Greater Manchester strikes trailblazing new devolution deal – “New era for English devolution”
- Significant win securing greater control over post-16 technical education
- New responsibilities over transport, housing and regeneration secured
- £150 million brownfield funding devolved
- Single funding settlement - similar to Scotland and Wales - gives Greater Manchester much greater flexibility
- More accountability in return for more responsibility
Greater Manchester’s Mayor and 10 Leaders have hailed the city-region’s first devolution deal with the Government since 2017 as the most significant yet - securing much greater influence over crucial policy areas.
The Deal further embeds the role of local decision-making through additional powers, new financial freedoms and new accountability arrangements. It is a vote of confidence in devolution and Greater Manchester and its ability to deliver.
The Mayor and Leaders have secured the majority of their asks in negotiations with the Government and are now focused on turning their ambitions into reality as English devolution enters a new era.
Significant breakthroughs secured in the new Trailblazer Deal include:
- the ability to create the country’s first integrated technical education city-region, so it works better for young people and employers, through a new partnership board with the Department for Education;
- more influence on regional rail services to deliver a London-style integrated public transport system - the Bee Network - by2030;
- £150m of brownfield funding and powers to underpin the new Greater Manchester Good Landlord Charter, which aims to raise standards in the social and private rented sectors; and
- a single funding settlement similar to Scotland and Wales - the first time such a flexible grant has been given to an English region.
Devolution in Greater Manchester over the years shows what can be achieved if people locally are trusted to make some of the big decisions that affect the daily lives of the 2.8 million residents and 124,000 businesses, such as bringing buses back under public control, introducing a £2 cap on adult bus fares and taking steps to reduce rough sleeping.
Greater Manchester is ambitious for the future of the city-region and, with more levers at its disposal, it can make a bigger difference to people’s lives.
The Government published its Levelling Up White Paper in February 2022 committing to deeper devolution in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands and the Mayor and Leaders in Greater Manchester have been in negotiations with them since then.
This will be the seventh devolution deal for Greater Manchester, building on existing responsibilities over transport, business support, employment and skills support, policing, spatial planning, housing investment and health.
Commenting on the new devolution Deal, Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham said:
“This is the seventh devolution deal Greater Manchester has agreed with the government and it is by some way the deepest. This Deal takes devolution in the city-region further and faster than ever before, giving us more ability to improve the lives of people who live and work here.
“I have always been a passionate believer in the power of devolution, and I’ve been in the privileged position of being able to exercise those powers and make a positive difference to people’s lives.
“We’ve worked hard to secure this Deal and have achieved a significant breakthrough by gaining greater control over post-16 technical education, setting us firmly on the path to become the UK’s first technical education city-region; new levers and responsibilities to achieve fully integrated public transport including rail through the Bee Network by 2030; new responsibilities over housing that will allow us to crack down on rogue landlords and control over £150m brownfield funding; and a single block grant that will allow us to go further and faster in growing our economy, reducing inequalities and providing opportunities for all.
“With more power comes the need for great accountability and I welcome the strengthened arrangements announced in the Deal.
“While we didn’t get everything we wanted from the Deal, we will continue to engage with government on those areas in the future. For now, our focus will be on getting ready to take on the new powers and be held to account on the decisions we will be making on behalf of the people of Greater Manchester. Today is a new era for English devolution.”
Skills and employment
The Mayor and Leaders, alongside business and education, have been strongly advocating for more responsibilities over skills and employment to transform Greater Manchester into the UK’s first technical education city-region through the creation of an integrated skills system linked to the labour market and pathways into good jobs. This was one of the main areas the Mayor and Leaders pushed for in negotiations with the government and securing it represents a significant breakthrough for Greater Manchester.
The Deal confirms a new partnership between Greater Manchester and the government to provide oversight of post-16 technical education and skills. This joint board will, for the first time in England, bring together Greater Manchester Leaders and the Department for Education to gain better oversight of T-Levels, apprenticeships and other technical and vocational education qualifications on offer in the city-region. This will help ensure the courses available are relevant for the local jobs market and will better support people into work, to develop them in their jobs or change careers.
