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Incredible: how many more people will die early from air pollution as politicians delay?

                                    

Mayor Joe Anderson Chair at a meeting of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority 21st April 2017

Mayor Joe Anderson Chair at a meeting of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority 21st April 2017

Air quality is an issue that affects everybody and is a cross-cutting theme that covers both the Combined Authority Mayoral election and the General Election.

The story so far is that the judiciary ruled that the government was not doing enough to combat air pollution. Air pollution was causing an estimated 40,000 early deaths a year.

The judgement published in November 2016 ([2016] EWHC 2740 (Admin)) pointed out that the 2015 Air Quality Plan had to be quashed and the government was required to come up with a new Air Quality Plan.

Despite having 5 months to come up with a new plan, now they want to delay matters by at least a further 2 months because of the General Election (followed by a consultation).

As a result of the court case, the government were required to publish a new Air Quality Plan by 4 pm yesterday (but didn’t), instead they have made an application to the court for an extension.

I include below what was said in the House of Commons yesterday on this matter which contains Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Parliament Licence v3.0
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What are 6 powers the new Liverpool City Region Mayor will have?

                                    

Mayor Joe Anderson Chair at a meeting of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority 21st April 2017

Mayor Joe Anderson (Chair) at a meeting of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority 21st April 2017

As there is some interest in what a Metro Mayor (or Liverpool City Region Mayor) will do I thought, despite the fact that everyone registered to vote will have received a booklet (or should shortly receive one) I’d answer some questions.

There are however some errors in the booklet I’d like to point out here. The booklet also omits that the Mayor will end up being paid £77,500 a year (a decision made last Friday by Cllr Phil Davies, Mayor Joe Anderson and others).

In the booklet it states the City Region Mayor “will not be responsible for … setting Council Tax.”

(Another decision made on Friday was to hire a temporary Comms/Engagement person for 3-6 months).

First, I’d better describe the current arrangements. The executive arm of the Combined Authority (Merseytravel) levies each of the district councils (based on population) in addition to money it receives from other sources (such as Mersey Tunnel tolls).

The model on which the Combined Authority will work in future is based on the London model. As it states in this briefing note for MPs “Elected mayors will be able to raise a precept on constituent authorities’ council tax bills”.

I presume (if the Mayor decides to go down this route) it’ll be an extra line on everyone’s council tax bill like the lines for police (decided by the Police and Crime Commissioner and Police and Crime Panel) and fire (decided by the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority) at the moment.

So yes, the Combined Authority (although this will almost certainly go up next year) for example this year has a budget of £139.371 million of capital spending and £255.5 million of revenue. (Predictions are of a underspend in the revenue budget at year-end of £81.2 million (I feel obliged to point out that Labour councillors repeatedly state they’re not given enough money)).

The bit where there’s an answer to the question about whether the Liverpool City Region Mayor will made decisions over my local council/ the services they provide? is in my opinion also wrong. I’ve already written a detailed blog post about What are the new powers of the Metro Mayor to decide on planning applications?.

However, for a taste of one of the matters the new Mayor will be doing (chairing Liverpool City Region Combined Authority public meetings) you can watch my video below of the 15 minute meeting (there are about one of these a month).

So that’s 3-4 hours a year of work (probably more if the meetings are longer).

Liverpool City Region Combined Authority 21st April 2017

Unlike in London, where there are 25 elected London Assembly Members to scrutinise the Mayor this won’t happen in the Liverpool City Region.

There will still be a Scrutiny Committee, but it’ll be made up of councillors nominated by the district councils as before. At the moment there are 14 councillors on that Committee (12 Labour, 1 Lib Dem and 1 Green).

On the opposition front, out of the last three Scrutiny Committee meetings in public, the Lib Dem councillor has sent her apologies for two of them, the Conservative councillor (from Wirral) resigned years ago and no-one else was appointed instead and the sole Green councillor (Liverpool would normally under proportionality rules nominate all Labour councillors but Liverpool decided they wanted at least some opposition) has been to the last three meetings. He’s also the Green Party candidate in the election.

There will be some decisions made solely* by the newly elected Mayor which I will summarise below:

a) matters devolved from the Homes and Communities Agency around land and infrastructure such as housing, regeneration, infrastructure, powers about burial grounds and consecrated land, powers in relation to statutory undertakers,

b) deciding on grants to the local councils in the LCR region,

c) reviewing the local transport plan (at least every five years),

d*) planning applications (of “potential strategic importance”)

*interestingly decisions on these planning applications will also require the consent of the member of the Combined Authority for the area the application for planning permission was made,

e) matters relating to the spatial development strategy and

f) matters to do with Mayoral development areas.

Originally I know the plan had been was for the Combined Authority to combine Merseyside-wide authorities such as the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority, Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority to give two examples (similar to old Merseyside County Council).

Even when just talked about, these sorts of proposed changes caused so much resistance from certain existing Labour councillors (who angrily and vocally were against any such changes) that as far as I can tell such plans at the present time were dropped by the negotiating team and the government.

