The Mayor of Greater Manchester has reflected on the last six years since being first elected, and outlines plans for the future following Greater Manchester's trailblazer devolution deal:
Today marks six years to the day since I took office as the first elected Mayor of Greater Manchester.
When I look back, I sometimes find it hard to take in the enormity of the events we have lived through since May 2017. But, challenging as it has been, we have come through it together and, more than that, we are the place people see as leading the way with everything we are doing.
So the purpose of this message is two-fold.
The first is to thank people across GM for the tremendous support you have given to me. In the early days, we were facing a severe rough sleeping crisis and, when I asked for your help, you came forward in your thousands with offers of support and donations to the Mayor’s Charity. As a result, we have made big reductions in the number of people forced to sleep rough and shown the power of GM when it works as one. Of course, it goes without saying that I haven’t got everything right but your backing has helped me to lead in difficult times and put us in a strong position for what comes next.
The second reason is to share with you some exciting news about that.
Starting next week, I will set out what I hope we can achieve with new powers given to us in the Trailblazer devolution deal – subject to agreement with the Government.
Across the rest of May and June, there will be three major announcements.
I will begin with a proposal for an alternative solution to an issue this country has never got right: technical education.
As someone who was one of the first in the family to go to university, I am a strong supporter of young people in GM having that opportunity. But university is not the be-all-and-end-all and the big problem with education in England is that, under all parties, the university route has been allowed to dominate.
You can see this in the English Baccalaureate or EBacc - a collection of GCSEs which, according to the Government website, are “essential to many degrees”.
My problem is not with the EBacc per se. It is more with the fact that it is not counter-balanced by an ambitious alternative for young people who want to take technical qualifications and a work-related route. They are not given the same clear path and many struggle to find their way. Worse, they can pick up a sense that they are second-class students and that damages confidence and lowers aspirations.
We believe it is critically important to correct this. We would like two equal routes for young people to consider – one academic, one technical - when they make their GCSE choices at 14. So, alongside the EBacc, I will put forward the idea of an MBacc – or Manchester Baccalaureate.
If the EBacc is designed to maximise young people’s chance of getting a good university place, the MBacc will focus on subjects which maximise their chance of getting a good job in the growing success story that is the GM economy. It will steer students towards good T Levels just as the EBacc does for A Levels. It’s an exciting change which has the potential to lift the life chances of our young people and make this THE place to invest for companies who want to recruit the best young talent.
As part of this, it will be important to gauge the level of public support for what we are saying via a consultation. If you back the MBacc, we want to work with all partners to develop this ambitious alternative for our young people that has the GM economy at its heart. Look out for more details next week.
Our second announcement will come in early June and deal with another big issue holding us back: the quality of housing.
If education policy has been too dominated by university, so housing policy at a national level has been too dominated by promoting home ownership. The lack of focus on supporting renting explains why we have a housing crisis.
To offset this, we will introduce a GM Good Landlord Charter using new powers and possibilities granted to us by the Government. It will have three clear purposes: first, to empower tenants; second, to give greater recognition to the many good landlords out there; and third, to isolate those who fail to meet basic standards and put pressure on them to change.
On that latter point, one of the interesting opportunities we have is to consider how Housing Benefit might be linked to housing standards. Landlords who receive public money for their properties could be required to reinvest a sufficient sum to ensure properties meet minimum standards.
The third and final announcement will come on the 23rd June as we hit three months to go before our new Bee Network starts to become a reality.
We will use that moment to give more detail on bringing commuter rail services into our integrated system and set out a new fare structure for GM which will make public transport more affordable.
So, six years in, I feel the things I set out to achieve are slowly becoming a reality. Devolution in England is bringing most of the much-needed new thinking and positive energy to British politics right now. We are changing things for the better from the bottom up - and the best is still to come.
Thank you for giving me the privilege of leading this incredible place and a job I truly love. I will continue to give it my all.