Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram
The Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram provided an update relating to his work over the period of December 2018 – March 2019 and he highlighted the following: -
· Investment and Economic Development
o November 2018, the new Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) was launched with a £500m fund to drive inclusive growth to benefit everyone across the region;
o Liverpool City Region Combined Authority approved over £400m in SIF projects, delivering 9,000 jobs and 5,500 apprenticeships;
o The Green Investment Fund was launched in February 2019 to support the transition to a low carbon economy;
o Launched “One Front Door” in October 2018, to be the single point of contact for the city region;
o Announced a town centre commission and £6m Town Centre Fund in July 2018 to support the high streets; and
o Submitted a bid to the DCMS for match funding for the digital connectivity project.
o The £1 fast tag was introduced for residents in the Liverpool City Region on 1st April 2019;
o Secured the inclusion of the new twin track lines connecting Liverpool to full HS2;
o Transport for the North’s strategic transport plan was approved in January 2019;
o Maghull North Station opened in June 2018, the first new Merseyrail station for 20 years;
o Improved Newton Le Willows Station in St Helen’s with a total investment of £19m;
o Announced £8.3m for the first 55km of a 600km network of cycling and walking routes;
o Put out a tender for the brand new Mersey Ferry;
o Provided 3,000 free bus tickets to foodbanks over the Christmas period;
o Introduced half price bus travel for apprentices aged 19-24 years in November 2018;
o Launched the “Big Bus Debate”; and
o Moved forward with plans for the brand new state of the art trains for the Merseyrail Network that would come into service from 2020.
o Launched the UKs first UCAS style apprenticeship portal;
o Opened the Hugh Baird’s new St Winefride’s Campus in March 2019, providing mental health care training to local people;
o Partnered with InnovateHer to encourage more female students into data coding across the city region; and
o Continued with the Households into Work programme that was supporting 800 families from long-term unemployment back into work.
o Liverpool City Region Combined Authority supported the 2018 cultural events programme with £5m of support bringing the Giants to Liverpool and the Wirral;
o Funded the 2018 St Helens Borough of Culture;
o Funding the 2019 Wirral’s Borough of Culture as part of the 1% for the culture programme;
o Unveiled the new Liverpool City Region Music Board; and
o Sponsored the 2018 Liverpool Pride.
· Fairness and Social Justice
o Launched the consultation on a Liverpool City Region Fair Employment Charter;
o Signed up to the Zero Suicide Alliance; and
o Secured £8m to tackle homelessness through a housing first approach.
The Metro Mayor acknowledged the support of the Committee and thanked everyone for the role played through scrutiny and holding the Combined Authority to account. He also thanked the Chair and Vice Chairs of the Committee for supporting and committing to the scrutiny and pre-scrutiny functions of the Committee.
Members enquired about: -
· The new Hugh Baird campus;
· The refurbished Newton Le Willows Station; and
· The clean air strategy.
The Metro Mayor informed the Committee that the Hugh Baird Campus was the first of its kind with patient access through Merseycare and a training facility next door that offered a Level 2/3 apprenticeship programme with not just simulations, but a practicing facility. He stated that the Newton Le Willows Station received £25m of SIF funding to connect and improve the public transport system that would be an asset to the city region. Regarding the clean air strategy, a commission involving the 6 Local Authorities had been established to work on a wider geography and look at best practice with a genuine public transport offer and alternative forms of transport in the public sector.
Members enquired about: -
· What was happening with the £1b of investment for towns announced by the Prime Minster;
· How would HS2 work and would there need to be a new station built in the City Centre; and
· How would the Housing First approach help the people and get them off the streets.
The Metro Mayor informed the Committee that there was £1.6b of Brexit fund to access and discussions were underway with Government about the criteria and being able to access it for the investment in towns. He also stated that everything had to be evidence based for the city region and that at the moment information was being distributed about the criteria and the CA were learning about the formula from Government and seeking assistance with constructing the bids. He stated that HS2 initially, was not coming to the City Region, but following the evidenced based approach to improve the case the Northern Rail Powerhouse agreed that Liverpool would connect to Manchester airport and other places. He also explained that the UK had the 5th richest economy in the world and that people were rough sleeping on the streets or begging through no fault of their own. The Housing First approach had proven that it worked in other areas of the country and with the CA and the 6 Local Authorities working with Government, it is hoped that it would be established and launched soon.
Members enquired about: -
· The new Ferries and the length of time it would take to evaluate the tenders;
· The Strategic Investment Fund that was £80m underspent;
· The apprenticeship programme and feedback on the ticket scheme;
· Whether or not the Metro Mayor would consider working with SMEs for smaller scale projects; and
· The funding allocated for the One Front Door project.
The Metro Mayor informed the Committee that in relation to the ferries that it had only conducted the first phase and that it would be a while until the tenders are evaluated. He stated that the Single Investment Fund initially led to a number of bids that were submitted but were not accepted, which meant that the £80m was not used and just rolled over into the Strategic Investment Fund. Regarding SMEs, they are different and could be looked at differently, however, there was no capacity to deliver or manage the 600 applications from SMEs, but discussions were underway to work with Councils to assist in the process. The Metro Mayor also stated that funding for up to 3 temporary members of staff had been allocated to the One Front Door. He also stated that apprenticeships were up by 75% nationally, but the LCR were up by 60% so a lot lower than the national figure.
Members enquired about: -
· Future plans to influence or change the benefit system to tackle current issues e.g. number of people being struck by trains and the recent incident at the museum.
· Homelessness and mental health concerns
The Metro Mayor informed the Committee that the issues raised by members was being monitored, as he sees it every day through his own casework and people bringing it to his attention. He stated that people are being punished through no fault of their own, by being left desperate which then manifests itself through sleeping rough and the foodbanks. He further stated that he hoped that through the devolution plans that there would be greater control over the DWP budgets locally. He commented that there were many incidences where people were taking their own lives due to mental health and other issues and agreed that something needed to be done at an earlier stage. Housing First does all of that, but provides wrap around support through all the agencies involved, with a £5.2m saving a year. Quality of life and suicidal issues are taken into account to attack the fundamental concerns and it has been a tried and tested system that was used in America. All the agencies are co-ordinated to assist in multi complexity issues including the Suicidal Alliance – Merseycare and Suicidal Watch and all the agencies and charities working together to have a better understanding of the issues and mental health issues to support and assist.
The Committee noted the update from the Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram and thanked him for his attendance.