The groundwork in Greater Manchester has already begun with Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) already working closely with partners including the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Manchester Colleges Group, to create a system that builds stronger links between employers, further education and training.
The Deal also builds on the successful devolution of the Adult Education Budget to Greater Manchester, devolving non-apprenticeship adult skills functions and grant funding in the next Spending Review.
GMCA will also have local flexibilities over Free Courses for Jobs and Skills Bootcamps during this Spending Review moving towards a simplified single adult skills fund, and it will be the central convenor of careers provision in the city-region.
Working with the Department for Work and Pensions, there will also be co-design of all future contracted employment support programmes, consideration of potential employment support pilots and commitments to data sharing to ensure provision addresses labour market inactivity, supported by a new joint board. This will allow Greater Manchester and the government to provide a more responsive service to support particular groups back into employment bringing together partners, including health, to improve provision.
Greater Manchester has a compelling vision to improve public transport through the Bee Network - an integrated London-style transport system for the city-region across bus, Metrolink, rail, and cycle hire services. By 2030, Greater Manchester wants local public transport connectivity to be significantly closer to the standards of London, with improved services, simpler fares and integrated ticketing. Progress is already being made through bus franchising with public control of the buses taking effect from September in Bolton, Wigan and parts of Bury and Salford.
In order to achieve the full vision, the Mayor of Greater Manchester and Leaders need more levers which is why they pushed for and successfully secured more responsibilities over transport in the new devolution Deal.
Building on existing plans for transport integration between trams and buses through franchising, the Deal commits to activity to enable the delivery of full integration of local rail services into the Bee Network by 2030. This includes London-style touch-in/touch-out integrated fares and ticketing across bus, Metrolink and rail and Bee Network co-branding across the public transport network. This will be taken forward by a new Rail Partnership with Great British Railways, with the first pilots on integrated fares and ticketing agreed by the end of the year.
The deal lays the foundation for greater input into our stations, services and strategic infrastructure investment with the creation of the North West Regional Business Unit and GM Rail Board. This will enable GMCA to improve local scrutiny of performance, help shape future service integration with the Bee Network and support the best possible public transport experience for the people and businesses in Greater Manchester.
The deal also commits the government and GMCA to identify the specific legal powers needed for Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to effectively tackle anti-social behaviour and fare evasion on the bus network. This may include GMCA having the power to introduce byelaws where necessary. Tackling these issues are a priority locally and the Mayor and Leaders want to do everything they can to keep the public safe when using public transport as well as protect revenue that goes back into the bus network to continue to improve it.
To be able to deliver the transport ambitions in the Deal, there is an outstanding issue which Greater Manchester is seeking to resolve. Securing the financing of Greater Manchester's public transport system post-Covid, and in light of inflationary pressures on energy and other costs, requires short-term support over the next two financial years. Discussions are still ongoing with the Government on this matter, and we are working towards a positive resolution at the earliest opportunity. This is essential to delivering the full Bee Network vision by 2030.
Housing and regeneration
In the last decade Greater Manchester has been transformed by investments in new offices, hotels, cultural venues and house building - including affordable homes and reshaping the centre to create new communities. This is local leadership in action, making effective use of infrastructure funding and powers to create vibrant new places. However, the Mayor and Leaders in Greater Manchester want to do more and have pushed for and secured additional responsibilities to have even more influence in housing and regeneration.
The new Deal gives GMCA new powers and flexible funding to build on its potential and deliver further and faster: building more homes, tackling the poorer quality of homes across the city-region, and spreading the benefits of regeneration further across the area.
This Deal includes devolving £150 million brownfield funding to GMCA who will drive placemaking, housing, commercial development and urban regeneration. This will support GMCA to deliver 7000 homes over the next three years. It is a significant achievement for the city-region to secure this and will allow it to make transformative changes reflecting local needs.
