Where Greater Manchester’s mayoral candidates stand on living in Greater Manchester
Being able to move around Greater Manchester, as well as employment prospects, and a clean environment are key to the city region’s attractiveness for potential residents. By car and public transport, the countryside or the seaside is an hour or so away. The Peak District is close to Tameside and Oldham. Blackpool is an hour from Bolton and Wigan. The polycentric nature of Greater Manchester offers great scope for a vibrant economy and a good place to set up home.
Though the prose above seems flowery, whoever becomes Mayor of Greater Manchester has a fair job to do. One is the city region’s issues with homelessness and social exclusion. Another is the amount of empty shop units; the North West of England has the most empty retail units in Britain. This is a profound issue in Greater Manchester as the city region now has control of its business rates.
In addition to the extra powers for bus franchising and business rates, The Office of the Mayor of Greater Manchester will have devolved powers for housing and health provision. In 2014, AGMA (the Amalgamation of Greater Manchester Authorities – the Mayoral Office’s immediate predecessors) agreed to manage their own slice of NHS funding.
In spite of a recent double dip recession, house prices in Greater Manchester have been steady. Around Manchester and Salford, they have enjoyed a rise thanks to inward investment, and this has led to many apartments in and around MediaCity, Pomona, and New Islington. In Oldham, Rochdale, and Tameside, the rise in house prices have been slower. There has been a sparks effect along newly built Metrolink lines, particularly in Droylsden.
Thanks to rising house prices and stagnant wages, home ownership has fallen out of reach of first time buyers. This has led to a vibrant private rented sector. At the other end of the market, social housing plays a significant part in Greater Manchester’s housing, most of which inherited from municipal housing schemes. Till recently, social housing tenancies were for live. Then the Tories saw to that within weeks of going into coalition with the Lib Dems in 2010.
That, coupled with the launch of Universal Credit, has exacerbated homelessness throughout the UK. In central Manchester, visitors and commuters witness this first hand at Piccadilly Gardens and Market Street.
Andy Burnham, Labour:
Homelessness is a major concern for Andy Burnham. For him, he sees this as a failing of contemporary housing and social security policies. His policy for eradicating homelessness in Greater Manchester is the creation of a Homelessness Action Network. Its aim is to end rough sleeping by 2020.
With the private rental market in full swing throughout Greater Manchester, Andy could have access to the Greater Manchester Housing Fund. Monies could be used to renovate existing properties or new-build housing. Another tenet of this is a possible GM-wide Rent-to-Own scheme. If elected, Andy Burnham and his mayoral office would work together with local authorities and existing social housing providers (i.e. New Charter Housing Trust, Ashton Pioneer Homes, and Regenda).
There could be a crackdown on absentee landlords and a voluntary registration scheme for all private landlords in Greater Manchester. For work-life balance, he supports the upholding of existing Sunday Trading laws. Making use of the devolved NHS budget for Greater Manchester, he would like to create an integrated National Health and Care Service.
For communities, Credit Unions could be given a boost, filling a gap left by retail banks. He also wants to make Greater Manchester the most accessible city region in the United Kingdom. This also means Dementia Friendly and Autism Friendly parts of Greater Manchester, and a Fairness Commission. Women will also be given fairer representation in senior roles within public bodies.
Will Patterson, The Green Party of England and Wales:
Will Patterson is similarly passionate about homelessness and affordable housing. He proposes the reopening of two homeless shelters that closed in 2015. His other plans include tackling homelessness within under represented groups and beefing up tenants’ rights. For tenants, he favours the GM Landlord Register (like Andy Burnham), and the formation of a Greater Manchester Renters’ Union. A more disciplined approach to the building of new homes will take into account environmental concerns and the immediate infrastructure.
As well as giving more power to tenants, community involvement will be key to working with the emergency services. An end to use of tasers and a review of policing lawful demonstrations are among his policies for Greater Manchester Police. As for the National Health Service, he is against the use of passport checks for treatment and a continuation of the Tories’ privatisation agenda. Substance misuse would also be seen as a health issue instead of a criminal matter.
