Bill Esterson MP welcomes Merseyside devolution deal

Bill Esterson

Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson has praised Merseyside's local authority leaders for agreeing a devolution deal "despite being put under immense pressures" by the Tory Government.

The six council leaders, including Sefton leader Cllr Ian Maher, agreed the deal last week which will see the transfer of powers from Whitehall to the city region.

Key points in the deal include:
* An investment fund – £30m per year over 30 years – to attract private sector investment.
* Greater powers over local transport, buses and trains
* Backing for the city’s International Festival for Business (IFB) to establish it “as a vital feature of the international business calendar in 2018 and 2020”
* New powers over skills and training
* Better control over strategic planning for housing

Bill Esterson said he hoped the deal would be a good one for Sefton and Merseyside as a whole as it was the best available from a Tory government committed to big cuts.

Bill said: "Our council leaders have done a great job putting this deal together and getting agreement on it under immense pressure from the government who wanted an agreement ahead of Wednesday's comprehensive spending review.

"In short, we have to hope that this deal will bring much needed investment. I've seen estimates of £3bn, which otherwise we simply would not see.

"However, let's not be under any illusion, the Tories aren't doing us any favours. As part of the decision to devolve powers from Westminster, they also think they are devolving responsibility for the huge amounts of cuts that they are already planning for our communities, on top of the massive cuts they have already made.

"The responsibility for the cuts sit squarely with the Conservatives. It is left to our local councils to deal with those cuts and the devastating impact they have on our communities.

"But who would I rather make the decisions that affect our communities, the Tories in Whitehall, or our local councillors? Our local councillors know our area. They know what is needed in each of our communities and they are best placed to best mitigate the worst effects of the Tory cuts.

"It won't be an easy job for them by any means, but they will be making decision in the interests of the people who live here and not simply to balance books."

Bill Esterson, who is also Labour's Shadow Minister for Small Business, said he also hoped the city region deal would be good for local businesses in Sefton.

Bill said: "As a region, we have to make our local economy work. That means our six local authorities working together to ensure that we not only attract businesses to set up here, but also that we create conditions here where they can thrive. Conditions where budding entrepreneurs get the help they need to turn their ideas into viable businesses and in turn create the well paid jobs that Merseyside people need.

"The devolution deal gives our councils greater control of transport, which is crucial in ensuring that people can travel to work when they need to and at a price that makes it worth their while.

"And I hope it also gives us more control of training which means we can ensure that we are providing valuable apprenticeships and developing the skills that local people and employers need. It's about looking ahead and thinking what industries are we attracting in in the next two, the next five or even the next 10 years and what skills will people need to get the jobs in those industries. I just hope that predicted cuts to Further Education do not undermine the opportunities presented by the deal agreed between government and councils.

"So I am encouraged that the councils across Merseyside, including Sefton, have come together to do the best they can. The challenge now is to make the most of what the government is really offering for the people, the businesses and the economy of our area."