By Andrew Nowell
The head of Manchester City Council has expressed his enthusiasm about the new Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), which met for the first time last Friday.
The GMCA consists of one representative from each of the ten Greater Manchester unitary councils, and was created in Parliament last year. The new authority will be responsible for areas including transport, housing and employment.
Sir Richard Leese, Manchester Council leader, said: “That the combined authority exists at all is a real testament to genuine working together across all ten Greater Manchester Councils and across party political divides. Having succeeded in getting the body established we now need to make it succeed in delivering long-term sustainable growth and employment to the city-region.”
The body marks the first time that Greater Manchester decisions have been able to be made by an authority beyond the level of individual councils since the Greater Manchester County Council was abolished in 1986.
Authority members are peer-elected from the councils of Manchester, Salford, Stockport, Trafford, Tameside, Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale and Wigan, with each council also electing a deputy. Each member gets one vote, with no casting vote given to the Chair.
In addition, at least seven members will be required to vote in favour on policies including the setting of the transport levy, the adoption of the Sustainable Community Strategy, the approval of the local economic assessment and the agreement of the Authority’s budget.
Schemes being financed by the Greater Manchester Transport Fund, agreeing the Authority’s borrowing limits and accepting work given to it by the Secretary of State will also require seven votes to be passed.
Lord Peter Smith, Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) chair, said: “The creation of the new Greater Manchester Combined Authority means that we will have more control locally over issues that affect us all.”
“In the current economic climate it is more important than ever that the region speaks with one voice so we can make the strongest possible case for resources and investment,” he added.
One of the biggest shake-ups caused by the establishment of the new Authority comes in transport.
The Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority (GMITA) has been dissolved and replaced by the new 33-member Transport for Greater Manchester Committee (TfGMC).
Councillor Keith Whitmore of Levenshulme ward was elected as its first chairman last week.
In addition, GMPTE, whose responsibilities included subsiding bus routes and setting concessionary fares, has been re-branded as Transport for Greater Manchester.
It is hoped that the new Combined Authority will provide a model which other regions and cities may wish to follow.
Lord Smith said: “The announcement also keeps Greater Manchester at the forefront of change, which is important if we are to rebalance the economy and ensure that not just the Manchester City Region, but the entire North of England achieves its full potential.”
However, one Manchester politician said he was sceptical that the new GMCA would affect the public.
John Leech, Liberal Democrat MP for Manchester Withington, said: “I don’t think that we will see much of a difference from the old ITA structure within Greater Manchester.
“I suspect that most people won’t even realise that there has been a change.”