YOU MAY have already heard that the leaders of Greater Manchester’s ten councils met last week to appoint an Interim Mayor.
It was a long and involved process and I believe genuine efforts were made to try and be as open as possible in making what is an appointment for a temporary position, rather than an election by public vote of a full-time Mayor.
I have put on record before that I believe more time should have been allowed by government for there to be an early public debate about this new role and devolution from Whitehall to Greater Manchester.
But I do strongly believe that the case is compelling and that the opportunity to be the masters of our own destiny is far better than us being told what to do by civil servants in London.
Oldham’s voters haven’t been exposed to a referendum on whether or not they support the idea of a directly elected Mayor.
Some people who are against the idea of elected mayors wrongly say that “Greater Manchester rejected a mayor” but they are, of course, referring only to the City of Manchester and some other boroughs. The truth is that there hasn’t been a vote across the whole of Greater Manchester on the introduction of a GM Mayor.
This does also pose a big question for the rest of the country.
It can’t be acceptable for the Chancellor to say that the ‘old way of doing things is broken’ and then only allow a new system for some parts of the country.
Even in areas where city or county deals have been struck there is little logic in the packages being offered – a result of the closed deal making which has been the hallmark of devolution under this Government.
But I’m also a pragmatist.
I’d sooner have a directly elected mayor agreed through a negotiated package of devolution without a public referendum than just refuse the new powers. The offer on the table is significant and it shouldn’t be underestimated.
It is likely there will be limited room for the Interim Mayor to really get things going because, understandably, the public and other elected councillors will want to see who comes forward for the elected position. With an engaging debate and election period to come – including a good spread and calibre of candidates across all parties and interests – that could help to build public support and accountability.
But there is also a real job to do now – and it is vital that we get it right.
Not all powers which are due to be devolved will be handed to the Interm Mayor. Health devolution for instance – which makes up the vast majority of public spend – is being devolved to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and to each of the ten local councils. Ensuring the attention to detail, partnership and true buy in from each area will be critical to our shared success.
I’d like to congratulate Tony Lloyd who has already served us well as Police and Crime Commissioner and will continue to do so as Interim Mayor. A heartfelt thanks also goes to Lord Peter Smith as the Chair of the Combined Authority for the leadership and dedication he has shown, which has helped to get us so far.
Let’s use this time well, engage the public and show the UK that devolution can be used to create a fairer economy – and one which benefits all communities.
Thanks for listening,