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Liverpool opts for directly-elected mayor, strikes first "city deal" with government

Councillors in Liverpool have voted to introduce a directly-elected mayor, after striking a deal with the government that will see Whitehall delegate a range of powers to the city.

Elections for a mayor will take place on 3 May 2012, with the successful candidate taking on their responsibilities from 7 May.

The elected mayor will hold the post for four years and select a cabinet from Liverpool’s 90 members. The mayor’s activities will be subject to scrutiny by members.

The so-called ‘city deal’ – the first of its kind – includes:

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  • The creation of a single investment pot of public and private funds. This will initially be worth £130m, but could grow to between £500m and £1bn. The government is to provide up to £75m “to support economic development backed by a strong business case”;
  • The establishment of the first Mayoral Development Corporation outside London. This will be supported by a Local Finance for Growth package;
  • A new Enterprise Zone for North Liverpool and the Central Business District;
  • The potential to “capture the entire benefit of any growth in business rates" from the Enterprise Zone for use in five other key economic areas of the city. Referred to as mayoral development zones, they are North Liverpool, the Knowledge Quarter in the city centre, Stonebridge Cross, the Eastern Approaches and Speke-Garston;
  • The mayor acting as chair of a new Mayoral Investment Board created to oversee the city’s economic and housing strategy. The board will also pool local assets such as land, commercial and residential buildings. Included in this will be assets of the Homes and Communities Agency and those formerly owned by the North West Development Agency;
  • The mayor developing a new approach to welfare reform in Liverpool. This would include investing in specific skills that match the jobs available in the city. Local schemes will include a ‘youth contract’ to increase the number of claimants moving to work;
  • A secondary school investment plan that will build 12 new secondary schools. These will include six new academies.

The local authority said the deal was not dependent on having a directly-elected mayor. However, Liverpool added that it had received “a clear signal” from the government that such a model would provide the accountability ministers needed before providing the new powers and funds.

Councillors voted in favour of the move by 62 to 3, with 12 abstentions, at an extraordinary council meeting.

Under the city deals initiative, announced by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in December 2011, each city is able to propose the particular powers it would like to have devolved.

Commenting on the Liverpool deal, Clegg said: “This first city deal heralds an unprecedented transfer of power from central government to local communities, with new powers and funding for Liverpool to do things its own way. I congratulate Liverpool on blazing a trail we look forward to seeing others follow.

"I firmly believe one size doesn't fit all - whether it's a Mayor or whether it is a Council Leader, what cities have to show in return for a city deal is that there is strong clear leadership. This deal puts Liverpool back in the driving seat to create jobs and boost skills with greater economic and political freedom. It empowers Liverpool to go for growth that will benefit everyone who lives there.”

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