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John Denham - Greater Manchester to be country's first ever Combined Authority

Published 31 March 2010

Historic plans for the country's first ever Combined Authority covering the whole of Greater Manchester to drive locally the region's economic growth were launched by Communities Secretary John Denham today.

The proposals will bring together 10 local councils in a new flagship 'City-Region' with powers devolved from Whitehall over economic development, housing, climate change, transport and regeneration. This will give Greater Manchester leaders the chance to lead the way on accelerating recovery regionally and nationally.

This is the next step in the Government's pledge to devolve more powers to councils to improve local leadership, drive up economic growth and deliver greater prosperity. The Combined Authority will have far greater freedom to drive forward rapid change to improve local services based on local needs and priorities. Responsibilities will include:

  • helping to deliver the improvement of skills across the City-Region, identifying priorities for young people and offering training and job opportunities;
  • driving forward tackling climate change locally as the UK's fourth low carbon economic area;
  • leading further education for 16 to 19-year-olds, controlling a budget worth hundreds of millions, deciding places and apprenticeships;
  • setting up pilots to improve public services in Greater Manchester focusing on supporting children in their earliest years, transforming deprived neighbourhoods and affordable housing;
  • connecting local businesses to international markets, linking to broadband and building its science and research capacity
  • greater transport responsibilities and influence, comparable to the powers held by Transport for London.

John Denham said:

"Today I'm announcing historic proposals for the country's first ever Combined Authority for all of Greater Manchester that will use devolved powers from Whitehall to drive forward economic growth. This flagship body brings together 10 local authorities who will act together to create jobs, improve skills, tackle climate change and drive regeneration.

"Greater Manchester is an economic powerhouse in the North West making a huge contribution to regional and national output. This pioneering body will lead the way nationally allowing local leaders to take effective and co-ordinated control of the whole city region's economic recovery and seize opportunities for growth as they open up in the future.

"The people of Greater Manchester live, work and study across local authority boundaries and councils need to work closely together on local needs and priorities across the whole city-region from transport links to jobs to affordable housing. It's crucial that there is strong and accountable local leadership in place to use the powers Government has devolved to them."

There is compelling evidence that Greater Manchester's councils need to act as one voice to drive economic growth for the whole City-Region. For example, 90 per cent of residents live and work in Greater Manchester, 96 per cent of 16-18 year olds live and study within Greater Manchester. Three-fifths of businesses' purchases are from the local economy and the city has extensive public transport networks which provide connectivity across the ten authorities.

Also agreed today are new transport protocols which will enable Manchester to enjoy a much greater say in the way transport is planned and implemented in the region, as well as helping to improve the day-to-day operation and co-ordination of services.

The protocols establish much closer joint working and co-operation between DfT (including the Highways Agency), and Manchester, giving the city a "seat at the table" within Central Government.

Transport Minister Sadiq Khan said:

"Today's announcement is great news for Manchester. These new arrangements - which cover rail and roads - put passengers first by enabling Greater Manchester to have a greater say in the way transport is planned and delivered in their area. This will mean improved services for commuters and residents throughout the region."

All ten Manchester councils have agreed that a single organisation with clear accountability and legal powers is needed to deliver City-Region commitments. Ministers believe the move will give local leaders the ability take co-ordinated and decisive actions over Greater Manchester's economic recovery.

The consultation published today sets out that each of the ten Greater Manchester councils - Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan - would appoint one of its elected members to be part of the combined authority and each year they would elect a Chair and Vice-chair. Key decisions such as the annual budget and housing or transport strategies would require the support of at least 7 members with other decisions taken on a simple majority basis.

The new Combined Authority builds on the groundbreaking City-Region Agreement which was signed between the 10 Greater Manchester councils and Government last December - which devolved powers and responsibilities from Central Government.

Notes to editors

1. Last December the Government and AGMA signed the Greater Manchester City-Region Agreement, which recognised the role of Greater Manchester as a key focus for national growth. The agreement includes a number of reforms relating to transport, skills, post 16 education, economic development, low carbon and early years development that give Manchester a greater say in its own destiny.

2. The Government believes it important that the governance arrangements in Greater Manchester are adequate for the City-Region to deliver on these commitments. As a single corporate entity with legal personality with powers in its own right, a combined authority would be well placed to lead collaboration between relevant local authorities on a sub-regional basis.

3. As things stand Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) does not have the powers and functions to drive delivery of the Manchester City-Region agreement, whilst responsibility for economic development, regeneration and transport is fragmented between different local service organisations.

4. The Statutory City Region (SCR) Pilot Final Agreement with Government signed in December 2009, included a joint agreement to examine how Manchester, as a City-Region, can assume responsibilities and influence comparable to Transport for London (TfL) alongside the robust governance arrangements necessary to support this. The transport protocols agreed with Manchester set these new arrangements in place.

5. The Highways Protocol establishes a new strategic group, made up of senior representatives of the DfT, HA, Manchester and the local authorities. The remit of the group will include considering the direction for transport related decision making, the review of transport proposals, and the management of the road network and traffic management on an integrated and co-ordinated basis. The group will develop further sub-protocols covering "Strategy", "Transport and Land Use Planning", "Project Delivery", "Network Management", "Modelling" and "Research and Development".

6. The Rail Protocol establishes new arrangements that give Manchester City-Region much greater influence on rail policy to help secure a railway which meets the needs of the Region. This includes the development of a Manchester Rail Strategy, and a commitment to close working between DfT and the City Region on the development of the High Level Output Specification (HLOS) 2, including an evidence base to enable forward planning and define future rail needs. Manchester will also have a clear voice in the process of developing franchise service specifications, and a seat at the table with DfT and Network Rail in capital investment decisions including studies such as the Northern Hub, High Speed Rail and Network Rail's regular capital programmes.

7.The Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 provides for the establishment of combined authorities. These are statutory sub-regional authorities that would facilitate collaboration between relevant local authorities on sub-regional economic development and regeneration and transport. Such a new body would be established by a statutory order.

8. The Consultation on the Greater Manchester Combined Authority will run for 15 weeks until 14 July. The consultation document can be found here: http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/localgovernment/proposalgreatermanchester.

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