Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (Functions and Amendment) Order 2017 - Motions to Approve

– in the House of Lords at 12:14 pm on 16th March 2017.

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Moved by Lord Young of Cookham

That the draft Orders laid before the House on 6 February be approved.

Relevant document: 26th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Photo of Lord Young of Cookham Lord Young of Cookham Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), Lords Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

Well, let us see if we have less trouble over this one.

The draft orders, if approved and made, will confer important new powers on the mayors and the combined authorities for the Liverpool City Region and the Tees Valley. The Government have of course already made significant progress in delivering their manifesto commitment to devolve far-reaching powers and budgets to large cities in England which choose to have directly elected mayors. In this House, we have now debated and approved a number of orders devolving powers to places including Greater Manchester, the West of England and more recently Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. We have also considered and approved an order enabling the Tees Valley mayor to take steps necessary to establish a mayoral development corporation; that is to be complemented by the order we are considering on Tees Valley today. We are grateful to the House for the attention it has given to these matters. Following our last debates, my colleague the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, has written to noble Lords, as he undertook to do. I hope that we are now drawing to the end of this first devolution journey, with possibly just a few more orders after those we are considering today.

The draft Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (Functions and Amendment) Order 2017 brings to life the devolution deal which the Government agreed with the Liverpool City Region constituent councils in November 2015. We are taking that deal forward with the combined authority and its six constituent councils: Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral. The deal agreed between the Government and the Liverpool City Region means that the area will receive: a devolved transport budget and transport powers to help provide a more modern, better-connected network; new planning and housing powers to manage planning across the region; and control over an investment fund of £30 million a year for 30 years.

Noble Lords will want to know that the basis of the draft order is the governance review and scheme prepared by the combined authority and the six constituent councils of the Liverpool City Region in accordance with the requirement in the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009. The combined authority and the six constituent councils published that scheme in June 2016 and, as provided for by the 2009 Act, consulted on the proposals in the scheme. That was a public consultation entirely undertaken by the authorities concerned. They decided the approach, which was a matter for them. The consultation ran for six weeks and was undertaken through a variety of methods and media, including engagement with regional and local media, web content, social media, workshops with elected members, targeted letters to key stakeholders, as well as material available in libraries and local council town halls. As statute requires, the combined authority provided the Secretary of State with a summary of the responses to the consultation. Before laying the draft order before Parliament, the Secretary of State considered the statutory requirements in the 2009 Act, and considers that they have been met in relation to proposals to confer functions on the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.

In short, having regard to the summary of consultation responses, which had been submitted to him, the Secretary of State concluded that no further consultation was needed. He considered that conferring the functions on the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority would be likely to lead to an improvement in the exercise of the statutory functions across the Liverpool City Region. In this consideration, he has had regard to the impact on local government and communities. Most significantly, the combined authority and six constituent councils have consented to the making of the order—that is, the democratically elected representatives of the area have agreed to the making of the order, if Parliament approves.

As required by the 2016 Act, we have in parallel with the draft order laid a report before Parliament which sets out the details of the public authority functions that we are conferring on the Liverpool City Region through the order. Noble Lords may recall that the requirement for this report was one of the additions that this House made to the 2016 Act during its passage. If approved by Parliament, the draft order will come into effect the day after it is made, except for the functions which are to be exercised by the mayor. The mayoral provisions will take effect on 8 May this year when the first mayor takes office.

The draft order gives effect to many of the proposals in the combined authority’s June 2016 scheme, which reflects the agreed devolution deal. If approved and made, it will confer the following powers and functions on the combined authority to be exercised by the mayor: a duty to prepare a Liverpool City Region Combined Authority spatial development strategy, enabling an integrated approach to spatial planning; powers on land acquisition, disposal and housing, including a compulsory purchase power—the same powers as the Homes and Communities Agency and councils; power to call in planning applications of potential strategic importance; power to designate mayoral development areas, leading to the creation of mayoral development corporations; powers to work with the combined authority to draw up a local transport plan, leading to a joined-up approach to transport across the area, recognising that efficient transport is fundamental to securing economic, social and environmental objectives; and powers to enter into agreements with constituent authorities, to establish and manage a key route network of strategic roads in the combined authority’s area. In addition to their existing transport and economic development powers, the combined authority will exercise powers and functions of: having the final say on the mayor’s spatial development strategy and local transport plan; promoting road safety; and regulation of traffic.

