Greater Manchester devolution: have your say

After almost 18 months of agreements, negotiations and press releases, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority has published the plans for devolution (in bureaucratese, a ‘Governance Review and Scheme’). This means that we have our first proper look at the planned powers of the Greater Manchester mayor and their Cabinet.

In planning, housing and regeneration, the GMCA will be assuming the power to create the Spatial Framework. They also want to take on the goals of the Homes and Communities Agency, namely to improve the supply and quality of housing; to secure the regeneration or development of land or infrastructure; to support the development of communities; and to contribute to sustainable development and good design.

The mayor will also be able to create a Mayoral Development Area, with a Mayoral Development Corporation that could drive regeneration and big projects. The model for this is the Urban Development Corporation, since replicated on a mayoral level in London. The Central Manchester Development Corporation, which operated between 1988 and 1996, was responsible for the Bridgewater Hall, amongst other things, so the model has both precedent and potential.

The mayor will also have the power to introduce a Greater Manchester Community Infrastructure Levy, potentially adding further to the funding available – but adding a further obstacle for developers to negotiate. The GMCA will also work with central government on a Land Commission to determine the best use of public land. No one knows for sure quite what this will look like in practice: its announcement initially by the Chancellor was a surprise to the GMCA, so it will begin very much as a work in progress.

Financially, the GMCA proposes that it should have powers to borrow money to invest. This could be significant if the future mayor attempts to exploit the opportunity, as funds could be borrowed to help drive housing and regeneration, rather than the current convoluted system whereby the authority has to get one of its constituent councils to borrow on its behalf.

On the governance side, the mayor’s budgets and strategies will be able to be rejected by a two-thirds majority of the council leaders, and crucially the Spatial Framework will require unanimity, which could be a significant stumbling block.

The GMCA is currently running a consultation on these new powers, looking for views from Manchester residents and businesses. Make your voice heard, and let them know what you think. If you need any help drafting responses, drop us a line.

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