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New GM mayor must mean business from day one and needs quick wins

Ensuring the construction of new houses and offices, introducing a congestion charge and tackling the crisis in social care should be top priorities for the new Greater Manchester mayor when they are elected in May, according to a new report.

The report, published by the urban think-tank Centre for Cities, sets out three policy points that it believes would tackle the biggest issues facing Greater Manchester as its inaugural metro mayor is elected this year.

The report has advised the mayor to start off with a high-profile ‘quick win’ policy to set the tone for their term of office, before making the strategic aim of a congestion charge and setting out a long-term vision of increasing the city’s social care budget.

Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “Greater Manchester’s metro mayor will face many challenges when they take office, including acting on their campaign pledges, preparing the city-region for Brexit, and establishing the new mayoral office.

“To make a success of the role, it’s vital that the mayor acts quickly to address the biggest issues that the city-region faces.”

The report says that implementing the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s (GMCA’s) spatial framework, which looks to manage Greater Manchester’s land needs before 2035, would be a quick victory for the mayor, although there are currently disputes over the release of green belt land.

Building consensus on the framework should tackle high demand for housing in south Manchester and enable the mayor to address the squeeze on office space in the city centre by extending the city centre’s exemption zones, Centre for Cities said.

The report also said that introducing a congestion charge, which was previously rejected in 2008 by referendum, would address traffic problems and help fund better public transport while boosting the city’s environmental agenda.

“Manchester city centre is the city-region’s economic hub, but traffic congestion is hampering commuters, public transport and businesses, and is restricting the city-region’s economic growth,” Jones said.

“Introducing a congestion charge would help address that problem, and could also generate funding to improve public transport in less well-connected parts of Greater Manchester – for example, by subsidising more frequent bus routes in places like Rochdale.”

Centre for Cities recommended that in the long-term, thee Greater Manchester mayor should look to solve the city’s social care crisis by using the city-region’s devolved health and social care budget wisely, making savings and easing the pressure on areas with particularly high demand such as early years and mental health.

The mayor should also consider methods of growing the social care budget further, such as by raising council tax or looking to set new council tax bands across local authorities, the think-tank said.

“There’s a lot at stake for the new mayor, and showing that they mean business from day one will not only be vital in building trust with local people in Greater Manchester – it will also be crucial in achieving their vision for the city-region and securing the long-term future of the mayoral office,” Jones concluded.

The main candidates standing in this May’s mayoral election are Labour’s Andy Burnham MP, the Trafford council leader Cllr Sean Anstee, who will represent the Conservatives, and Cllr Jane Brophy of the Liberal Democrats. The Greens have yet to announce who will now represent them in the race after their candidate Deyika Nzeribe died on New Year’s Day.

Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre for Cities, will be writing in the Feb/March 17 issue of PSE about devolution and the top tips for incoming mayors in May's elections.

(Image c. Joe Mott)

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