GMCA will also have local leadership over the Affordable Homes Programme in Greater Manchester. GMCA will set the strategic direction for the Affordable Homes Programme and acquire a growing role in key operational decisions such as site selection and provider choice. This will strengthen the partnership with Homes England and utilise their long-standing delivery expertise to achieve housing ambitions in Greater Manchester for more truly affordable net zero homes.
There will also be a Greater Manchester Housing Quality Pathfinder, with new local powers, additional funding and targeted policy support, plus £3.9 million to support the elimination of the use of bed and breakfast accommodation for homeless families in Greater Manchester and to crack down on rogue landlords in the private rented sector, supporting the Greater Manchester Good Landlord Scheme.
The Deal confirms that GMCA will receive a single Departmental-style funding settlement in the next Spending Review. This type of grant is a first in England, taking the city-region towards a Scottish and Welsh-style funding model, and will give Greater Manchester new freedoms to take decisions that are right for the local context.
The government has accepted the case made by the Mayor and Leaders that the current fragmented system for funding Mayoral Combined Authorities with an over-reliance on bidding for different funding pots needs to change. This way of working has been holding back the city-region from bringing together resources for local priorities as it has to meet strict criteria for the multitude of funding pots, as well as wasting significant resources on bidding processes.
The single settlement will cover the entire Spending Review period and be agreed directly through a single process with the government. It will increase GMCA’s autonomy, ability to prioritise decisions locally, and ability to reprioritise across its own budgets and will be structured around responsibility and accountability for five functions: local growth and place, local transport, housing and regeneration, adult skills and buildings’ retrofit for decarbonisation.
Greater Manchester’s Mayor and Leaders recognise the importance of good governance, scrutiny and being held to account for decisions impacting on residents and businesses in the city-region and they have proactively pushed for more accountability arrangements in return for more responsibilities as part of the Deal negotiations.
The Deal secures new arrangements for accountability which will include reporting against outcome metrics agreed with the government, an enhanced role for Greater Manchester’s existing scrutiny committees and panels and public hearings with Greater Manchester MPs.
The deal will be subject to a statutory public consultation which will go live in the summer.
Greater Manchester Council Leaders
Cllr Martyn Cox, Leader of Bolton Council, said:
“The council welcomes this commitment from Government for greater devolution powers for Greater Manchester.
“From skills and employment, transport to housing, our residents will know who is responsible for what and have a say in key decision making and investments.
“I now look forward to working with Leaders across the region to push for the right balance of powers and funding to ensure we continue the progress made in Bolton.”
Eamonn O’Brien, Leader of Bury Council, said:
“This deal represents the biggest step forward in devolution since the original deal was struck many years ago. It is a recognition that power and resources are best placed as near to those to which they should be serving. There will always be more we would like to see be devolved, but there will be plenty in this deal to help us improve the lives of residents in Bury and across Greater Manchester.
“In particular, I am very proud to be delivering on our ambition for Greater Manchester to become the UK’s first integrated technical education city region, bringing together education, employers and both local and national government around this objective. This will allow us to take the practical steps towards improved engagement with all parts of the system, simpler processes to follow and better outcomes for everyone.”
Cllr Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council, said:
“Securing this latest devolution deal is another significant step forwards for Greater Manchester as part of our continuing commitment over many years to bringing power closer to our communities.
“We have a clear vision for Manchester as a thriving and inclusive world-class city and a strong plan for how to get there. The more control we have over our own destiny, both as a city and as part of Greater Manchester, the better placed we are to achieve these ambitions. We look forward to working with Greater Manchester colleagues and government to begin exercising these new responsibilities on behalf of the people of Manchester.
“Across successive agreements we have made real progress in gaining accountable powers and freedoms from Westminster to help shape a successful future. This deal marks a new, deeper phase but we will continue making the case for further devolution.”
Cllr Amanda Chadderton, Leader of Oldham Council, said:
“More powers and resources for Greater Manchester is great news for residents and businesses here in Oldham.
“A reformed and simplified education system, more closely aligned to employers' needs will be of huge benefit for Oldham’s young people as we work closer together with businesses to create pathways into good jobs, and this will particularly help with our aspirations for Atom Valley.
