WIRRAL'S leaders have approved a multi-million pound devolution deal - despite "having a gun held to their head" on the introduction of a metro mayor.

Councillors approved devolving power from Whitehall to the Liverpool City Region when they met tonight.

It comes after leaders of the six authorities involved in the deal - Wirral, St Helens, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton and Halton - signed a devolution agreement on Tuesday morning.

The devolution deal means the city region will see its first directly elected “metro mayor” who will take on the new powers including control over a £900m investment fund as well as local transport.

While the deal was backed and indeed put forward by Wirral Council leader Phil Davies - who is also chairman of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority - he made it clear it "isn't perfect", was rushed and politically-driven.

Addressing Thursday's meeting of full council,  he said: "The Government effectively held a gun to our heads around the metro mayor model which to me seems more of a Big Brother approach than trusting local representatives to make this decision for themselves.

"I'm not a fan of the metro mayor and I would have liked to look at other governance models. Nevertheless, I think the benefits we are getting from this, on balance, make it worth supporting a change of governance.

"Pragmatically we have got the best deal we can for Wirral and the city region and now it's incumbent on all of us to make sure it works."

Globe readers have questioned the lack of consultation surrounding the so-called "devo deal", something Cllr Davies - leader of Wirral's Labour group - addressed tonight.

He said: "I think the way this has been done by the Government, they made it clear that those areas which don't get the devolution deal agreed before the Comprehensive Spending Review at the end of November are likely to get less money and resources.

"This meant there was simply no time to do proper consultation with our residents or look to carry out pilot projects around devolving some of these powers."

He added: "It's not the deal that I would have preferred to negotiate.  My role as leader of the council is to get the best possible deal for the people of Wirral. That has been my driving principle through all of this."

He described being "forced" to accept a metro mayor as "outrageous".

In an unusual turn of events, Cllr Jeff Green - leader of Wirral's Conservative group - congratulated Cllr Davies on bringing devolution forward.

He said: "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us, on behalf of our residents - that's the key thing for me - and n behalf of their economic wellbeing."

Cllr Green said devolution allows Wirral to "play a significant part" in George Osborne's Northern Powerhouse.

Following the meeting, Cllr Davies said: “I am pleased that Wirral Council has supported the devolution deal tonight. This deal has emerged following detailed and painstaking negotiations with Government and I believe that with all things considered we have done the best possible deal for residents in Wirral and the wider City-region.”


Voters will choose a directly elected Mayor in 2017, who will take on a raft of new powers.

This includes control over local transport budgets and franchised bus services and increased responsibility for employment support and skills provision.

The Treasury says the deal also includes control over investment worth £30m a year for the next 30 years.

In a statement, the Treasury said: "A total of £900m will help unlock the huge economic potential of the iconic River Mersey and the new Superport as well as maximising the opportunities from HS2.

"The deal also includes support for Liverpool’s strengths in attracting major international events, with backing for the city’s International Festival for Business as well as its cultural attractions, with plans to establish a sustainable business model for National Museums Liverpool."

Speaking when the devolution deal was signed on Tuesday, Chancellor George Osborne said: “Today is a historic day for the Liverpool City Region and a historic day for the Northern Powerhouse.

"This revolutionary deal cements the area’s position as a gateway to the north, from North Wales all the way to Newcastle, and gives local people control over their own affairs for the first time.

“In becoming the fifth northern city region to take on these new powers, the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse is now simply unstoppable and I want to thank the council leaders for working together to come to an agreement which will give Liverpool City Region a powerful new voice in national life.”

St Helens, Liverpool, Sefton, Halton and Knowsley have all approved the devolution deal at separate meetings this evening. The Combined Authority will meet on Friday morning to discuss the outcome of this evening's meetings.