Details of the latest wave of devolution to Greater Manchester were announced today, Wednesday 8 July.
New freedoms, which will further strengthen the area’s ability to shape a more prosperous future and more effective public services, were set out in a document accompanying today’s Budget statement.
The additional measures will, subject to legislation, enable Greater Manchester to take on a range of additional responsibilities:
Land GMCA will work with government to create a Greater Manchester Land Commission. The Commission will have an overview of all publicly-owned land in the region, including that owned by government and other public sector bodies. It will look at and co-ordinate how that land can be used to support Greater Manchester’s wider ambitions - including the need for 10,000 new homes a year to support its growing economy and communities - and address any barriers to such land being developed. The Commission will be jointly chaired by the Mayor and housing minister and will include ministers from other key landowning departments.
Planning Further powers over planning will help the elected Mayor encourage regeneration and development in Greater Manchester.
The ability to create Mayoral Development Corporations which can help drive regeneration and advance complex development schemes. Any such development corporations would have to be agreed by the leader of the Greater Manchester local authority in which it would have powers.
Compulsory purchase powers for the Mayor, again subject to the agreement of the leader of the local authority in the relevant area.
Fire In addition to taking on the functions of the Police and Crime Commissioner from 2017 (subject to legislation), the directly-elected Mayor will oversee the work of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service. This will help enable emergency services to be better integrated.
Children’s Services Local authorities and the government will work together to review where children’s services – both those delivered by councils and other providers – can be better integrated and more efficient. Any proposals would be subject to approval by government and individual local authorities, the latter remaining accountable for overseeing the delivery of children’s services in their areas.
Employment and Skills Previous devolution arrangements have given Greater Manchester influence over around 40 per cent of skills training delivered in the area. In this new agreement the government has committed to exploring how the city region can have greater flexibility in employment and skills programmes to reflect the priorities of Greater Manchester, including greater co-commissioning responsibilities.
Sunday Trading The government has announced it will consult this summer on devolving powers over Sunday Trading to city ‘metro’ mayors. This would give the elected Mayor of Greater Manchester flexibility to make alterations to Sunday trading regulations.
Health and social care As health leaders in the region continue work to develop a Strategic Sustainability Plan, showing how they will deliver improved and sustainable services for Greater Manchester people, the government has pledged that this will be aligned with the Spending Review process for health and social care – enabling greater certainty as funding levels will be known for a longer period than is currently the case.
Tony Lloyd, interim Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “Today’s announcements are another welcome sign of progress in Greater Manchester’s journey to becoming a place of opportunity for all.
“The role of individual local authorities in shaping the future of their own areas is as strong as ever. But by working together, we are increasingly seeing Greater Manchester being empowered to make decisions which address the region’s priorities and needs – rather than being dictated to by Whitehall and Westminster.
“There are welcome announcements in today’s budget, the increase in the minimum wage will bring money in to the pockets of Greater Manchester families and businesses. One thing that will hold us back is the decision to withdraw grants from the poorest students going to university and there is a glaring omission, the Government have today failed to keep their promises on the rail projects that are key to the delivery of northern economic growth and I challenge George Osborne to tell us when he will deliver on this promise. We also need to see the full details of proposed cuts as these emerge.”
Councillor Sue Derbyshire, GMCA lead for Planning and Housing, said: “Devolution is an ongoing, step-by-step process. But it is not the destination. It’s only a vehicle to help us get to where we need to be for our residents and businesses to thrive. We’re determined to deliver those results to make Greater Manchester a success story which everyone living and working here can share in. Greater influence over the use of public land and strengthened planning measures will support our ambitions.”
Councillor Sean Anstee, GMCA lead for Employment and Skills, said: “We’ve been able to take these strides because we’ve persuaded the government that if we’re given greater freedom to seize the region’s opportunities and tackle its specific challenges we have the potential to deliver better results – such as more and better jobs and improved skills. We welcome the government’s continued commitment to devolution and the Northern Powerhouse.”
Councillor Cliff Morris, GMCA lead for Health, said: “Greater Manchester people have some of the worst health outcomes in the country. This is something we are working hard to turn around and the plans we are developing for integrated health and social care have the potential to make a significant difference. Aligning this planning with the spending review period will enable greater certainty over funding and allow us to plan further ahead.”
Moves to strengthen Greater Manchester by giving the region more freedoms and flexibilities began with the groundbreaking devolution deal signed with government in November 2014. This saw the region take on new powers in transport, policing, planning and housing. Flowing from this agreement an interim mayor, paving the way for an elected mayor from 2017, has been appointed to work alongside the area’s 10 council leaders to drive forward improvements.
Building on this platform, an historic Memorandum of Understanding around health and social care integration was signed earlier this year between the 10 Greater Manchester local authorities, 12 Clinical Commissioning Groups and NHS England, preparing the ground for full devolution of a budget of around £6bn to Greater Manchester in 2016/17.
The March 2015 Budget also announced a pilot scheme in Greater Manchester and Cheshire East to enable the retention of 100 per cent of any additional business rates growth.
The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, currently going through Parliament, will enable the transfer of a range of functions to Greater Manchester Combined Authority and an elected Mayor. A further Buses Bill, enabling bus franchising, will be introduced shortly.