Who can beat odds-on fave Steve Rotheram? Plus many more unanswered questions

EIGHT hopefuls have emerged in the  battle to become the first ever metro mayor of the Liverpool City Region.

And as if having two cathedrals isn’t enough of an oddity, Liverpool will, one month today, have three mayors.

As well as Joe Anderson as city mayor, Liverpool will continue to have a ceremonial Lord Mayor, with the brand new city region metro mayor crowding the civic phone box when the May 4 election results are declared.

What isn’t quite clear yet is how much the metro mayor will be paid, what staff he or she will employ, and where will they be based. ​

Given that Labour dominates the local political scene in all six Mersey boroughs, Liverpool’s Walton MP Steve Rotheram, a resident of Aintree, seems a safe  bet to win.

Joining him in the Grand Election political chase are

  • Roger Bannister (Trade Unionist and Social Coalition);
  • Rhyming couplet Paul Breen of Norris Green (Get the Coppers off the Jury);
  • Conservative cushion king Tony Caldeira;
  • Liberal Democrat Carl Cashman;
  • Green Party choice Tom Crone;
  • Tabitha Morton of Allerton (Women’s Equality Party);
  • UKIP choice Paula Walter.

The expectation had been that Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson, chairman of the current Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, would take Labour’s nomination.

But he faced a challenge from party comrades with Wavertree MP Luciana Berger also a contender. Things didn’t go according to plan for Anderson, and Rotheram, one of Jeremy Corbyn’s closest aides, topped the list and won the Labour nomination.

Words in the corridors of civic power were that (assuming an Anderson victory) Liverpool would have ditched its city mayoral model and revereted to a leader and cabinet mode of local governance.

Instead Anderson and Rotheram (the city's ceremonial Lord Mayor in 2008, its European Capital of Culture year) have crossed swords, pointing to an interesting future in the political community.

As things stand both jobs, Metro Mayor and City Mayor, will be up for renewal in May 2020, the year of the next general election.

People in Halton, Knowlsey, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral, will vote for their choice on May 4, with the votes counted the day after.

What isn’t quite clear yet is how much the metro mayor will be paid, what staff he or she will employ, and where will they be based.

Given that the work starts on May 8, the Monday after the election, it won’t leave very long to find a billet. The other question is how will the office of the metro mayor be funded.

Currently the combined authority is housed at One Mann Island, home of Merseytravel, with the costs being shared among the six councils.

Steve Rotheram
Steve Rotheram stood down as Jeremy Corbyn's private secretary to run for Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Picture: Angie Sammons

We asked the "combined authority facilitators", aka Knowlsey Council, for a response, and this is what we were told: "The Liverpool City Region Mayor will review what staffing they require/where they will be based once elected, which includes associated operating costs/budget for the Combined Authority. An Independent Remuneration Panel will determine the Mayor’s allowances.”

As in the case of the directly elected mayor of Liverpool, there has been no local referendums to decide if we want (or need) a metro mayor.

It was more or less imposed on the area by the former Chancellor, George Osborne, who promised a £900m boost if we opted for a civic Mister (or Missus) Big. That might seem like a pot of gold, however it is spread among six local authorities over 30 years, ie £5m for each local authority area until the middle of the 21st century. Who can say what £5m will be able to buy in 2047?

Tom Crone
The Green Party is fielding Tom Crone in the mayoral race

The new direcly elected metro mayor will have powers over the wider area, aimed at giving direct accountability and streamlined decision making to provide strong and democratic leadership, whilst protecting the integrity and the existing role and functions of local authorities.

The powers of the metro mayor will focus on accelerating economic growth, reforming public services and improving the social outcomes and promoting better health and wellbeing of local residents.

The new mayor has been given further powers and responsibilities over transport, piloting the 100 percent business rate retention approach across the Liverpool City Region, plus working in partnership with the national government on children's services, health, housing and justice.

Whether splashing a few bob around for the next three decades is a price worth paying for the biggest change in the way we are governed since the days of Queen Victoria is a matter of opinion.

There are no council elections across the six boroughs, but Labour faces a litmus-test election in the south Liverpool Wavertree ward where there is a vacancy following the resignation of Cllr Helen Casstles, just a year after she was elected.  The Lib Dems are going all out to grab the seat from Labour as part of their fight back.