Burnham launches mayoral election manifesto

Reporter: Niall Griffiths
Date published: 14 April 2021

Andy Burnham has launched his Greater Manchester mayoral manifesto as he bids to secure a second term. 

Billed as the region’s response to the government’s ‘levelling up agenda’, the document – entitled ‘Our Place, Our Time’ – sets out how the incumbent mayor will improve transport, housing and jobs if re-elected.

‘Repairing the damage’ to Greater Manchester Police, which went into special measures last year after a damning inspection report found it had failed to record 80,000 crimes, is listed as a ‘high ongoing priority’.

The manifesto also sets out the case for the government giving more powers to Greater Manchester, including giving our leaders more control over running railway stations and the powers to suspend Right-to-Buy until more council housing stock becomes available.

Launching the manifesto today (Wednesday), Mr Burnham said: “People are buying into Greater Manchester not just for our economic potential, but because of its people and their values.

“Now we are on the cusp of real change, we are ready to lead the way over the next decade.

“This is our place, this is our time.”

Mr Burnham said voters had given him ‘the greatest privilege and honour in [his] life’ by voting him in as the first elected Greater Manchester mayor.

He added: “A lot has happened since then and I’ll be honest and I haven’t worked harder, but this is the job in politics I truly want.

“This job brings out the real me, I’ve been able to prioritise what I care about and do politics the way I think it should be done.”

Much of the manifesto’s transport pledges build on existing commitments – most notably the decision taken by Mr Burnham to bring Greater Manchester’s bus network back into public control.

A £134.5m London-style franchising system will be rolled out between 2022 and 2025 with the promise of capped fares and integration between buses and trams, but some bus companies are fighting to stop the process in the High Court.

The manifesto also says that plans to introduce a Clean Air Zone, which would see heavily polluting vans, lorries and buses – but not private cars or motorbikes – charged to use the region’s roads, would be continued.

Clean Air Zones are just one of the ways local authorities are being asked to pursue by the government to improve air quality, though Greater Manchester is still pressing ministers to give them more funding to help people with the cost of buying cleaner vehicles.

Other existing transport policies which would be continued under Mr Burnham include the delivery of the 500-mile Bee Network of walking and cycling routes, as well as a move to a single livery for taxis as part of a new set of minimum licensing standards.

But with issues around equality sitting at the heart of the manifesto, Mr Burnham has set out ambitions to make railway stations across Greater Manchester more accessible.

If re-elected, Mr Burnham says he will demand Network Rail make all stations accessible to all residents by 2025, or hand over control to local authorities so they can do it themselves.

“Failing that, we will consider legal action to secure the rights of our disabled residents,” the manifesto adds.

The manifesto also pledges plans to improve infrastructure in each of Greater Manchester’s boroughs, including Metrolink extensions in Oldham, Rochdale and Bolton.

Proposals for a new town centre travel pass for Rochdale which will integrate tram and train travel would also be explored alongside increasing Manchester-bound train services between Ashton and Stockport.

Mr Burnham says the Covid-19 lockdown has exposed ‘wide inequalities in our home lives’, with some people finding it easier to stay home than others.

When he was elected as mayor, Mr Burnham pledged to eradicate rough sleeping and, while it is still a continued presence on the region’s streets, the number of people sleeping rough has fallen by more than half during his first term.

A Bed Every Night, the scheme which has helped more than 3,000 people off the streets and into temporary and permanent housing, would be supported throughout a second term.

Shortly after the mayoral election, Mr Burnham wants to go out to public consultation on a long-term homelessness prevention strategy.

Councils have already been warned that a rise in the number of illegal evictions – and private rented sector tenants becoming homeless – is expected to increase once the ban on evictions is lifted.

The manifesto also proposes a programme of home improvement and building to help level up some of Greater Manchester’s poorest communities.

Central to this is the pledge to build 50,000 new affordable homes – including 30,000 zero carbon homes for social rent – which was first announced by Mr Burnham in June 2019.

If re-elected, the incumbent mayor says he will ask the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to set out a plan to deliver these by the end of 2021.

To meet these commitments, Mr Burnham says the region needs to be given the powers by the government to borrow to build.

With demand for council housing outstripping supply, Mr Burnham also wants local authorities to have the ability to suspend Right-to-Buy to allow it to catch up.

Greater efforts would also be made to regulate and drive up standards in the private rented sector through a £1.5m ‘good landlords’ scheme.

