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Government / Local politics

From West Lancashire to North Wales: Here's the case for a bigger Liverpool City Region

Editor’s note: Dave Mail is an enthusiastic advocate of a larger Liverpool City Region, who has sent emails on the topic to several CityMetric contributors. We’re a broad church round here so we thought we’d ask him to write it up for us.

The borough of Cheshire West and Chester is only 2 miles from Liverpool; West Lancashire only 2.5 miles from Liverpool. Warrington borough is only 5 miles from the city, and even North Wales only 8 miles. Bizarrely, none of these is part of the official Liverpool City Region.

The plan 

Here is a map of the irregularly shaped official Liverpool City Region:

Image: Wikipedia.

Note the way the Greater London and Greater Manchester official city regions are rather more regular in shape:

London and Manchester. Image: Wikipedia.

Let us take these successful ‘Greater London’ and ‘Greater Manchester’ models as our template. The ‘Liverpool City Region’ should incorporate, given their proximity and the supporting transport infrastructure, the six local authorities already included in the region…

  • Liverpool;

  • Halton;

  • Knowsley;

  • St. Helens;

  • Sefton;

  • Wirral;

Plus the following areas just outside it:

  • Cheshire West and Chester;

  • Warrington;

  • West Lancashire,

Part of North Wales could also be included: an official ‘Liverpool Bay Alliance’ between Liverpool City Region and North Wales would also be mutually beneficial as a catalyst for substantial change.

The Welsh Assembly could be a strong ally against Whitehall, given the city’s historical strong social, cultural and economic links with Wales: the BBC recently broadcast a documentary which explored these links under the heading ‘Liverpool: Capital of North Wales’. Such an alliance would also introduce an interesting and unique dynamic for the area’s dealings with central government. 

The case 

Central government encouraged and gave permission for the creation of the current, stunted version of Liverpool City Region, of just six boroughs. But this is a misrepresentation of the real size and relative power of the true economic region, and it puts Liverpool at a disadvantage against other areas which have more generously defined official city regions, including the nearby competitor of Manchester. 

Liverpool City Region needs to be at a critical mass of population, of towards 3 million people, to enable it to compete on an equal footing. It should compete, for example, for central government largesse such as large scale relocations of government offices and functions to the ideally suited Liverpool city centre.

While we’re at it, Channel 4 would fit perfectly into the celebrated European Capital of Culture (2008), UNESCO City of Music and UNESCO Creative Cities Network member, were it relocated to Liverpool’s epic UNESCO World Heritage Site waterfront (an idea suggested by Stephen Bush in a recent CityMetric podcast).

The Greater Liverpool City Region already effectively exists in the transport network. Here is the official map of Merseyrail (the Liverpool Underground), the mass transit commuter rail network that is centred on Liverpool city centre:

Merseyrail.

As can be seen from this map, Chester, which is not part of the current official Liverpool City Region, has a station on the Merseyrail network. So does Ormskirk, which is not part of the current official Liverpool City Region either.

What’s more, there are already eight lanes of motorway tunnels, a Liverpool Underground railway tunnel and the famous Mersey ferries connecting Liverpool city centre and the Wirral peninsula less than a mile away. 

Conclusion

This definition of Liverpool City Region, of nearly 3m people, is of a similar size to Greater Manchester (the city of Liverpool local authoeity is already of a similar size to that of Manchester, at about 500,000 people). This would be positive both in terms of national perceptions and in real economic terms.

Such a large entity would also carry more influence with central government, allowing Liverpool City Region to expect or demand such things as HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. It would not be so easily ignored.


One last thing…

Merseyside’ includes the five boroughs of: Liverpool; Knowsley; Sefton; St. Helens; Wirral. That is, the existing Liverpool City Region, minus Halton  Merseyside’ is definitely getting neither a metro mayor nor devolved powers from national government.

It is worth noting that Greater London is never referred to as ‘Thamesside’ – and that Premier League football matches between London football clubs are never referred to as Thamesside derbies. 

Dave Mail has declared himself CityMetric’s new Liverpool City Region correspondent. He will be updating us on the brave new world of Liverpool City Region every month in ‘E-mail from Liverpool City Region’, although Alistair Cooke he ain’t…
This article is from the CityMetric archive: some formatting and images may not be present.