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.