The election is over, but a big question remains unanswered

Tue 26th, May

Is your post-election glass half-full or half-empty?

If it’s half-full, no doubt you are relieved that power remains in the hands of those who have repaired much of the economic damage they inherited five years ago.

Your expectations are that the deficit will be kept under control; that growth will remain steady and interest rates low; that the cost of the public sector will continue to be trimmed; that the referendum on European Union membership will turn out to be as damp a squib as UKIP’s General Election performance; and that the Northern Powerhouse will lead to a genuine partnership between Whitehall and Liverpool City region’s local authorities. In your most optimistic moments, you think this region will enjoy a bigger slice of the prosperity which the new government will usher in.

If your glass is half-empty, you are no doubt worried that £12 billion worth of cuts promised by the Conservatives will do serious damage to a Merseyside economy that is still reliant on public spending to compensate for high levels of deprivation. In your blackest moments, you fear we are heading back to the 1980s: that Merseyside will bear the full brunt of the Conservatives’ drive to roll back the state; that local authority leaders will blame the government for all of our ills; and that the ensuing trench warfare will turn us into a pariah and leave everyone much worse off.

The big question is: which of these scenarios is more likely? Our city region has no Conservative MPs to argue the case for more investment in our region. And there are no signs yet that our local authority leaders are capable of the kind of dialogue with the Treasury that has borne so much fruit for Greater Manchester.

On the other hand, devolution for the English regions is being given huge impetus by Scotland’s continuing progress towards an exit from the UK. Giving more power to responsible local decision makers is the opposite of what happened during the 1980s and may be our best hope for avoiding a repetition of that era’s mistakes.

But never mind the omens – the most important challenge for our city region is to adapt to the new reality and find a way to influence and control its fate.

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