Greater Manchester is to get its own Mayor with a wide-range of powers over crime, transport and planning, the Chancellor has announced. The creation of the position is the latest attempt to give devolution to the North, following the overwhelming defeat of plans to create a North East regional assembly in 2004.
The Greater Manchester area is made up of eight Metropolitan boroughs: Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan, as well as the cities of Manchester and Salford. All of the councils are controlled by the Labour Party apart from Trafford which is Conservative and Liberal Democrat Stockport. This means the Mayoralty is guaranteed to be permanently held by Labour.
Labour’s Lord (Peter) Smith, who is both leader of Wigan Council and a member of the House of Lords, was delighted with the plan. In a press statement he said: “Make no mistake, this devolution settlement is a momentous moment for Greater Manchester. It gives us greater control over own destiny in several key areas and the ability to base decisions on local priorities and needs rather than on ‘one size fits all’ dictates from Westminster.
“This isn’t about taking powers from individual Greater Manchester authorities. It’s about powers coming down from central government to a more localised level.”
The public will not be consulted on the plan through a referendum as there is almost universal support for the plan amongst the political class. The Taxpayers’ Alliance told Breitbart London even they were in favour, but wanted to see tax varying powers to force competition between cities, driving taxes down.
Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TPA said: “Devolution to major cities is a crucial part of creating a competitive economy, which in the long term could lead to the kind of ‘tax competition’ we see in American states which bring taxes down on businesses and individuals alike.
“It’s important that the new structure, though, doesn’t lead to the cost of government spiralling and that includes ensuring the new Mayor’s office is set up and run as efficiently as possible.”
Sir Richard Leese, vice-chairman of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority said: “Our ultimate ambition is for full devolution of all public spending in Greater Manchester, currently around £22 billion a year, so that we either influence or control the whole amount. We recognise that this cannot happen overnight.”
The first election is expected to be held in 2017, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester will be abolished and his powers will pass to the Mayor. There was a referendum on creating a Mayoralty in Manchester in 2012 which was defeated. It would only have included the City of Manchester itself and not the other boroughs.