These new powers will enable the Liverpool City Region to take a strategic approach to driving development and regeneration and stimulating economic growth, supporting effective use of the £900 million devolved budget. The draft order also provides for the necessary constitutional and funding arrangements to support the mayor and the combined authority.

I now turn to the draft Tees Valley Combined Authority (Functions and Amendment) Order 2017. This draft order will be another important step to bring to life the devolution deal that the Government agreed with the Tees Valley in October 2015. The deal agreed means that the area will receive: a devolved transport budget and transport powers to help provide a more modern, better-connected network; control over an investment fund of £15 million a year for 30 years; and new housing and regeneration powers for growth across the region. Noble Lords will recall that the implementation of the Tees Valley devolution deal agreed between local leaders and the Government has already seen three orders made in relation to the Tees Valley. The most recent of these was about devolving powers for a mayoral development corporation. We brought this last order forward in advance of today’s order, as the area is eager to establish a mayoral development corporation in South Tees on which an 11-week consultation had already been undertaken.

This draft order has been prepared on the same basis as I have described for the Liverpool City Region order. If approved and made, the order will come into effect on 8 May when the first Tees Valley mayor takes office, with the exception of the provision relating to the establishment of an independent remuneration panel, which will come into force on the day after the order is made to enable the combined authority to make any necessary arrangements.

Let me turn briefly to the detail. The draft order will confer the following powers, to be exercised by the mayor, on the combined authority: powers to pay grants to the five constituent councils of the Tees Valley Combined Authority, with the condition that the mayor has regard to the desirability of ensuring that the councils have sufficient funds effectively to discharge their highways functions; and powers to produce a local transport plan for the area. The draft order also provides that the functional power of competence, already exercisable by the combined authority, is also exercisable by the mayor. Finally, the draft order confers various powers on the combined authority: powers to provide local passenger transport services—these powers were already delegated to the combined authority by the Tees Valley Combined Authority Order 2016; the duty to review housing need in the area; and funding and constitutional provisions to support the powers and functions conferred, including the establishment of an independent remuneration panel to recommend the allowances of the mayor.

In conclusion, the two draft orders devolve new, far-ranging powers to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and to the Tees Valley Combined Authority, giving effect to the bespoke devolution deal of each area, putting decision-making into the hands of local people, and helping the two areas fulfil their long-term economic and social ambitions. The draft orders are significant milestones contributing to greater prosperity in the Liverpool City Region and the Tees Valley and paving the way for a more balanced and successful economy and improving housing supply across the country. I commend the two draft orders to the House.

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lords, I shall be brief. I enthusiastically support the remarks that the noble Lord, Lord Young, has just made, notwithstanding the minor caveat that I entered the Chamber as he was replying to the previous order and note the unnecessary duplication and replication which can cause confusion. I encourage him, and the Government generally, to stay in touch with the local authorities that will be affected by the implementation of these orders to see in what ways they impact on them and whether there can be further streamlining and clarification.

It is 45 years since, while I was a student in Liverpool, I was elected to represent an inner-city neighbourhood—a slum clearance area—in the Low Hill ward in the heart of Liverpool. I served that ward on both the city council and on the Merseyside County Council that was created by the then Government, and then abolished by the following Government. During those years, I saw more changes than I cared to see in many respects. I served as deputy leader of the city council and as its housing chairman and had to deal with compulsory purchase orders, which were often imposed centrally with very little say locally on what their impact would be on the neighbourhoods they affected. Therefore, I particularly welcome what the noble Lord said about the devolution of compulsory powers to the city region and the opportunities for development corporations. The great success story on Merseyside, following the riots in Toxteth in 1981, was the creation of the Merseyside Development Corporation. The noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, has recently received some criticism in your Lordships’ House but he deserves great tribute for the work that he did during that period and the achievements that were made. The extraordinary regeneration and renewal of the city of Liverpool had its seeds in the work that he did. In my view the orders that have been laid before your Lordships’ House today with the agreement of the local authorities on Merseyside pave the way for the continued renewal and success story that Liverpool now is. Therefore, I very much welcome what the noble Lord said and commend the orders to your Lordships’ House.

