First interview with Nick Peel about his new GMCA role: ‘Let the whiz kids get on with it’

The leader of Bolton Council has shared his first thoughts on his brand new ‘Digital City-Region’ role for Greater Manchester Combined Authority, explaining his priority to ‘make sure no one gets left behind’.

Nick Peel, the new leader of Bolton Council, will be leading the brand new ‘Digital City-Region’ portfolio for the GMCA. The role will see the Labour councillor working with organisations across Greater Manchester to promote digitalisation and grow the technology sector. 

Speaking to MM, Peel said: “I know that last year alone over 69,000 tech and data jobs were created in GM. So it is clearly something that is incredibly important for the future economic growth in this region. 

“I’m particularly keen on ensuring that people aren’t left behind. We have to be very, very careful that we don’t create a new division in society between those who have access to tech or are tech savvy, and those that don’t, which could be based on demographics such as income levels, but also age and culture.” 

Peel hinted that there are many projects already in the pipeline, including an approximately £2bn investment into the technology facilities at the Manchester universities. However, he noted that his role was about much more than kitting out GM with new equipment. 

He said: “It’s not about the digital transformation for the sake of it, it’s about what this could actually bring to improve people’s lives.

“I’m no tech expert, I couldn’t answer technical questions. And there’s a great team in GM that are leading on this, who, as you can imagine, are techies and experts in this whole area. So, I see my role as an elected member as ensuring that the whole of the digitalization project is for the benefit of the people – that it’s all positives and no negatives.

“Let the whiz kids get on with all of this really innovative and exciting stuff and, and us politicians just make sure it remains always relevant.” 

Peel joined the GMCA after he was appointed leader of Bolton Council last month, following a Labour takeover of the council as a result of the local elections on 5 May. Labour did not receive an overall majority but is the largest party in the council. 

His new role was announced by GM Mayor Andy Burnham last week. 

Peel said: “I think the fact that digitalization is a new standalone portfolio demonstrates that the political leadership of Greater Manchester understands how important this important growth area is for all of us.”

Photo by Jason Jeandron

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