Like Andy Burnham’s manifesto, he will push for gender balance in senior appointments. He will also promote understanding between people of different groups and recognise the contribution of immigrants. This is especially true given the cosmopolitan nature of our city region. One other policy, likely to curry flavour with the Liberal Democrat candidate Jane Brophy, is to speak up for the rights of EU citizens who have set up home in Greater Manchester.
Sean Anstee, Conservative Party:
For life in the city region, Sean favours the idea of improved mental health, which includes a volunteer befriender network. He will also be a Mental Health Champion if elected. Helping businesses as well as residents alike, he would also like to improve broadband services in the city region.
As you may expect from Conservative party domestic policy, law and order – antisocial behaviour namely – is a pet subject of Sean’s. His policies include police on tram stops and bus stations at night. Also a Digital Neighbourhood Watch, enabling residents to aid police enquiries online. There will also be an incentive for new Police Special Constables: exemption from paying the Mayoral precept element of their Council Tax.
For housing policies, he favours the formation of a £1 billion housing fund, which will incorporate an increased Housing Investment Fund. A Greater Manchester Infrastructure Guarantee could be added to future projects; land could only be allocated on the grounds of good transport connections, health and education facilities. He also favours a variation of tenure and owner-occupied housing in the city region and a crackdown on land banking.
Shneur Odze, United Kingdom Independence Party:
For a better life in Greater Manchester, transparency is key to Shneur Odze’s proposals. He aims to “lead the most open and transparent administration there can be”. This includes the creation of a council of ten advisors across Greater Manchester, and open information on our boroughs and public services.
He also favours the construction of affordable and municipal social housing schemes. Protecting front line services, including the retention of all of Greater Manchester’s police stations, is another priority. Likewise with walk-in centres and local hospitals. He is also against inflation busting rises in Council Tax. Ex-Forces personnel could be given high priority on social housing waiting lists.
Mohammed Aslam, Independent:
Mohammed would like to end homelessness by housing all homeless people. He favours improving the police force.
Marcus Farmer, Independent:
In his bid to improve the livelihood of Greater Mancunians, Marcus believes in a “non-racist monoculture where there’s no discrimination”. In other words, ‘you’re all Mancunian – irrespective of sexual preferences, disability, or ethnic origin’.
He also favours a 20 year plan based on healthy living, and taking the politics out of the NHS. Individual responsibility is another philosophy of his.
Jane Brophy, Liberal Democrats:
Like Andy and Will, Jane has been shocked by the levels of homelessness in her locality. She sees this as “a sign of failure”. Her plan is to ensure homeless people get more help. For protecting the city region, she would like to see a change of priorities for the police. This will be towards areas that blight most local people (burglary, robbery, antisocial behaviour). Training in mental health for Greater Manchester’s police force is another area she would like to introduce.
As with Andy, Will, and Sean, she favours a more pragmatic approach to planning. One where education, health, and transport links are key to applications – without encroaching on green belt land. A Mayoral Compulsory Purchase Order could be used to enable brownfield development.
Inclusion is another part of her manifesto, for all Greater Mancunians from 0 to 100 years of age. This includes working with young people and a youth focused strategy for mental health care in the NHS. Also the continued tradition of openness, tolerance, and a supportive environment for anyone who sets up home in Greater Manchester – wherever they hail from, be it Moston or Mumbai.
Stephen Morris, English Democrats:
Should Stephen Morris be returned as the new Mayor of Greater Manchester, he would like to pay the tuition fees of medical students living in Greater Manchester. The expansion of social housing is seen as a solution for curbing homelessness. He also promises to add more bobbies on the beat, which he claims would tackle drink and drugs related crimes in our city region.
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Next up on It’s Up The Poll! 2017
It’s down to you! Polling Stations are open throughout Greater Manchester from 7am to 10pm tomorrow. Make it the first thing you do before work or the last thing before you get home. The count will take place in the Manchester Central Convention Centre the following day.
S.V., 03 May 2017.