Photo of Lord Deben Lord Deben Conservative

My Lords, I shall be short. My noble friend’s explanation of the advantages that these measures will confer on Liverpool contains some very important lessons for central government. He talked about spatial planning which will bring together the whole range of interests in Liverpool. Would it not be a good idea if we introduced that nationally? We do not have spatial planning nationally; we have a ludicrous position in which planning lies with the department for local government. That is not a proper place for it given that local government makes appeals to the Minister for Local Government, which itself is wrong. All the other interests lie with other departments and we suffer from not having a department of land use.

We now have a Government who are busy giving local authorities powers to structure themselves in precisely the way we fail to structure ourselves centrally. The Government will look increasingly peculiar if their central structure is so far out of line with these new structures. However, the Government are not imposing them as they are welcomed by these larger, more powerful local authorities. We have looked afresh at how best to run local government in Liverpool and the Tees Valley and have come to the conclusion that it is better to do it this way. Although my noble friend may well argue that there is something unique about local government which means that it is, of its nature, to be organised differently, I suspect that the truth is that, looking at government, this is where you want to be.

I am reminded of the ability of Americans to ask other people to run their democracies in a way that they do not run their own. For example, they make sure that you do not have gerrymandering of boundaries, that you do not have Christmas tree Bills and that you restrict the amount of money that you spend. That is what the Americans do to other people but they do not learn to do it themselves. I do not want our Government to behave in that way. I hope that we too will learn from what we have seen from our reorganisation of local government—that some very serious reorganisations are necessary at the centre to enable us to look after our land and to have a proper policy of spatial planning, with the special word “joined-up”, which I heard several times from my noble friend.

Photo of Baroness Pinnock Baroness Pinnock Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government) 12:30 pm, 16th March 2017

I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Deben, has just said about the need for spatial planning across the whole country, and I remind your Lordships that it was the current Government who abolished regional spatial planning to the disadvantage of many local councils. However, I will address my comments to the two orders in front of us today.

I turn, first, to the Liverpool City Region. Following the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, it struck me that we ought to develop a new collective noun for mayors, and I have a couple of suggestions. Should it be “a charm of mayors”, as with goldfinches; “an obstinacy of mayors”, as with, I understand, buffalos; a “gaggle”, as with geese, or—perhaps not—a “murder”, as with crows? However, as has already been pointed out, there will be too many people in an area with the title of mayor and people will be confused.

Most residents think of a mayor as the civic mayor, and we ought to have come up with a different title for the ones whom we are proposing should be elected for the combined authorities. The difficulty that Liverpool may suffer from is having elected individuals with large egos—it already has one with a very large ego. The consequence will either be energetic co-operation or a dysfunctional system. I hope that the Government are thinking very carefully about how elected mayors will be able to co-operate effectively for the benefit of local people and for the regeneration and economic development of their areas.

We discussed some of the functions at Tees Valley two or three weeks ago in your Lordships’ House, and today I want to draw attention to the comments of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. It draws to your Lordships’ attention that it was very clear that residents in the Tees Valley, when consulted, opposed by a clear majority having an elected mayor. The committee’s report says that,

“many people have in effect answered a question, ‘Do you want an elected Mayor for the Tees Valley?’, with the vast majority opposing it”.

Despite that, their views have been ignored. It is dangerous for local democracy to pose a question, get a response and then ignore it completely and do the opposite. They should not have asked the question if they did not want to respect the answer.

This is a very unsatisfactory way to proceed. The consequences are that Tees Valley will have an elected mayor, but that elected mayor will have to work extremely hard to gain the trust and confidence of local residents who, as we heard, opposed the measure. Huge effort will be needed and it may drag on the ability of the mayor to enable the development of economic regeneration and transport facilities, because that effort and energy will need to go into convincing local people that this is the right way to proceed. With those comments, I wish both areas a successful devolution, but have considerable concerns about the models that have been adopted.

Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Shadow Spokesperson (Housing), Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My Lords, turning first to the Liverpool order, I certainly support the arrangements before the House today. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, I obviously wish the Liverpool and the Tees Valley combined authorities every success in the future. But I want to put on record that this is no giveaway for Merseyside local authorities from the Government—nothing could be further from the truth. As we have seen, local councils have suffered huge public sector spending cuts in recent years and Merseyside has not escaped that. Cuts to police and fire services, primary and secondary schools, Sure Start and so on far overshadow the comparatively small investment that the Government are making today. That investment will not deliver the Government’s vision for the northern powerhouse, although we seem to hear that phrase less and less from the Government. The foundations for devolution are being cut away by the Government every year, which is not helpful. It just makes the challenges faced by local government that bit harder. Having said that, I welcome the arrangements before us for devolution.

