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Updated: Greater Manchester hints at mayoral model

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A radical plan to give Greater Manchester more control of its finances and income tax raising powers in return for adopting the elected mayor model is being put forward to the government.

LGC understands the city’s councils have been heavily involved in devising a plan under which the entire allocation of public spending to the city - currently £22.5bn a year - would be devolved within five years.

The proposals are contained in a report, commissioned by Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Manchester City Council among others, unveiled by think tank ResPublica this morning.

The report said the think tank favoured a directly elected mayor and assembly for Greater Manchester, “or another democratically elected governance model properly appropriate to Greater Manchester’s needs.” However, it also suggested a reformed Greater Manchester governing board could report to an “enhanced form of the current indirect ‘senate’ model that governs the combined authority.”

Responding to the report, Lord Peter Smith (Lab), leader of Wigan MBC and chair of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, said: “We welcome the broad thrust of this independent analysis which makes a case for total devolution to city regions on a scale that recognises the game-changing potential to both reduce public spending and boost growth.

“This full devolution model echoes our ambition, and we welcome ResPublica’s view that Greater Manchester would be uniquely placed to pioneer it.”

Donna Hall, chief executive of Wigan MBC, told LGC: “I know there are differences of opinion between the leaders [about the mayoral model] but things have changed since we last had the debate.

“We couldn’t have responsibility for all of that money without investing in our governance capability. We would be taking on an enormous amount of additional responsibilities and we would need to think long and hard about whether we could deliver it with our existing resources and leadership.”

Sean Anstee (Con), leader of Trafford Council, told LGC he was personally not backing the elected mayor model and would prefer an alternative form of governance.

He said: “If it’s the case that these are the powers we get and we get all of the public sector spending devolved then it does add to the agenda, but it doesn’t change any concerns I have around having an elected mayor.

“I don’t particularly think it’s an effective form of governance. It creates a huge amount of power for one individual, and it’s another layer of governance and bureaucracy when we already have a combined authority that is working very well.”

Cllr Anstee suggested the combined authority’s governance structure could be “strengthened” to increase its accountability and transparency.

The report includes a call to action and sets out a roadmap for such devolution to take place. It says that within 100 days of the next Parliament, a ministerial led group should agree the steps to devolution.

The move comes after Chancellor George Osborne announced in June that cities in the north of England could have “serious devolution of powers and budgets” in return for adopting elected mayors. LGC reported at the time that political leaders in the north were sceptical about the idea.

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