In one of the first interviews since her victory on Tuesday night, Manchester City Council’s leader elect sought to reassure the city’s property community, claiming that development will be high on her agenda.
Cllr Bev Craig spoke to Place North West about building on Sir Richard Leese’s legacy, working with central government, and age being no barrier to success.
What will be your main priorities as leader?
Manchester for me is about delivering on the things that people want to see today and still being ambitious with our plans for the future.
In the short term, my priority is around helping people recover from the pandemic. I think that has to be the priority of any council in the country at the moment.
In the future, I would like to demonstrate that we’re an ambitious, confident, outward-looking city that wants to have growth and development. We want to continue punching above our weight in sectors where we already do, and in new sectors in the future.
But all of that is rooted in the contribution that we can make to the Manchester people; building on what Manchester residents tell us they need in terms of access to jobs, homes, and high-quality services.
In Manchester we don’t stand still. I’m excited that the new chapter builds on the legacy of the past.
What would be your message to developers?
As a city, we know who we are. We are open for business and we want to see investment coming into our city, but it has to be investment that benefits Manchester people.
I want to create more jobs and I want to see new housing, and I want to see exciting things for people to do.
For businesses coming into our city, our simple ask is that you are passionate about Manchester like we are and that you contribute to our city and to making it great.
Would you consider yourself pro-development?
I would consider myself pro-Manchester and part of that is about the expansion of and development in the city.
I’d go back to what I said before. We’re open and we want to do business. We want to see people come and invest their money, but we want people to be committed to our city and to give back when they can or at the very least contribute to our overall plan for what we want to achieve.
I know that there has been some nervousness in the sector but I want to reassure people that we want to build stuff and move quickly.
What is your view on the current supply of affordable housing in Manchester?
I think Manchester is much better than perhaps some of the narrative suggests, we do deliver on affordable housing. We’ll always want to do more of that, though. What council wouldn’t, given the national housing crisis?
As a council, we’re on track to deliver 6,400 affordable homes between now and 2025.
I want to lead a city that always pushes as hard as we can for residents to get the best deal.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be sitting down with our executive members for housing to look at what the refreshed housing strategy is going to deliver for Manchester people.
How do you intend to enhance relationships between Manchester and central government?
I’m a politician. When I think the government is doing something wrong, I’ll call them out but I’ll work with anybody who wants to invest in our city and help us prosper.
I think that’s what Manchester and Greater Manchester is about; we’ll put our people before politics and work with anybody that wants to help us improve the lives of Manchester people. And that offer still stands.
What is your relationship like with Andy Burnham and how do you see it shaping up in the future?
I have worked closely with Andy Burnham, and fellow Greater Manchester leaders throughout the pandemic and we’ve shown that we can pull together.
I get on well with Andy, I will work to support what he’s doing with the combined authority, just as I’m sure he’ll work to support what we’re doing in Manchester.
I’m not one for getting drawn into drama, I’m about getting stuff done. And I’m confident that by working with colleagues in Greater Manchester and working with the mayor we will be able to get stuff done for Manchester.
You are 36, which some people may say is young for the leader of a council. What would you say to those people?
The life that I’ve led has got plenty of life experience. I started working part-time from the age of 13, and we’re not talking babysitting or a paper round, I’m talking in a restaurant.
At 14 or 15 I was managing the bar in the restaurant and working three or four nights a week. By the time I’ve got myself to sixth form I had two jobs.
My politics are shaped by those experiences, not just from books.
I am 36, and that offers me a perspective on a younger generation of people that are ambitious about Manchester, that care about our city, and have a vested interest in its future.
I’ve got a breadth of experience across a range of sectors. And I would just highlight that over the last 18 months from when Covid was discovered in Wuhan through until I was elected deputy leader in May, I oversaw the public health and the community response for the city.
I know what the city needs, I know how it works, and irrespective of my age I command respect from officers our partners. And I’m confident that my age isn’t a barrier to getting stuff done for Manchester.
Read more about Craig and her victory on Tuesday evening.