As I said in a previous debate, however, I am concerned about the whole question of patchwork. I accept that there can be difference, but I still think the Government should set out a framework. We have a messy patchwork, which does not bring the best things forward. We should set out what we want from devolution for England and how we see the country going forward. I certainly recall that in a debate last week on Cambridgeshire, the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, referred to four tiers of local government in that part of the country. It is all a bit of a mess. We are not clear where the Government are coming from. I think the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, mentioned that in the debate as well. This is all a mess and we need some clarity from the Government about where they want to go in terms of devolution.

There has been a distinct lack of public engagement in the order for the combined authority for Tees Valley. It is important to engage the public in devolution discussions particularly where we propose to have mayoral elections. We want to get the agreement of the public because we will ask them to go out and vote for these people at some point in the future. It would be nice if the public engaged with that and agreed that they wanted this form of government. I think about 2,000 people responded to the local authority’s consultation but only 11 members of the public responded to the Government’s consultation, which from a population of 670,000 seems a derisory figure—0.001%, which is poor by any stretch of the imagination. Of those 11, seven had a negative view of the Government’s proposals. The Government should take account of consultation but also ensure that the consultation is done in a way that engages people and enables them to give their views to us.

As I said, it is necessary for the Government to set out clearly where they are going in England with devolution, and they are just not doing that. That is why we have these problems in understanding what is going on with devolution. However, I certainly wish Liverpool and Tees Valley every success in the future.

Photo of Lord Young of Cookham Lord Young of Cookham Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), Lords Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

My Lords, I am grateful to all those who have taken part in this debate and I shall try to respond to the issues that have been raised. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, we will keep this issue under review. Under the devolution deals, the Government of course stay in touch, and an evaluation of progress is made every five years. As this is a relatively new innovation, we will be particularly interested in seeing how it pans out. The noble Lord reminded me of my time as a junior Minister with Michael Heseltine in the 1980s after the White Paper into the riots, and he is right to point to the transformation that was undertaken in partnership with the local council and local MPs. As a result, substantial investment was made in the city. I am grateful for what he said about that.

My noble friend Lord Deben made a thoughtful comment in which he suggested, I think, that central government should seek to mirror centrally the sort of structure that is being developed locally. I have some sympathy with that. Against that, however, one of the signals we have been getting in central government is a plea for stability and certainty rather than further reform. One has to try to balance a move towards the sort of approach my noble friend has advocated with the plea for stability against a background of several planning Bills which have gone through the House. I say to my noble friend that the White Paper on housing is quite clear that neighbouring authorities should work together constructively. We are also going to look at the NPPF so that authorities must prepare a statement of common ground to work together. I will certainly feed in what he has said as we do that work on the NPPF.

In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, and to some extent the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, I should point out that there is some tension between the reported views of local residents, which both noble Lords referred to, and the views of the locally elected councillors. Of course, that reaches us only if the locally elected councillors have decided that this is the way they want to go. The Government’s view is that it is legitimate to look to the locally elected representatives to come to a strategic view of where the authority wants to go rather than to a whole series of local opinion polls. I do not know whether the noble Baroness is a vice-president of the LGA—most people who speak in these debates seem to be. A long time ago, back in the 1980s, I was a vice-president of the AMA, but I think I was expelled when I abolished the Greater London Council. However, I think that the view of the LGA would be that it is perfectly legitimate to look to locally elected councils to reflect views.

I turn to the issue of having lots of mayors in one place. In London we have a Lord Mayor of London and a mayor, Sadiq Khan, and some boroughs have locally elected mayors. I think that people understand what is going on and while we could try to find a new name for mayors—the chain gang, or whatever you call them—if this is the way local authorities want to go, it would be a very brave central government that forbade them to do so, even though in some areas this does result in parish, district, county and combined authorities.

These draft orders confer further new functions on to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and the Tees Valley Combined Authority, some of which are to be exercised by their respective mayors. The first ones are to be elected in May this year. I commend this order to the House.

Motions agreed.