Event Summary

MIPIM GALLERY + VIDEO | The future of devolution in Greater Manchester

What does devolution mean for those looking to do business and invest in Greater Manchester? That was the focus of Place North West’s MIPIM panel session on Thursday at the Manchester stand.

The 45-minute discussion brought together Greater Manchester Combined Authority chief executive Eamonn Boylan, Stockport Council director of development and regeneration Paul Richards, Savills director Jeremy Hinds, and Mansell Building Solutions managing director Angela Mansell. The session was chaired by Place North West editor Julia Hatmaker.

Roughly 41% of people in the UK live in an area with devolved powers – meaning that central government has given more authority to a regional body on how skills, transport, and health are handled. That number is set to grow to 57% in the years to come.

Greater Manchester has been at the forefront of devolution, leading the charge when it comes to adopting a mayoral model for a city region. Adopting a mayor has been a gamechanger for the  city region, the panelists agreed.

“The profile it gives, the clarity it gives, the focus it gives is really, really significant for local people, as well as for local government,” Boylan said. “But internationally, people understand the concept of powerful city regional mayors… having that figurehead opens doors. It opens doors from Osaka to Chicago to New York. That’s really, really powerful for us.”

Having localised power structures has another benefit too, Hinds said.

“Because you can identify the power structures, you can understand how matters mean locally and how you can navigate them,” he told the crowd. “It also threads the opportunity for people to come with their own ideas, not necessarily within the structures of government… responding to local needs in a way that can’t happen if there isn’t a localised power structure that allows a conversation to take place.”

Having more control over their home also gives those living in these areas a strong “pride in place”, according to Hinds. Mansell, a Stockport native, agreed.

“I am proud of the city that I come from, it is the best city in the world,” she said.

“Being trusted with the power, having the ability to make those decisions ourselves and to be pushing forwards – it is something the world needs to know about,” she continued. “In Manchester, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, we’re at the forefront again of where the power and the development within the UK comes from.”

Richards cited the work done in his role with the Stockport Mayoral Development Corporation as something that has come through as a result of devolution. For him, the future is bright for Greater Manchester as devolution encourages individual boroughs to think of the collective city region, rather than just themselves.

“There’s a very Northern, practicalism about devolution,” he said later. “My takeaway is that it is working.”

Boylan has the last word. “The key for is if devolution is going to mean anything, it means fundamental recalibration of the relationship between localities and national government.” These authorities need to move past asking government to do things for them and instead  “to start to move the the territory where we have the power and agency to do things that are important for us, for ourselves.”

That position of authority and power is in line with what cities like Munich, New York, and Paris have. And that, Boylan pointed out, is where Greater Manchester “bloody well should be”.

Visit Place North West’s MIPIM Hub for all the latest news from Cannes. 

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