Polling day for over a million people in the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority area (Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral) is on 4th May 2017 (although postal voters may receive their ballot paper before this date).

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MPs vote 522:13 in favour of an early general election on 8th June

                                    

Rt Hon Frank Field MP (Chair) left at a meeting of the Birkenhead Constituency Committee on the 8th October 2015

Rt Hon Frank Field MP (Chair) left at a meeting of the Birkenhead Constituency Committee on the 8th October 2015

Yesterday in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister moved a motion for an early general election to be held on the 8th June.

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 required two-thirds of MPs (at least 434 MPs) to vote in favour of an early general election outside of the regular five-year cycle.

All four of Wirral’s MPs (Frank Field, Alison McGovern, Angela Eagle and Margaret Greenwood) voted in favour of an early general election. In total 522 MPs voted in favour of the motion and only 13 against.

Labour’s National Executive Committee ruled out local party members having a vote over who the Labour candidate in each constituency would be with the short timescale to select candidates given as the reason why.

Sitting Labour MPs have to decide by this evening whether to stand in the general election. If they decide not to, applications to become the Labour candidate in those seats can be made from tomorrow to Sunday.

High profile Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson has announced his intention to become the Labour candidate to become Walton’s next Member of Parliament.

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What are the new powers of the Metro Mayor to decide on planning applications?

                                 

Planning Committee meeting (Wirral Council) 15th December 2016 councillors voting to refuse planning permission for a fire station at Saughall Massie L to R Cllr Pat Cleary, Cllr Stuart Kelly, Cllr Ian Lewis, Cllr Kathy Hodson, Cllr Eddie Boult, Cllr David Elderton

Planning Committee meeting (Wirral Council) 15th December 2016 councillors voting to refuse planning permission for a fire station at Saughall Massie L to R Cllr Pat Cleary, Cllr Stuart Kelly, Cllr Ian Lewis, Cllr Kathy Hodson, Cllr Eddie Boult, Cllr David Elderton

How planning applications are decided will change after a new Metro Mayor is elected next month. The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority will have the power (from the 8th May 2017) to decide on planning applications of “potential strategic importance”.

Whether a planning application is of “potential strategic importance” is defined in the legislation in categories such as large-scale developments, major infrastructure and development which may affect strategic policies.

The last category includes planning applications in the green belt that involve constructing buildings with over 1,000 square metres floor space.

For example the controversial Saughall Massie fire station planning application is in the green belt, but is for a building of 645 square metres (originally 737 square metres) so this would be decided by Wirral Council’s Planning Committee.

However the equally controversial Hoylake Golf Resort project will involve a planning application for the construction of buildings over 1000 square metres so could easily be deemed to be of “potential strategic importance” and be determined by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and not Wirral Council’s Planning Committee.

Interestingly, the revised planning application for a fire station at Saughall Massie includes the proposed Hoylake Golf Resort as a reason for a fire station at this location.

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority will be meeting on the 21st April 2017 to revise their constitution ahead of gaining these new powers.

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Why are taxpayers not Merseyrail paying £139,000+ for each day of Merseyrail strike?

                                      

Cllr Steve Foulkes (middle) answers a question about the Merseyrail strike (L to R Cllr Chris Meaden, Cllr Steve Foulkes, Cllr Moira McLaughlin and Cllr Ann McLachlan) Birkenhead Constituency Committee 30th March 2017

Cllr Steve Foulkes (middle) answers a question about the Merseyrail strike (L to R Cllr Chris Meaden, Cllr Steve Foulkes, Cllr Moira McLaughlin and Cllr Ann McLachlan) Birkenhead Constituency Committee 30th March 2017

Further information has been supplied to this blog which shows new information about the Merseyrail strike planned tomorrow timed to coincide with the Grand National. For the background to this story please read Why are Merseyrail staff striking on the 8th April?

Last year I exclusively published the contract that councillors agreed to between Merseyrail and Merseytravel titled Deed to confirm the Consolidated Concession Agreement relating to the services for the carriage of passengers by railway to be provided by Merseyrail Electrics 2002 Limited.

That contract shows that the cost of the strike action tomorrow and the one day strike recently will not be met by Merseyrail but by Merseytravel.

It is estimated that just the one day strike tomorrow will cost the taxpayers of Merseyside at least £139,000 (plus the cost of any contingency arrangements).

Merseyrail is however required to use all reasonable endeavours to prevent a strike, which may explain Merseyrail’s recent unsuccessful court action to prevent a recent one day strike from happening.

However, financial considerations aside (pictured above is Merseytravel’s Lead Councillor for Finance and Strategy Cllr Steve Foulkes) the union also states that the public supports a guard on every train (as compared to the Merseytravel & Merseyrail view that a guard will not be required on every train once the new trains start running).

The public will have their say on who will decide the future direction of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Merseytravel when a new Metro Mayor is elected next month.

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