An agonised call for the elected mayors of Merseyside to stop their power battles and get on with promoting the city region was made at a Downtown event in the city this week.

Many of the movers and shakers in the area were kind enough to give their time to look at the city’s development in the ten years since Capital of Culture and what the next decade has in store.

The overriding desire was for Liverpool City mayor Joe Anderson and City Region mayor Steve Rotheram to end their rivalry, agree on who does what, and get on with attracting business and tourism to the area.

The main frustration focuses on the many agencies that are doing bits and pieces to attract jobs and visitors. The demand is for one point of contact, particularly for tourism. The consensus was that this is a job for the city region. Acknowledging that Liverpool is the brand, it was felt that the city region should have this strategic role.

The way in which successive governments have devolved power in the UK is partly to blame. At the Downtown meeting, it was pointed out that the Scottish Government and Welsh Assembly could put major funding into attracting business and tourism. Aberdeen and Cardiff are building new conference centres on the back of that. In England, limited power and money has been given to a complex model of Local Enterprise Partnerships and Combined Authorities. In Merseyside and Greater Manchester, the structure of elected city regional mayors over the top of the proud cities of Manchester and Liverpool is a recipe for rivalry. There are some signs of tension in Greater Manchester but the ten districts generally rub along together. Merseyside on the other hand has had a controversial history at local government level with Wirral and Southport wanting to break away, not to mention the Militant era. The business community had hoped all that was well in the past. Liverpool is transformed compared to twenty years ago but this model of city and city region mayor couldn’t have been better designed to revive the old dysfunctional problems.

Added to the structural problems we have two strong personalities. Joe Anderson, passionate for his city, has done great work since 2010 but he wanted to move on to the wider city region stage. In his way was his old friend Steve Rotheram. A way out would have been for Joe to take over from Steve as MP for Walton. That elegant solution was blocked by Unite The Union who wanted their man in Walton.

Now business people in Liverpool are confused about the powers of both mayors at a time when they know that more will be expected of them in terms of promoting jobs and tourism as the cuts continue to bite in the public sector.

The Downtown event concluded that the next ten years are going to be harder after the rapid progress of the last decade. Specific attention was paid to the continuing problems of accessing the city centre from the M62 and the need to fill hotels during the week. In this respect the city seems to have an opposite problem to many other places who find attracting weekend guests a challenge.

One of the most striking views at the Downtown meeting was that, in respect of tourists visiting Britain, the national image was being tarnished by Brexit. It was thought this could be an opportunity for the Liverpool City Region to promote itself separately.

Let’s hope the mayoral problems can be sorted out because the meeting agreed that the Liverpool City Region with that to-die-for waterfront, friendly people and the enduring power of the Beatles gives it potentially great prospects for the future.

Follow me @JimHancockUK.




It’s not often that the Queen drops in on a business conference in Burnley. But a visit from the Windsors was what delegates to the Small Firms’ Summit experienced this week.

Debate on the burdens of red tape and lack of skilled workers was temporarily suspended as the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh met selected guests.

The visit may have contributed to the upbeat mood of small firm managers as they met at Burnley College on the impressive University of Central Lancashire site in the town.

Also helping put a smile on delegates’ faces was the opening speech by Stephen Falder, a Cheshire businessman who invented the highly effective anti microbial product Byotrol which he exports around the world.

Stephen is an avid Manchester City fan and his voice was still a bit croaky as he enthused about the advantages that small and family run businesses can have over the big boys.

“You need passion and fun” Stephen declared and told us how he’d named a product for keeping barnacles off the keels of boats “Slippery Bottom.” It rushed off the shelves.

He set off a lively debate by saying claims that regulation was strangling small businesses were overdone. He’d been to Europe and said regulators in Brussels and elsewhere were prepared to listen if you didn’t rant and explained the problem convincingly.

Byotrol had been through the hard times in 2008. Everyone-managers and workforce-had gone on to a four day week and were in a good position to spring back.

The conference then debated a number of issues affecting small firms including the quality of young people emerging from schools and higher education.

