Greater Manchester has agreed to ‘an historic’ devolution settlement with government which will see the city region gain new ‘planning freedoms’ and a directly-elected mayor
Under the deal signed with chancellor George Osborne, Greater Manchester will be handed greater local control over certain budgets - including a new housing investment fund worth up to £300million.
Manchester would also take over responsibility for local transport, which could lead to new tramlinks and a region-wide Oyster card-style ticketing system, and create a statutory spatial strategy to guide investment and development.
The news comes just days after Osborne backed plans for a high-speed rail link (HS3) between Manchester and Leeds as part of a wider proposals to create ‘a northern powerhouse’ to counterbalance the economy.
Peter Smith, chair of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, said: ‘Make no mistake, this devolution settlement is a momentous day for Greater Manchester. It gives us greater control over our own destiny in several key areas and the ability to base decisions on local priorities and needs rather than on ‘one size fits all’ dictates from Westminster.’
The chancellor said: ‘This is a massive moment for the north of England and our plan to build the northern powerhouse. After several months of private discussions with local representatives from all three parties, I have reached agreement with the civic leaders of Greater Manchester to create the first metro-wide elected mayor outside of London. This will give Mancunians a powerful voice and bring practical improvements for local people.
I want to talk to other cities
‘I want to talk to other cities who are keen to follow Manchester’s lead - every city is different, and no model of local power will be the same.’
It is understood the region’s first elected mayor would be in place in 2017.
Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester City Council
‘Greater Manchester has been in the vanguard of the national devolution debate. It was clear that an over-centralised national system was not delivering the best results for our people or our economy.
‘[We] can now demonstrate what a city region with greater freedoms can achieve and contribute further to the growth of the UK. Our ultimate ambition is for full devolution of all public spending in Greater Manchester, currently around £22 billion a year, so that we either influence or control the whole amount.’
Gavin Sorby of Manchester-based Buttress Architects
‘London is an international City and it does very well, but its relevance to the issues that affect the Country’s major cities and regions is increasingly diminished. The authorities best placed to deal with the issues that face our cities and regions and address their needs are those that are embedded in them. We should all expect our local authorities and regional bodies to have the necessary leadership, vision and sophistication to be capable of assuming more powers. Manchester has already demonstrated its capability over the past decade. If you want something to fly, the fewer strings you have attached to it the better ’.
John Walker of Manchester-based Walker Simpson
‘Regional devolution and HS3 have the potential to forge stronger links between the Northern Cities that can harness a shared economic and creative identity. This could nurture innovation, and generate skills and jobs through direct council support for initiatives beneficial to the Northern enterprise.’