A task force would also be established to help with a regional retrofitting scheme to make homes cheaper to run for residents.

“Making sure everyone has a good job and a decent home needs to become our defining mission as a city-region coming out of the pandemic,” the manifesto reads.

As part of this, Mr Burnham wants to establish ‘GM Works’, a ‘single front door’ service for people seeking training, advice, support and funding to get into work or set up a business.

Greater Manchester would also strive to become the UK’s first Living Wage City-Region, which would mean getting all employers to pay the living wage by 2030, as recommended by the Independent Inequalities Commission.

Mr Burnham would also work to secure a wider rollout of the Greater Manchester Good Employment Charter which aims to improve the quality of jobs. Currently, it covers 230 employers and more than 200,000 workers in the region.

GMACS, Greater Manchester’s answer to the UCAS system which was established in February 2020, will also be improved with plans to ask all larger employers in the city-region to put forward at least five work-related opportunities for young people.

There will also be a drive to prove internet access for all under 25s, over-75s and disabled people.

Older workers hoping to retrain and new job opportunities would continue to be supported through the £92m devolved adult education budget which has helped more than 51,000 during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Burnham has promised to protect Greater Manchester communities with a more accountable police force ‘that puts victims first’.

Greater Manchester Police will recruit an extra 325 officers this year, bringing the total of new officers recruited since 2017 to 1,000.

There were around 8,200 officers in GMP in 2010, but numbers dwindled to 6,200 in 2019 due to austerity cuts.

Mr Burnham has also promised a new era of policing under new Chief Constable Stephen Watson, who takes over a force still reeling from the fallout of the damning government watchdog report published in December.

This, combined with the continued issues surrounding the force’s £27m IT system iOPS, led to the former Chief Constable Ian Hopkins being forced to step aside from his role.

Having commissioned the explosive Operation August report which exposed how police and councils failed children being groomed and raped by gangs, Mr Burnham says he would carry on tackling current and historic child sexual exploitation during a second term.

A long-awaited race equality in policing report by the regional race equality panel is also mentioned in the manifesto, but it remains unclear when its findings will be published.

The manifesto also pledges to create ‘greener and more liveable communities’ to improve the quality of life of residents.

Mr Burnham would support proposals for free swimming for over-75s in Greater Manchester, as well as the creation of a ‘Live Well With Cancer’ service that could include discounted or free public transport for those who need it.

A single point of contact would also be created for young people leaving care that will provide them with free bus travel through Our Pass until the age of 21, as well as priority access to housing and jobs, free prescriptions and year-round accommodation for those in higher education.

Many of the aspirations set out in the manifesto would require extra powers being given to Greater Manchester by the government, which Mr Burnham will continue lobbying for.

Plans to make railway stations more accessible would be made easier if Network Rail hands over control of them to the local authorities, argues the incumbent mayor.

Greater powers over roads could pave the way for the introduction of civil fines for box junction infringements, and an end to out-of-area operations by taxis and private hires.

By fully devolving post-16 skills policies, Greater Manchester could create its own programme to support young people and adults to secure ‘future-proof’ skilled employment.

A devolved partnership deal with the Department of Work and Pensions would also have housing and work-related benefits to be determined locally.

Mr Burnham insists that local authorities will be best placed to help their communities recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is essential that devolution of power to the English regions does not stall at this point,” says Mr Burnham.

“Rather, the scale of the recovery challenge requires the unlocking of energy and ambition in places around the country.

“Now is the time to move much faster and devolve much more.

“We believe Greater Manchester is better placed than anywhere in England to make ‘levelling up’ real.

“We are ready to work with the government to make it happen, but it requires more local control over transport, housing, skills and education.”

Do you have a story for us? Want to tell us about something going on in and around Oldham? Let us know by emailing news@oldham-chronicle.co.uk , calling our Oldham-based newsroom on 0161 633 2121 , tweeting us @oldhamchronicle or messaging us through our Facebook page. All contact will be treated in confidence.

While you are here...

...we have a small favour to ask; would you support Oldham Chronicle and join other residents making a contribution, from just £3 per month?

Oldham Chronicle offers completely independent local journalism with free access. If you enjoy the independent news and other free services we offer, please consider supporting us financially and help Oldham Chronicle to continue to provide local engaging content for years to come. Thank you.

Support Oldham Chronicle