Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham
The Mayor

New Year message from the Mayor of Greater Manchester

I always have a feeling of optimism going into the New Year but, this time, it is stronger than usual. That’s because I’m confident that 2024 will be our best year yet for the tangible, measurable progress it will bring to Greater Manchester.

We are certainly starting it by getting straight on the front foot.

Later this week, we will begin a public consultation on building the first new railway station in Greater Manchester for 25 years. The west of our city-region is particularly poorly-served by public transport and that is why the proposal for a new station in Golborne has come out as a high priority. If it receives public support, and all goes to plan, building will commence in 2026 and the first services in 2027.

Elsewhere in the city-region, change is much more imminent.

On 24 March, the north of Greater Manchester will become the second area in England to see buses go back under public control. The arrival of the Bee Network in Bury, Rochdale, Oldham and North Manchester will undoubtedly be the biggest moment of the year and the point when it will feel like our new public transport system has truly landed. 50 electric buses will enter service and upgrades to the Bee Network App – including bus tracking – should mean that the service is better than ever.

By the spring, 50% of bus services in Greater Manchester will be under public control and we will be on course to complete the job in the south of the city-region precisely one year from now on 5 January 2025. That is when the full Bee Network will go live and the benefits of a tap-in-tap-out, low-cost London-style public transport system will be felt by everyone.

Although it is still early days, the positives from retaking control of buses are already becoming clear. First, after early challenges, Bee Network services have settled, are better than those they replaced and improving all the time. Second, because the farebox is coming under our control, any proceeds from increased passenger numbers will be going back into keeping fares low - rather than into ever bigger profits for the operators - and I am committed to keeping the £2 cap on single fares for at least the whole of 2024. Third, because we are working to a tight timetable to modernise and decarbonise our fleet, we can reduce air pollution in line with legal requirements without having to introduce a charging Clean Air Zone. This is the request we have submitted to the Government and we hope it will be approved soon.

Now that our plan for public transport is proceeding at pace, I am turning my attention to two other fundamental issues which also need fixing.

2024 should go down as the year we got serious about housing.

Next week, we will begin a public consultation on the new Greater Manchester Good Landlord Charter. I am grateful to the working group of tenants, landlords and other experts who have helped us draw it up, and I am optimistic about the change it will bring.

We know there are many decent landlords in our city-region and the introduction of the Charter will give them a way of being recognised as such. That said, we know there are others who do not treat their tenants properly and do not respect our communities. For the first time, our residents will have a greater ability to distinguish between the two. Alongside the Charter, we plan to give all renters the right to request a property check and, working with our councils, we will be boosting our inspection and enforcement capability. Put simply, the days of bad landlords being untouchable are coming to an end.

The second big change is coming in September 2024 and is going to become something of a new personal mission for me.

I have long believed that the education system in England is overly focused on the university route and doesn’t do enough to support young people who seek technical qualifications. At present, secondary schools in England are encouraged to steer students towards the English Baccalaureate (or EBacc) – the GCSEs most favoured by universities. Around a third of young people in Greater Manchester are taking the EBacc and that is good for them. But what about the two thirds who don’t?

This is a question which Westminster has long neglected. My goal is to make Greater Manchester the first place in England to provide a proper answer to it.

In the autumn, we will introduce the Greater Manchester Baccalaureate – or MBacc – to sit alongside the EBacc and give all our young people two clear equal paths at 14: one academic and one technical, but importantly with the opportunity to move between them in the future. The MBacc will steer them towards GCSEs and other qualifications most favoured by employers and then on to post-16 opportunities and the many great jobs we have in the GM economy. We will build the MBacc through the academic years of the rest of this decade so that, by 2030, our city-region will boast the country’s first employer-driven, integrated technical education system. It will offer young people an equal and clear technical pathway in life, help employers fill workforce shortages and give investors another reason to come here.

So I hope you can see why I feel so optimistic about our prospects for the year ahead. These remain tough times for our residents and I never lose sight of that. But I also know that lower-cost public transport, better homes and higher aspirations for our young people are some the best ways I can help. In GMP, we also have the fastest-improving police force in the country and expect them to make further progress this year, with more visible, responsive neighbourhood policing in all communities.

Whatever happens nationally, we will be powering ahead in 2024 as the UK’s most forward-thinking city-region. We hope that will give you and your family a feeling of confidence for the future and wish you the best for the year ahead.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham

Article Published: 02/01/2024 15:07 PM