There seemed to be agreement that some youngsters were under the impression that a degree would guarantee them a place half way up the management tree when in fact they needed to be prepared to start at the bottom.

There was a call for teachers and university lecturers to get business experience on the shop floor and for youngsters to be given every encouragement to start enterprises when they were in their late teens.

Firms were encouraged to make work experience meaningful and the conference ended with calls to the government to take action on business rates and the growing number of extra charges firms were being asked to pay for a range of services.


Meanwhile over at the Liverpool Economic Forum calls were once again heard for all agencies in the City Region to work together.

The new mayor Joe Anderson was billed to be there but was already strutting the world stage at an event in Paris. This was one of the ideas around the creation of the post that seems to have got off to a quick start.

If Joe had swapped Old Hall Street for the Champs Elysees he would have heard an old cry for agencies supporting business in the Liverpool City Region to work together.

The panel including Wayne Locke (Space Northwest), Neil Murray (Redx Pharma) and John Schorah (Weightmans) clearly had concerns about whether the new Local Enterprise Partnership, Liverpool Vision and the councils on Merseyside were all pulling in the same direction.
This may be a task that Joe Anderson can undertake, but he is only mayor of Liverpool, an early sign of the folly of not making this a city region post.


While Joe Anderson was sweeping all before him to become Liverpool’s first directly elected mayor, the people of Manchester narrowly voted no.

53% voted no and 47% yes but only a quarter of Mancunians voted following a low key campaign. The government had wanted “a Boris in every Town Hall” but it will be business as usual in this well run city.

The truth is that the post has not attracted the colourful outsiders or dynamic business candidate that might have caught the voter’s imagination. Combined with that was uncertainty about what difference it would have made.

The government might have wanted a Boris in Manchester Town Hall but they weren’t prepared to give the post the powers in advance.

However Manchester’s rival city just down the M62 does now have the opportunity to exploit any advantage there may be to be gained by having an elected mayor.

Joe Anderson, the city’s council leader won easily on the first ballot. The former BBC producer Liam Fogarty came second and immediately accepted an unpaid post as Anderson wasted no time in signalling that the partisan rhetoric was being put away.

That’s just as well because the campaign has been characterised by disruptive behaviour by the fruitcakes and fascists representing the British National Party, National Front and English Democrats.

Their interventions in radio debates and at the count were crude examples of boneheaded racism. When they got beyond immigration, their other policies for the city were implausible or downright ridiculous. The people of Liverpool pronounced their verdict by putting the bunch of them at the bottom of the list.

In third place was Liberal Democrat Richard Kemp. With his long experience on the council and national positions with the Local Government Association, he could have plausibly run the city.

Fourth place wasn’t bad for the Greens’ John Coyle with the veteran Socialist Coalition candidate Tony Mulhearn in fifth.

Steve Radford of the Liberals was virtually tied with Tory Tony Caldeira in sixth and seventh place. Caldeira campaigned well, attracting top ministers in to support him like Cities Minister Greg Clarke. Caldeira has laid the foundations for a bid for parliament.

Manchester will now watch the elected mayors of Liverpool and Salford bed in but most cities across the country holding referendums have said no to the project.

There’s already a feeling on Merseyside that Joe Anderson will seek to extend his influence beyond the city’s boundaries. Transport is an area where his writ does not run beyond the city boundary. As the ballot boxes were stacked away he told me he would be asking questions about the deal the city gets from Merseyside Transport Authority.

The saga of the lost tram scheme for the city still wrankles with the old bruiser. Anderson told me he intends to open discussion with the government about more powers for the office he now holds.

Although Sefton, Wirral and St Helens are either opposed to or equivocal about a sub regional mayor, they are now all under full Labour control for the first time. This may or may not assist in bringing Merseyside together.



A very senior contact within Manchester Town Hall told me this week that there would be a three to one vote against having an elected mayor in Thursday’s referendum. But is that right?

With Liverpool set to elect Joe Anderson to this powerful post, will its big rival want to be left behind?

