In recent months we have seen the devolution deal with government, which saw the Greater Manchester Combined Authority take on new powers in transport, policing, planning and housing.
Building on this, we have also seen the ground-breaking memorandum of understanding between the 10 Greater Manchester councils, 12 clinical commissioning groups and NHS England on the integration of health and social care, paving the way for the devolution of a £6bn budget to Greater Manchester in 2016-17.
We’ve also seen the appointment of an interim mayor of Greater Manchester, Tony Lloyd, who will work with our leaders to prepare the ground for an elected mayor from 2017.
But amid these rapid and momentous developments, we need to remember that devolution is a means, not an end; a vehicle to help us get where we need to be, not the destination. So how do remain on course?
Our compass is the Greater Manchester strategy: an ambitious vision for the Greater Manchester we want by 2020. Our offer to the government is that by creating the conditions for economic growth and job creation and supporting people to become less reliant on expensive reactive services, we can eradicate the deficit between the amount of tax raised and the cost of public services.
This would be good for UK plc, but also for our residents and businesses, by making Greater Manchester a place of opportunity where residents have the skills, confidence and health to prosper.
This is something we have to be able to measure, not only to demonstrate where interventions have worked or where we need to redouble our efforts but also, where necessary, to illuminate where we need to push for extra freedoms and flexibilities.
There is more work to be done on the detailed evaluation framework for the devolution agreement, assessing what difference it is making. In the meantime, the GMCA has just published an annual performance report, measuring progress against the targets we set in the strategy. It shows strong performance, particularly in creating the conditions for economic growth, but considerable challenges remain.
The strongest progress has been creating the conditions for economic growth. We have overseen the largest transport investment programme outside London and secured powers to help us manage regional transport. Investment in our businesses through recyclable loan funds is supporting jobs. The city region’s strengths in life sciences and advanced materials research are being recognised.
We have made significant strides in public service reform, tackling complex dependency, for instance through our approach to helping long-term unemployed people back into work, although this must be significantly scaled up.
Elsewhere, notable challenges remain. We must still do more to give our residents the skills employers need. We are struggling to seize the benefits of a low carbon economy. We are not yet building enough homes. The £300m Greater Manchester Housing Fund to invest in development will help, but we may still need to explore further solutions.
The greatest challenge facing us, and the greatest prize, is in health. We have some of the worst health outcomes in the country but integrating health and social care has the potential to deliver the greatest and fastest possible improvement to the health and wellbeing of Greater Manchester.
Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive, Manchester City Council