The post-election period will be a critical time for local government across the UK to really make its mark with a newly formed cabinet.
We have a limited time to influence the future shape of devolution and the potential shifting role of regions in being masters and mistresses of their own destiny.
The Guardian described Greater Manchester as “the most exciting place in the UK” following health and social care devolution and it’s true; we are.
We invented combined authorities, graphene, computers, the industrial revolution, feminism, the railways, northern soul, the best (and most competitive) sport in the UK (rugby as well as football) and we invented devolution. During our devolution journey I’ve personally witnessed the single biggest shake up of public services in my career.
The ground-breaking and radically ambitious devolution deals under previous Governments have put Greater Manchester at the forefront of the devolution agenda. Our new-found ability to integrate policies across the sub-region, linking NHS bodies, councils, police, health and business needs, has brought a new sense of energy, pace and determination to our existing strong track record of working together. We stand together on key issues, we lobby together, and we plan services from a resident and a business perspective.
However, there is still a significant way to go before we achieve fully the goals set out in our combined authority strategy, Stronger Together.
One of the really great things about our combined authority is that each chief executive and leader carries a Greater Manchester-wide portfolio. We work well together with the mayor and Eamonn Boylan, the GMCA chief executive, to identify the key issues and how we can unblock barriers to their rapid delivery.
We have delivered a significant level of increased economic, housing and transport growth through early phases of devolution but perhaps less well-known is some of our integrated work on public service reform across all ten councils, the NHS, community and voluntary sectors, job centre plus and the police, fire and ambulance services.
Everyone will be aware of the £6bn health and social care deal we are delivering, alongside our £450m transformation fund to pump-prime investment. But people may not know how that integrates with a wider programme of public service reform in each of the ten council areas.
We have adopted the following key reform principles to guide our work:
We treat people as people not ‘learners’, ‘patients’, ‘claimants’ or ‘offenders’. They are people with assets and talents
This strengths-based approach cuts across how we work in neighbourhoods with individuals, families and communities
We use business intelligence gathered from various public sector sources to risk-stratify our population and target specific interventions. For example, in Wigan we reduced unplanned hospital admissions by 30% amongst an identified group of at-risk people by working more proactively with primary care
We put people and place at the top of our redesign work, ahead of organisational sovereignty
We reduce waste and duplication in the system and work with people, rather than doing things to them, to improve their own lives.
Areas in which we have made great progress include supporting long-term unemployed people back to work through Working Well, a programme tackling the causes of unemployment. We want to build on this by tackling the churning out of young people with skills that don’t fit with the needs of business growth sectors.
We also have a brilliant work and health programme, linking worklessness with health problems and working from both ends of the problem to get people into work or training.
Our integrated commissioning strategy is not just about conventional health and social care commissioning; it makes links between the NHS, communities and local government.
Under devolution we would all like more data sharing freedoms. We have made significant progress with our information sharing programme GM Connect. Tackling homelessness is a key priority for our new mayor and special powers to address this would help us tackle this an increasing problem across the UK.
We have really gripped reform and embed it in all that we do, ensuring our growth is inclusive. However we still have loads to do. It’s exciting and challenging and we don’t have time to mess about. We are optimistic that Devo Manc phase two will be help us get to the next level.
Donna Hall, chief executive, Wigan MBC and public service reform and culture lead, Greater Manchester Combined Authority