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Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester – one year on

10th May 2018


This week, Andy Burnham completed his first year as Mayor of Greater Manchester. Grayling’s Head of Manchester, Christopher Peacock, looks back at the past year and what to expect for the rest of his term.

Andy Burnham walked into his new office at Churchgate House in Manchester in May 2017 with a staggering 63% of the vote and confidence to lead Greater Manchester forward to fulfil his ambition to make it the greatest place to live, work and invest. Little did he know the challenges he’d face as the conurbation’s first elected Mayor.

First, the Mayor had to navigate the nuances of local government and how different it is to Westminster and Whitehall. Whilst the idea of a Mayor promotes power and significant authority, he learnt quickly that the role was curtailed by the details of the devolution agreement which the ten councils agreed with the government back in November 2014. However, once settled into the role, the Mayor has driven forward his agenda and his priorities for his term in office.

Homelessness

The Mayor’s election campaign led on the promise to eradicate rough sleeping by 2020. This was an ambitious target and one that is looking more unlikely to be achievable as statistics show rough sleeping in Manchester is increasing. Despite this, he has rallied numerous public, private and charity sector groups to try to offer support to the homeless and rough sleepers across Greater Manchester. It’s a long way from being eradicated, but the Mayor has flexed his soft power to tackle an issue that has never been dealt with previously across the entire conurbation in a coordinated manner.

Transport

The highest volume of complaints the Mayor receives from his constituents across Greater Manchester is on the issue of transport. Over-crowded trains, broken trams and expensive buses are issues which fill his twitter feed every day. He’s shared his frustration with residents daily and has had repeated urgent meetings with the transport industry to call them to account on delays and failures. The Mayor knows that transport can’t be fixed within the year he has had, nor likely by the end of his first term. However, the foundations are being laid for an improved and integrated transport system for Greater Manchester with a franchised bus system and simpler ticketing structure, similar to London’s.

Housing

The Mayor’s plan for housing was focused around two main areas. First, re-writing the widely disliked Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) which laid out the region’s plan for housing for the next 20 years. Secondly, redirecting the GM Housing Fund away from luxury apartments in the city centre. Both were issues raised during his election campaign which highlighted dissatisfaction over the then direction of the Combined Authority. His bid to achieve either of these has led to tension with the existing council leaders, however progress has been made. The GMSF is being re-written, and slowly the fund is being used for more varied developments and now the Mayor is talking of using it to purchase properties from ‘rogue’ landlords who aren’t keeping their properties up to standard.

Due to the electoral cycle, the Mayor has only another two years of an initial three-year term (after the election in 2020 it will return to a four-year term) so the next 12 months will be setting himself up for his re-election campaign. So, what can we look forward to for the Mayor?

  • Further initiatives and actions to try to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping. Despite the partnership work, the Mayor will need to make some significant headway to be able to show he is even close to delivering his election promise.
  • A battle to bring bus franchising to Greater Manchester. One firm is holding out against providing the data needed for the new powers of the Mayor to franchise the bus network, so watch out for how the Mayor resolves this impasse.
  • The GMSF delayed, again. The plan is expected to be published in June, strategically planned to fall after the local elections that were held this month, but we’ve heard that it could be delayed until later in the year. Despite the promise of a re-write there will still be some difficult decisions to be made which will inevitably be unpopular to many across Greater Manchester.

Grayling Manchester will be holding an exclusive event with the Mayor of Greater Manchester in June where he will be discussing his vision for Greater Manchester, as well as his plans to unite the North of England to seek better investment with the objective of rebalancing the UK’s economy. Tickets are limited so if you would like to register your interest in attending, please contact Christopher Peacock at christopher.peacock@grayling.com or telephone 07714 307 976 and we will let you know if there is space available.


Grayling Team

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