“We’ll also see an improvement to transport services as the funding allows for better integration of the rail network into our transport system by 2030. The extra £150m in brownfield funding will be really important for Oldhamers as it helps to deliver thousands of homes on brownfield land and protection for renters will increase as new powers underpin the Greater Manchester Good Landlord Charter.
“By making more decisions closer to home on the crucial issues of education, transport and housing, we can better ensure that these decisions are being made in the best interests of local people, by those who know our communities the best.
“Already, the devolution deal for Greater Manchester has meant more money flowing into Oldham and being spent on things such as making our streets safer; improving walking and cycling routes; and supporting our local businesses.
“But more resources over a longer period of time gives Greater Manchester leaders the ability to better plan ahead and invest for the future; funding more long-term transformational projects.
“I look forward to working with the Mayor of Greater Manchester and fellow council leaders to deliver real change for our people and our places.”
Cllr Neil Emmott, Leader of Rochdale Borough Council, said:
“Our borough and the other areas of Greater Manchester have proved time and again that regional devolution works. This new deal will help us do more and show the government and the rest of the country that well-run regional government delivered through local leaders accountable to their own communities is far more effective than central control from London.
“This is a small but important step to levelling up the UK, but this along with some of the wider budget announcements such as investment zones gives us a real opportunity to make significant progress on levelling up the Greater Manchester economy, including the public transport improvements we want to see, particularly in Heywood and Middleton.”
Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett said:
“This new trailblazer devolution deal enables us to build on the long-standing collaboration and partnership with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and councils across Greater Manchester for the benefit of all our residents, businesses and communities.
“The latest devolution deal builds on progress to date and the strength of partnership across our city-region, further progressing responsibilities and powers we have collectively been advocating for with national government. We welcome the latest announcement on the journey of devolution, especially given that as local leaders, we understand our region and communities better than central government, it’s another step in the right direction!
“The single funding settlement is an effective method to distribute money and enables us to work together strategically in Greater Manchester to spread funding to where it is needed most, in addition to hopefully streamlining bureaucracy, improving productivity, reducing inequalities and improving the wellbeing of our residents and communities.
“The deal will mean that Greater Manchester will have more control over its future, with the ability to shape better transport, post-19 skills, education and employment while also making direct decisions to improve housing and deliver regeneration across our city-region”.
Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of Stockport Council, said:
“Decisions that will make a difference to the lives of local people can now be made locally, which is welcome news and gives Greater Manchester more control of what happens in our region, including Stockport. Giving local leaders the power and influence to make important decisions like this in areas they know best, will ensure local people are at the heart of this agenda.”
Cllr Ged Cooney, Leader of Tameside Council, said:
“I’m delighted that Greater Manchester has successfully agreed a devolution deal with the government. This deal is the seventh of its kind and builds on the good work undertaken by devolving new powers to the city region in areas as diverse and vital as skills and employment, transport, housing and funding.
"In addition, a robust accountability framework has been set up to ensure that these new powers are used responsibly and in a way that delivers for Greater Manchester residents.
"I have long believed that decisions about a local area are best made by those closest to the people, communities and businesses affected. I thank everybody responsible for making this deal a reality, and I look forward to the new Devo Deal having an impact in Tameside.”
Cllr Tom Ross, Trafford Council Leader, said:
“I am delighted by the deal, particularly gaining greater control over post-16 technical education.
“We want to deliver an economy that improves everyone’s standard of living and this means we can help people improve their access to quality training and jobs.
“I also welcome the extra funding so more residents can live in green, affordable homes, as well as increasing our ability to improve our transport system.
“Working together, we can continue our journey to deliver a prosperous region that benefits all our residents, communities and businesses.”
Leader of Wigan Council, Councillor David Molyneux MBE, said:
“This is a significant milestone on our devolution journey and signals the beginning of a new era for our region. The deal gives us greater control on key issues and will enable us to design a region which addresses the challenges and opportunities unique to Greater Manchester, helping us to improve the lives of our residents.”
Article Published: 15/03/2023 12:30 PM