High level ambitions were set when Mayor Andy Burnham, MPs and peers from across Greater Manchester met at the University of Salford at a recent special meeting of the Greater Manchester All Party Parliamentary Group.
The ‘Mayor’s Q&A’ saw leaders from Greater Manchester’s business and civic institutions table questions directly to senior politicians in the region. The forum, the first time the Mayor and MPs have come together publicly, opens a new route for collective dialogue and action that benefits all of Greater Manchester’s communities.
The APPG Chair, Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester Central and Andy Burnham made a rallying call for Greater Manchester’s leaders to work together. “Let’s change Greater Manchester, then the UK” said Burnham, noting the opportunity presented by the devolution deal and the collective spirit and purpose shown in the aftermath of the MEN Arena bombing. Powell said that the GM APPG would build collaboration among Parliamentarians and other key leaders in the region.
There was clear agreement that there has been historic underinvestment in Northern transport. Clarity is needed on the electrification of the TransPennine link, it was argued, including the role of bi-modal stock. APPG Vice-Chair Chris Green, MP for Bolton West, put forward the case for effective use of data in service delivery. Within the city-region, there was a desire for a far better managed bus network, including its accessibility, building on the quick win of half price bus travel for 16-18 year olds.
Housing and homelessness are areas that have dominated MP’s inboxes for some time, and Lee Sugden from Greater Manchester Housing Providers asked how the impacts of welfare reductions could be mitigated. The significant devolved powers here – such as Mayoral Development Corporations and the statutory spatial framework – could have an effect, said Burnham, with others suggesting fiscal devolution could help.
The discussion was wide ranging and comprehensive – with attendees quizzing the Mayor and MPs on health and social care, advice services, skills and employment, digital, and policing. United Utilities’ Gaynor Kenyon asked how the infrastructure debate could be broadened to include energy and water, particularly considering significant flood damage in recent years.
The devolution deals have thus far largely bypassed MPs, agreed between council leaders and central government. However, with APPGs for London, the West Midlands, Yorkshire & North Lincolnshire, and now Greater Manchester, it is evident that these regional groupings can, behind the scenes, be powerful campaigners for place.
Together, they will have an even stronger lobbying voice with Government, and in the coming months, regional APPGs will seek to build agreement and a coherent voice on further devolution. A Government that is all too preoccupied with Brexit would do well to listen.
Note: DevoConnect provides the secretariat to the Greater Manchester All Party Parliamentary Group. The officers are: Chair: Lucy Powell MP; Vice-Chairs: Chris Green MP, Lord Goddard of Stockport, Ivan Lewis MP, Baroness Morris of Bolton, Jim McMahon MP; Secretary: Jonathan Reynolds MP; Treasurer: Yasmin Qureshi MP. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.