Most people thought Salford would reject the concept in its January referendum but although the turnout was small, I understand that in every ward there was a yes vote. That shows widespread though limited support for the idea.

That Salford is to get its local champion might be a good reason for Manchester to follow suite. The ten councils of Greater Manchester have come together in a Combined Authority sinking their local differences in the interest of all. There is concern that the Salford mayor waving his mandate from the people could destabilise things. Better then that Manchester has an elected mayor too.

Now let’s look at the candidates on offer in the two cities that are having mayoral votes on Thursday.



In Salford Labour’s candidate Ian Stewart was not a happy bunny when he lost his Eccles parliamentary seat in boundary changes in 2010. But he benefited from internal opposition to council leader John Merry to gain the nomination. He is almost certain to win and will be a doughty fighter for Salford, although his complete lack of local government experience is causing anxiety.

The two other major parties have good candidates who have served Salford well over the years. Norman Owen for the Lib Dems put a big dent in the Labour majority some years ago, but faces the problem that good work on the ground may count for little when set against his national party’s unpopularity.

Being a Conservative in Salford is never easy but Karen Garrido has battled on, often being a lone voice on the council. Her slogan in this campaign is “Trust the People”. They are unlikely to give her the answer she wants.

UKIP was ahead of the Lib Dems in one recent national opinion poll. In Salford its candidate, Bernard Gill, is claiming the money spent on regenerating The Crescent gateway to the city is a waste of money. Meanwhile the Green’s Joe O’Neill wants to cut the number of Salford councillors by a third, a policy that has merit with an elected mayor in place.

Of the other candidates, the independent Paul Massey stands out. He’s served time for a serious assault but claims his experience of the criminal world will serve the people of Salford well. David Cameron said he wanted a different type of person to come forward for elected mayor rather than the usual suspects. It’s unlikely he had Mr Massey in mind.



In Liverpool Labour’s Joe Anderson has dominated the mayoral race. He swept to power two years ago and as the Liberal Democrats have collapsed,Anderson has forged ahead with a business friendly agenda to promote the city’s economy for too long dependent on the public sector.

He has bitterly criticised the government’s cuts but readily embraced a city deal which he claims will restore some cash to the city as well as giving the elected mayor power over new improvement zones.

So keen was he to gain the fruits of the city deal that he got the council to scrap a mayoral referendum and move straight to a vote for mayor.

Anderson may win on the first ballot but it is worth mentioning that these elections are being run under a system called the supplementary vote. People can put an x in the first column of their ballot paper for their first choice and an x in the second column for their second choice.

If a candidate gets 50% of the first preference votes he is elected. If not the second choice votes for the top two candidates are counted. In theory the second candidate could overtake the first candidate in the run off.

The problem with this system is that to make your second choice count you have to guess who the top two candidates are going to be.

It is quite hard to work out who is going to finish second to Joe Anderson.

The Lib Dems have the highly experienced councillor Richard Kemp who could credibly run the city. The Conservatives have  businessman Tony Caldera. He won’t win this race but if David Cameron wants to do something about the “posh boy” image of his party then he should get  Tony into parliament double quick. From a market stall in Kirkby, he now runs a multi million pound soft furnishing business. His friendly and articulate manner will take him far.

Then there is my former BBC producer and friend Liam Fogarty. He has campaigned for ten years for an elected mayor against entrenched opposition to the idea from the political establishment. He is passionate about Liverpool and would seek consensus from a whole range of people about the city’s future direction. The question is would he have the stomach for the rough and tumble of city politics? He certainly merits consideration for a second choice vote.

There are two other candidates with good Town Hall experience standing. John Coyne for the Greens and Steve Radford for the Liberal Party.

Even with 12 candidates standing there isn’t a single woman. The last I would wish to highlight is Tony Mulhearn. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate has stuck to his principles ever since he was expelled from the Labour Party for his membership of Militant in the eighties. I admire him for that and his vote may be stronger than people imagine in the light of George Galloway’s success in Bradford.