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St Helens Council cabinet backs move towards Liverpool City Region 'combined authority'
5:05pm Friday 13th September 2013 in News
SENIOR councillors have backed a move that would see St Helens and other Merseyside councils as part of a combined authority covering the Liverpool City Region.
The council’s cabinet, which met this afternoon, has recommended full council supports the proposals at its meeting next week.
St Helens Council will take its place alongside the six other constituent authorities - Liverpool, Knowsley, Wirral, Sefton and Halton Councils – to drive forward economic growth in the region.
A public consultation on the move to a combined authority - consisting of meetings, public events and online feedback with businesses, partner organisations and residents - generated 168 responses from across the city region.
Support for the proposals was "overwhelmingly positive" - with more than 80 per cent in favour, according St Helens Council.
However, there are sceptics who fear aligning too closely with Liverpool could erode the town’s identity.
A council statement read: “The new combined authority will be able to strategically lead work on economic development, regeneration and housing in the city region.
“It will also provide a clear framework for economic growth, together with clear leadership and quicker decision-making processes.”
But council leader Barrie Grunewald stressed that the move does not mean power leaving St Helens.
He added: “The decision to move forward with a combined authority means that we can now present a united front to the Government when it comes to getting funding and grants that benefit an entire region.
“The government will pay more attention to a group of six councils than it will to one.
“Yet while we can now align our strategic decision making around economic development, transport, skills and regeneration, it does not mean that we are part of Liverpool or will be governed from Liverpool.
“St Helens will continue to maintain its own proud identity, with the key decisions affecting local people taken by local people here in the town.”
The combined authority’s primary aim will be to boost economic growth and performance within the Liverpool City Region.
“It means a single, decision-making body will now be able to lead on issues like economic development, transport, employment and skills training.
“For many years now we’ve been working together with our partner councils and agencies in the Merseyside area – in an informal way – on economic issues.
“It’s been very successful. But now we need to build on this to secure funding that would otherwise have been denied to us.
“When I took over as Leader of the Council I made it clear that economic growth and job creation were my top priorities.
“The formation of a combined authority will take us a big step forward towards achieving those goals.”
A formal decision on the move to join the combined authority will be taken at a meeting of the full council on Wednesday, September 18.
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