Metro Mayor’s response to today’s Budget

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, has responded to today’s Budget and Spending Review.

Below is his overall response as well as specific responses to key issues:

Overall response

“True levelling up has to be a sustained and meaningful attempt at righting the entrenched inequalities in health, education, infrastructure and opportunity that have existed across the UK for decades. Fixing this is a structural challenge, and not one that will be fixed in one Budget alone.

“Because of the work I’ve done since being elected as our region’s Metro Mayor in 2017, the government has been forced to take areas like ours seriously. Local people taking charge of their own destinies, making decisions over local priorities and deciding how money is spent in their area, works. We have shown that time and time again.

“And that is borne out by the fact that we have managed to wrestle hundreds of millions of pounds from the government in today’s Budget. Just a few years ago, that would have been unthinkable. We will use this money delivering transformative improvements to people’s lives in all parts of the Liverpool City Region.

“This funding is only a down payment on our aspirations – but it isn’t real devolution.

“The most efficient way this country can deliver real levelling up is by empowering local areas to tackle those inequalities by giving them the powers, funding and autonomy they need to get the job done.

“Given the damage austerity has done to local government finances over the past decade, playing areas off against each other in beauty contests for ringfenced support wastes a lot of energy and resource that could be put to better use delivering transformational change.

“I hope the government will learn the lessons from places like the Liverpool City Region and put more power in the hands of local people.”

Skills:

“£3bn for skills is a step in the right direction but a drop in the ocean compared to the funding needed to catch up from the disruption of the last 18 months.

“We’re still awaiting full details but one thing is clear: to make sure we get bang for our buck, this funding should be delivered locally.

“In our region, we’ve shown time and again that we can make funding go further and make a much bigger difference than centrally controlled schemes. A one-size-fits-all approach simply does not work.

“Combined authorities like ours have a proven track record of delivering that value for money and are best placed to make sure that those training programmes are linked to local skills needs and shortages.

“There is a massive pot of unspent Apprenticeship Levy funding gathering dust in Whitehall that we could make much, much better use of in our region training local people and helping them into well-paid secure jobs.”

Net-zero:

“Climate change has become the defining issue of our age. No longer a future threat, it presents a clear and present danger to all of us right here and right now. Our region has displayed real leadership on this issue and has been making strong progress.

“Just last week Ford choose their Halewood plant over one in Germany for a £230m investment in electric vehicles. The transformational HyNet project was selected as a leading pilot project for hydrogen and carbon capture. Both will help lead our region towards my ambition to be the UK’s Renewable Energy Coast.

“With COP26 fast approaching, the eyes of the world are on the UK to deliver significant action and leadership on climate change. Today, the Chancellor chose to abdicate those responsibilities. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in being severely disappointed in the lack of action and urgency to tackle climate change in the Budget.”

Cost of living:

“Real levelling up has to be about much more than large scale infrastructure projects and shiny new buildings. Those investments might deliver benefits in the long-term but too many people across the country are struggling now.

“The pre-announced uplift the minimum wage is sadly not enough and falls short of the Real Living Wage. Energy prices are rising. Fuel costs are rising. The cost of a weekly shop is rising. And inflation is rising too. Against this backdrop of spiralling costs, last month’s decision to cut over £1,000 a year from the most vulnerable looks especially cruel.

“That isn’t levelling up communities, it’s holding them back.

“And our local authorities, often the last line of defence for so many, have faced year after year of cuts. Last year, when the Chancellor promised them ‘whatever it takes’ he failed to deliver.

“Today’s announcements do not go far enough to tackle the cost of living crisis facing millions across the country, or to support local councils who have been battered over the last decade.”

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner has also responded to today’s Budget and has welcomed the news that the public sector pay freeze will be lifted but warned that new money must be provided to cover any pay rise.

Emily Spurrell said, “I welcome the news that the public sector pay freeze will be lifted.

“The hard-working staff of Merseyside Police deserve a proper pay rise after almost a decade of real-terms pay cuts and they are entitled to an increase which is over inflation.

“However, I am deeply concerned that no new money has been promised to fund any pay rise. Any pay increase must be properly funded, and it must come from central Government.

“As it stands, it seems very likely the Treasury is either expecting it to come out of our existing police budgets or out of the pockets of local people.

“This would ultimately have a negative impact on the hard-working families in our communities.

“I will continue to urge the Government to ensure this money is found centrally to avoid causing further damage to our police or to our communities. By doing so, they can show they genuinely care about public servants and the vital services they provide.

“I will be taking a further look at the detail announced in the budget today and looking for further clarification in the Policing Settlement which will be announced in December.”

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