Thomas Bridge 03 November 2014

Greater Manchester wins ‘momentous’ devolution package

Greater Manchester wins ‘momentous’ devolution package

Greater Manchester will be handed powers over housing, transport and planning, under an historic devolution settlement agreed upon today.

The deal reached with chancellor George Osborne could see a new elected mayor leading the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) in 2017, as efforts to create a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ gain steam.

Local control over a new Housing Investment Fund worth up to £300m is expected to help deliver an additional 15,000 homes across Greater Manchester over the period of a decade.

A revamped ‘earn back’ deal will allow Greater Manchester to receive up to £30m a year over 30 years in line with the economic growth created by investment in infrastructure improvements. Greater certainty over such funding is expected to enable the extension of the Metrolink light rail system.

With the Government committing to provide a longer-term budget over transport, Greater Manchester will look to establish London-style bus services through greater controls over franchises, service routes and fares. The region will commit to introducing an Oyster-style smart ticketing system, covering all modes of public transport.

The GMCA will receive greater freedoms over local employment support, with the devolution deal expected to enable up to 50,000 people to be supported back into work by a combined budget of £100m.

Control over health and social care budgets will also be handed to Greater Manchester and local health services. The GMCA and local clinical commissioning groups have been invited to develop a plan for joined up health and social care.

Osborne today described the deal as ‘a massive moment for the north of England’, and said he wanted ‘to talk to other cities who are keen to follow Manchester's lead’.

Lord Peter Smith, chair of GMCA, said: ‘Make no mistake, this devolution settlement is a momentous day for Greater Manchester. It gives us greater control over our own destiny in several key areas and the ability to base decisions on local priorities and needs rather than on “one size fits all” dictates from Westminster.’

Sir Richard Leese, vice chair of GMCA, said: ‘Our ultimate ambition is for full devolution of all public spending in Greater Manchester, currently around £22bn a year, so that we either influence or control the whole amount.

‘We recognise that this cannot happen overnight and there needs to be a staged approach based on evidence that devolution delivers increased economic growth and better public services. But today’s settlement is a huge move forwards and a road map for the future.’

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