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Merseyside plans city region to rival Manchester

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Merseyside could get an ‘indirectly elected leader’ with executive powers under plans published by the city region’s councils.

A prospectus for the Liverpool city region published last week proposes giving statutory powers to a cabinet of leaders headed by a ‘leader of leaders’ serving a two-year term.

However, the prospectus leaves room for the leader’s role to develop into a de facto indirectly elected leader of Merseyside by extending their tenure, giving them executive powers and appointing them by electoral college vote.

With ministers desperate to ensure that city regional bodies have strong accountability, Merseyside’s proposals go beyond those put forward by Greater Manchester long seen as the front-running area which involve a board of council leaders and no single leadership figurehead.

Merseyside city region could also grow to include Warrington BC, newly formed West Cheshire Council and West Lancashire, the prospectus stated.

Liverpool City Council leader Warren Bradley (Lib Dem) hinted he would be prepared to quit his city hall post to lead Merseyside.

Speaking to LGC after the opening of Liverpool One a massive redevelopment of the central shopping district Cllr Bradley said he had “no intention of being leader of Liverpool for 40 years” and would consider putting himself forward as a directly or indirectly elected leader of the city region.

“People have talked about [a future role in] Parliament or the EU Parliament but if the city region had real powers then I would consider that,” he said.

Cllr Bradley said a cabinet of leaders was preferable to a directly elected mayor as it would avoid the kind of sweeping changes seen following Boris Johnson’s victory in the London mayoral contest. He also claimed a city regional cabinet post could prove too demanding to hold alongside being a council leader.

A cabinet of the leaders of Liverpool City Council, Sefton, St Helens, Wirral and Knowsley MBCs and Halton BC will be responsible for the Merseyside multi-area agreement, due to be signed off with government in the autumn.

Liverpool’s chief executive Colin Hilton said going immediately for an electoral college system with councillors each voting for a city region leader to serve a four-year term was seriously considered, despite eventually being rejected as “too radical”.

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