wanted the Liverpool City Region to set the standard in industries such as digital innovation and life sciences, while also calling for updates to the transport network.

He said, “As a group of six boroughs with a common history and set of principles, we understand that our power comes from working together. As the Metro Mayor, I promise to support every community and make sure that everyone’s voice is heard.

“Restoring the relationship between politics and the people it represents is the goal of devolution, not merely creating another level of government. It’s about identifying the reasons behind the decline in public confidence in politicians and acting to restore it.

“I’m putting myself forward to run for Metro Mayor because of this.”

The result of the vote will be announced on Saturday, 4 May, at the Wavertree Tennis Centre in Liverpool.

Image: Left to right, top to bottom in alphabetical order: Tom Crone/Green Party, Jade Marsden/Conservative, Rob McAllister-Bell/Liberal Democrats, and Steve Rotheram/Labour

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