Blog: Mulling Merseyside's mercurial mayors

By Claire Hamilton
Political reporter, BBC Radio Merseyside

image copyrightWilliam Starkey
image captionA new mayor will be elected as figurehead of the Liverpool city region later this year

What do you call a collection of mayors? I'm not sure, but from May there will be three different mayors in Liverpool.

There's the Lord Mayor, a civic office which is held by a city councillor for a year. He, or she, is the one with the gold chains.

Then there's the elected Mayor of Liverpool, a role currently held by Labour's effervescent Joe Anderson.

In three month's time, there will also be a Metro Mayor for the Liverpool City Region. A new level of local government and the biggest change to the region's political landscape for 40 years.

So far, there are four candidates in the running: Tony Caldeira (Conservatives); Carl Cashman (Liberal Democrats); Tom Crone (Green Party) and Steve Rotheram (Labour).

Whoever wins will have responsibility for housing, planning, skills and transport across Liverpool, Wirral, Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton and Halton controlling a budget of £900m over the next 30 years.

In future, the powers could expand to include social care.

They'll also become the national figurehead for the region and its 1.5 million inhabitants.

image captionJoe Anderson is Liverpool's incumbent city mayor

It's a huge challenge. What works for people in rural Sefton, for example, may not apply to those in Liverpool city centre.

What could work for everyone is an improved bus network. Think Tank Centre for Cities made this the top policy area in a report on what the new mayor's priorities should be.

Controversially, the same report recommended reintroducing bus lanes in Liverpool. Mr Anderson scrapped them in 2014 in a move that was praised by many motorists but loathed by environmentalists.

There is also the perennial issue of the Mersey tunnel tolls, which could form a key battleground in the transport debate.

The leaders of each of the six councils that make up the Liverpool city region will sit with the Metro Mayor on the combined authority.

At the moment, they're all controlled by Labour.

The Labour party is hugely dominant on Merseyside, although the Liberal Democrats have strong support in North Sefton and the Conservatives offer punchy opposition in West Wirral.

The running costs for the election itself and for the mayor's office are yet to be determined, as is his salary.