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A grand day out.


WITH flunkies in white bow ties and tails moving effortlessly under gleaming chandeliers in Liverpool Town Hall's large ballroom, you could be forgiven for thinking I was describing a grand social occasion.

In fact last Thursday saw the first meeting of the North West Grand Committee, instituted by the Labour government to hold our regional institutions to account. All 76 of the region's MPs are entitled to attend. It is one of the few bodies that we've got to scrutinise the quangocracy so let's give it a chance.

By the way the flunkies were the officials who usually carry messages around Westminster. As this was an official committee of the House of Commons, the authentic touch was required.

I criticised the Government last week for snubbing a key meeting in Liverpool, but it deserves credit for creating a small regional select committee, and this grand one, to give the faceless bureaucrats that run the region, a taste of accountability. So it was that we had a red faced Liz Meek facing a furious tirade from a Lancashire MP because she'd refused to meet him. Ms Meek will not be known to you but she is in fact Regional Director of the Government Office for the North West. Located in City Tower Manchester that body has a pivotal role in delivering central government policy in the region.

Under the Liverpool Town Hall chandeliers Ms Meek and other officials heard a wide range of issues raised that affected constituencies from Penrith to Prescot.

The most passionate debate concerned the future of Skelmersdale with two Labour MPs renewing their bitter differences over the impact the proposed Everton/Tesco development would have on the town.

Rosie Cooper claimed redevelopment in Skelmersdale would be halted if the Inspector gave the Kirkby project the go ahead. The town, which lacked a rail station and had a road system that would "defeat a Krypton Factor winner", would be sentenced to death. That's why she was holding a meeting of key stakeholders last Friday to work out a "Plan B."

George Howarth (Knowsley North and Sefton East) was having none of it. His Labour colleague was suggesting a false choice between Skem and Kirkby. The pounds 400m scheme would be good for the whole of Merseyside and beyond.

Apart from that, Jane Kennedy (Wavertree) spoke about plans for improved markets on Edge Lane; Derek Twigg (Halton) wanted a quick decision on the new bridge at Widnes and the North West Minister Phil Woolas told Bootle's Joe Benton that the Mersey Tram project was not on the back burner. However it would need regional backing and Merseytravel would have to find 25% of the cost.

As MPs from Manchester, Lancashire and Cumbria aired their pet topics to the listening officials of our leading quangos, one could see the potential that this body has. That is if it isn't killed off if the Tories win the election.
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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 26, 2009
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