A week after its launch, the Centre’s briefing on the three top policy priorities for the new metro mayor of Greater Manchester continues to generate much debate and reaction among mayoral candidates, the media and local residents.
The briefing highlighted one potential policy ‘quick win’ for the new mayor – putting in place the city-region’s spatial plan in the early days of the mayoralty – as well as two more long-term strategic ambitions: tackling the social care crisis, and addressing traffic problems by considering a congestion charge in Manchester city centre.
It has been the latter recommendation which has provoked most debate, dominating coverage on BBC Manchester, ITV, the I newspaper and Manchester Evening News. And while mayoral candidates from various parties agree that action is needed to tackle congestion, most ruled out the prospect of a charge.
Labour’s candidate Andy Burnham suggested that such a tax would be “unfair” for people who had no public transport alternative, while Conservative mayoral hopeful Sean Anstee said that his priority would be to improve public transport by boosting economic growth and seeking greater control over the resulting funds generated.
Jane Brophy, the Liberal Democrat candidate, stated she is personally in favour of a congestion charge, but that her priority is to secure the city’s link with the EU, which she argues “has done more to improve public transport…than anything or anyone else”. Finally, Shneur Odze, UKIP’s candidate, took to social media to dismiss the idea on the basis that local residents had voted against a similar proposal in 2008 – a point echoed in a number of letters to the Manchester Evening News responding to our briefing.
Our call for the new metro mayor to focus on implementing the city-region’s spatial plan upon taking office also served to highlight the different positions of the various candidates on this issue – with Burnham vowing to rewrite the plan in order to preserve greenbelt areas, and Brophy arguing that she will scrap the plan entirely. Only Anstee has pledged to enact the plan in its current form, warning that failing to do so would be mean gambling with the city-region’s future.
The final recommendation in our briefing – tackling the social care crisis – received plaudits from Christopher Green MP (Bolton West) in a column for the Wigan Observer. Green made the point that devolution in Greater Manchester would enable local leaders to reform and integrate health and social care in the city-region, ensuring that the system works more efficiently and effectively for local people.
It’s clear that these debates will continue to run in the months ahead as the mayoral election in Greater Manchester draws closer, and we hope to keep encouraging and inspiring discussion on these issues. Watch this space in the coming weeks for more policy briefings on the top priorities for mayoral candidates in Liverpool, West Midlands and the other city-regions holding elections this May.
Read our briefing on the top three political priorities for Greater Manchester’s new metro mayor here