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Council leader: St Helens' identity will not be eroded by Liverpool plan
12:00pm Thursday 19th September 2013 in News
SENIOR councillors insist forging a combined Liverpool City Region authority with neighbouring councils will bring about a major economic boost without impacting on the town’s “proud identity”.
They claim it will give the town a stronger voice to influence regional decision-making and push for Government funding that could reap huge benefits.
St Helens Council’s cabinet recommended the move last week and full council’s approval was given at a meeting last night (Wednesday).
It will see St Helens placed alongside the six other constituent authorities – Liverpool, Knowsley, Wirral, Sefton and Halton Councils – to form a regional body that will deal with economic growth, regeneration and housing.
The vision is to create a “thriving international city region” that performs in line with the UK economy.
Council reports suggests regional productivity is 75 per cent of national rates, there is a gap of 18,500 businesses and 90,000 jobs.
Households are said to be £1,700 less wealthy than the national average.
The move is not a merger of councils and is regarded as a step up from a Liverpool City Region cabinet, which has consisted of various council leaders since 2008.
There are critics who view the move with suspicion, fearing aligning too closely with Liverpool could erode the town’s identity and that local priorities will miss out on funding to grander regional schemes.
Supporters of the move stress St Helens Council remains a local authority in its own right – with all key decisions and services directed from the town hall. They want to guard against perceptions that the combined authority is a ‘Super Council’.
Star readers have criticised the level of response gathered from a public consultation, which the council said consisted of meetings, public events and online feedback with businesses, partner organisations and residents.
Only 168 responses were received from across the city region, although the council said more than 80 per cent were in favour.
Council leader Barrie Grunewald said: “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.”
He added: “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.
“It will also provide a clear framework for economic growth, together with clear leadership and quicker decision-making processes.
“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 Merseyside – 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.”
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