Boylan wins race to become first GMCA chief executive

Paul Unger

Eamonn Boylan, chief executive of Stockport Council and lead officer at Greater Manchester Combined Authority for housing, planning and investment, will be recommended to council leaders to become the first chief executive of the GMCA this week.

The beaten candidates on the shortlist are understood to have been other council chief executives, with no-one from private sector or Department for Communities & Local Government in the running, contrary to predictions among senior figures in Manchester.

Following a “demanding appointment process”, according to GMCA, the resources committee will recommend Boylan’s appointment to the full authority on Friday 27 January.

The appointment rules out a return by many people’s favourite for the city region job, Charlie Parker, ex Oldham Council chief executive and now running Westminster City Council.

The first GM chief executive will replace the similar but different post of head of paid service, held by Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of Manchester, who is due to retire from local government in the spring. Bernstein will be replaced as chief executive of Manchester City Council by Joanne Roney, currently at Wakefield. The GMCA chief executive will work closely with the newly elected mayor after the election on 4 May. The powers of the GMCA under the devolution deal with government include:

  • More control over local transport, including long-term government budget and bus franchising
  • New planning powers to encourage regeneration and development
  • £300m housing fund to deliver 15,000 homes over 10 years
  • Extra funding to get people back into work
  • ‘Earn back’ funding arrangement worth £30m a year
  • Greater Manchester Land Commission

The chief executive and mayor will be based at the new 25,000 sq ft office, with 250 staff, at Churchgate House on Oxford Road in Manchester city centre. The rent and running costs are expected to be £1.2m a year and the lease begins on 1 April 2017, when Boylan takes up his post. The annual budget for Boylan and his treasurer, Richard Paver, together with secretaries and other overheads, is £499,000, according to the GMCA papers.

Boylan is one of the main architects of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, currently midway through the process of being drawn up by the GMCA and its 10 member councils. Under GMSF, plans to release green belt land in Stockport have been met by fierce protests from residents and opposition Liberal Democrats. Boylan is seen as a continuity candidate who will be expected to steer GMSF through the choppy waters ahead.

The three main mayoral candidates have made different noises about their support for GMSF: Labour frontrunner Andy Burnham says he supports the principle of the plan but wants to radically rewrite its contents to see no net loss of green belt; Conservative Cllr Sean Anstee supports GMSF and would support changes to allocated sites if required but sees some green belt release as necessary to maintain growth of the city region; Liberal Democrat Cllr Jane Brophy wants to scrap GMSF and start again.

Stockport’s Labour leader Cllr Alex Ganotis has already thrown his support behind Burnham’s campaign. Last week, the Stockport Labour group, supported by Tory councillors, voted down a motion by Liberal Democrat councillors to withdraw Stockport from the GMSF.

Boylan began his career in the housing sector, rising to assistant director with Manchester Housing in 1995, then becoming executive director of housing and operational services with Sheffield City Council in 1997. He joined Manchester City Council in 1999 and rose to become deputy chief executive, under Bernstein. He left Manchester in 2008 to join the Homes & Communities Agency as deputy chief executive. He became chief executive of Stockport in 2010.

Greater Manchester interim mayor Tony Lloyd said: “Eamonn is an outstanding strategist and innovator. His passion for Greater Manchester and determination to make a success of devolution shone through during the interview process. This is a pivotal moment for our city-region as we lead the way with devolution and approach the Mayoral election. Greater Manchester now has the powers to grow our economy and ensure all our citizens share in that prosperity. I have no doubt that with Eamonn’s skills and drive we will deliver our strategy for Greater Manchester and move us closer to becoming one of the world’s best city-regions.”

Boylan added: “Greater Manchester is a fantastic place and I’ve been privileged to work here for most of my career. To now take on the role of GMCA Chief Executive at this pivotal moment for our city-region is a great honour. I understand the ambition and optimism of Greater Manchester and look forward to working with the Mayor and Leaders to ensure everyone in GM benefits from our shared success.”

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