THE leader of Wirral Council has been accused of performing an embarrassing U-turn over plans for a "metro mayor" for Merseyside.

Councillor Phil Davies told BBC Radio Merseyside this morning he believes an elected mayor ruling over the county's political landscape might be the only way to become part of the Government's "Northern Powerhouse" initiative.

Councillor Davies, who is also chairman of "super council" the combined regional authority, said leaders will accept a metro mayor “if the prize is worth the price.”

However he stressed to the Globe that the decision will depend upon the result of negotiations, which will begin today with a meeting with Lord Heseltine in Liverpool.

Back in June Cllr Davies was of the view that a metro mayor would place too much power in the hands of one person.

He claimed Chancellor George Osborne - who has staked his political reputation on creating the powerhouse concept - was "fixated" with imposing a mayor and called for a local referendum before such a position was created.

Leader of Wirral Conservative group Cllr Jeff Green said: "Councillor Davies has huffed and puffed over this for a ridiculous length of time and has now performed an embarrassing U-turn.

"Earlier this year we implored him and other Labour leaders in Merseyside to get a move on and make sure the region - and Wirral in particular - benefits from the Northern Powerhouse.

"We faced derision and abuse from them along with the complete rejection of creating a single accountable figure in the form of an elected metro mayor.

"It appears that despite all his earlier unwillingness, Cllr Davies now accepts Northern devolution is a genuine Government offer.

"But no matter what peculiar machinations may have got him there, I am glad he has finally made the right decision."

Councillor Davies said: "Jeff Green's stance is ridiculous. He believes we should just give up irrespective of the position - and we will not know that until our negotiations with Government are concluded.

"I have said all along the prize has to be worth the price - that the final agreement will have to be a good deal that's right for Wirral and the wider city region.

"The Government has made clear in other areas that the only way forward is with a directly elected mayor, and if we get a good deal that will bring hundreds of millions of pounds into the region creating jobs, inevitably that's a price we will have to pay.

"But I stress, we are not yet at that stage."

He said his call for a local referendum has been impossible to achieve as the Government wants to complete negotiations in time to set budgets in next month’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

The combined regional authority submitted its "wish list" for devolution for ministerial consideration on September 4.

But it was reported Government found the bid to be “disappointing” and was unlikely to approve it.

  • The so-called Northern Powerhouse aims to rebalance the UK economy promoting growth outside London in the Northern cities.
  • The theory is that by improving the "connectivity" between the cities of Manchester, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield and Liverpool an economic power will be created.
  • Mr Osborne recently described it as: "Not one city, but a collection of northern cities - sufficiently close to each other that combined they can take on the world."