Trafford MBC leader Sean Anstee has confirmed his intention to stand as the Conservative candidate to become Greater Manchester’s elected mayor.
Ending months of speculation, Cllr Anstee said he thought it was “really important” to have a “strong local government voice” involved in the race.
In what could be perceived as an attack on Labour’s candidate Andy Burnham, Cllr Anstee said it was “not healthy” to just have MPs standing when local leaders had made a “really important contribution” in negotiating deals.
He told LGC: “It belittles the sector as a whole and our ability to be seen on an equal footing. We want to be seen as serious players in the game.”
Cllr Anstee also thought the fact he had been involved in developing the region’s devolution deals gave him an advantage.
However, he thought the region’s politics to date had left some parts of it lagging behind.
“There are parts of Greater Manchester that do feel they are not benefitting from the policy decisions made and don’t feel they are included in what we are doing,” said Cllr Anstee. “The mayoralty is an opportunity to do something different.”
Cllr Anstee is currently the only Conservative candidate for the role. Nominations close on 14 October.
Of the 10 local authorities in Greater Manchester only one council – Trafford – is Conservative controlled.
Cllr Anstee will therefore go into the contest as the underdog. However, he said: “I want to demonstrate we can do something different in Greater Manchester and almost do the unexpected.”
He later added: “I wouldn’t [stand] if I didn’t think we had a chance of winning. I know the electoral maths show it’s very difficult but there are people who no longer feel the Labour party represents them in the way it used to.”
When Manchester City Council’s leader Sir Richard Leese (Lab) ruled himself out of the running in February he described the mayoral role as a “step down” and wanted someone willing to serve at least two terms who could “bring freshness and originality to the post without being tied down by the past”.
Cllr Anstee thought he could bring “bold, fresh, civic leadership” to the mayoralty.
As mayor Cllr Anstee said his priority would be to provide young people with the “best start” in life, along with increasing the region’s productivity and skills.