Campaigners have hit out at a ‘lack of public scrutiny’ around Greater Manchester’s devolution deal, ahead of a Parliamentary Select Committee coming to Manchester Town Hall today.
As part of Chancellor George Osborne’s plan for a ‘Northern Powerhouse,’ Devo Manc will see greater powers devolved from central government, along with the creation directly-elected Mayor for Greater Manchester.
But Stephen Hall, Greater Manchester’s TUC President, who is part of the Greater Manchester Referendum Campaign for Democratic Devolution, said the Manchester’s devolution process had ‘a complete mockery of democracy.’
“As it stands the Parliamentary Select Committee meeting in Manchester appears to us as nothing other than a poorly contrived and disguised cosmetic exercise,” he said.
“To make it look like that the people of Greater Manchester have some kind of input into this whole shoddy, undemocratic so-called devolution process, when the reality is the very opposite
“It is also part farcical in that almost a year on, most of our local MPs and Councillors don’t even know the precise details of the proposed new set up.
“Especially in relation to the NHS and social care, other than in general, it won’t involve either them or the very people of the English regions it is alleged to empower.
“As the public session of the event is already fully booked up, the reality is, other than for a no doubt pre-selected few, who might get to say something for more than five minutes, the rest of the people of Greater Manchester will again get no say whatsoever.”
Chaired by Clive Betts MP, Monday’s Select Committee evidence gathering session will be hear from a range of witnesses on the Devolution Bill as whole.
Mancunians will also be given an hour to their “thoughts and experiences” in a Q&A session on devolution, prior to politicians, academics and campaigners giving evidence.
Local businessman David Fernandez-Arias will give evidence to the Committee on behalf of the Greater Manchester Referendum Campaign for Democratic Devolution.
Speaking to MM ahead of his testimony, he said of Devo Manc: “We’ve had no public awareness, no public consultation, no democratic engagement, no scrutiny and no impact assessment.
“A big deal has been done, and it’s being described in language that says ‘this is a revolution in government’ and ‘the greatest act of devolutions in the history of the NHS.
“This isn’t a run of the mill, day to day, type of administrative exercise, this is fundamentally changing the constitution and who decides what and how.
“An issue effecting millions of people permanently.
“In Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland, [devolution] has come hand in hand with a basic democratic right for people to be given a say and a vote, on whether those massive constitutional changes should go ahead.
“It’s gone on a very different process this time round, it’s nothing like what has gone on in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, on their devolution journeys.”
Almost 2,000 people have signed a petition calling for the government to make Manchester’s devolution more democratic and for ‘real power the process and the new devolved bodies in Greater Manchester.’
However Tony Lloyd, who was selected as the interim mayor of Greater Manchester in June, has spoken previously of the need for the people of Greater Manchester to be part of the devolution process.
Speaking after being selected as interim mayor, he said “As we move towards devolution we have to ensure that there is a strong voice making the case to government on Greater Manchester’s behalf.
“I am pleased that I will be that voice, but to be effective my role must carry legitimacy with the people of Greater Manchester.
“The public must be involved as we move forward. Issues like health, community safety and economic development are too important for decisions to be made behind closed doors.
“The changes we need can only be delivered if the public has bought into them and are included in the debate.
“I want to build on the strong partnerships I have developed as Police and Crime Commissioner with public agencies, local elected politicians, businesses, voluntary and charity groups and – most importantly of all – local people themselves to ensure we speak with one strong, united voice.”