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Intervention on Elected Mayors & Local Government

Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Brady, and not just because you are a neighbouring MP of mine. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham), who has such experience in these matters, on securing the debate.

 

Disraeli said—if I can pay tribute to at least one Tory Prime Minister—that

“what Manchester does today, the rest of the world does tomorrow”.

He said that on the steps of the free trade hall 200 years ago. I cautiously welcome the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, but it is almost as though the present

Government are being brought kicking and screaming behind the innovative approach of Manchester and Greater Manchester. We are leading the way—there is no doubt about that—in the debate. The new plans for the Greater Manchester combined authority will involve it taking the reins on transport—integrating our buses and public transport system—and housing. We need to start building 10,000 houses a year across our conurbation. It will also take the reins on planning, policing and public health to drive up prosperity within our region. As I mentioned policing, I would like to place on record my tribute to Sir Peter Fahy, who has announced his retirement as chief constable today. He has served our conurbation with honour over many years and has made a real difference.

We are leading the way in bringing together health and social care budgets. That is a combined total of £6 billion. That will put in the hands of local people the power to decide what sort of health services they need and will suit their needs. This will not be an easy process, as we know from Healthier Together, but it is necessary. The task ahead is to bridge the gap. Between 2004 and 2013, the number of businesses in cities in the south grew by 27%—almost twice the 14% growth seen in cities elsewhere in the UK.

The Manchester Independent Economic Review found that, outside London, Manchester is the city region that, given its scale and potential for improving productivity, is best placed to take advantage of the benefits of agglomeration and increase growth. To criticise the Government, though, how do we get agglomeration and increased growth when we start pulling schemes such as the Leeds-Manchester electrification, or even the Midland main line electrification, which would drive traffic to places such as Manchester airport in my constituency? Greater Manchester has the potential to be a net contributor to the national economy. When a mayor is elected by the people of the region, he or she needs to maximise investment in our growth priorities by supporting the private sector to drive growth, and by helping businesses to do better.

In Greater Manchester we spend about £22 billion on public services, yet we raise only about £17 billion in taxes. The key is bridging that gap. There is no doubt about it: if we want to be a powerhouse in the north, we have to close that gap. That will be the key priority for the interim mayor—and, when we go forward after the election in 2017, the full-time mayor. We need to become a fiscally self-reliant city. Austerity has not worked for us. We spent £22 billion in 2010 and we are still spending more than £22 billion today. The current Government have blown welfare budgets and other budgets through the roof. We can deal with this better locally than nationally.

Independent forecasts have shown that, with devolution powers, cities alone could deliver £222 billion and add 1.16 million jobs to the economy by 2030 if we get this right. We must reform the way we do public services. We must reduce barriers to productivity and reduce the need for spending on reactive public services.

In Greater Manchester, there is a significant opportunity for Government and the region jointly to develop and deliver an approach that will have a long-term and permanent positive impact on the UK as a whole, as well as Greater Manchester. For the plan to work for the people of Greater Manchester and other combined

authorities, local authorities must work together. That has been the key to this. If anybody thinks that it has been easy in Manchester, they are wrong. Our two great cities of Salford and Manchester and the other eight boroughs have had to work together and across political divides. That has been not been easy, so I pay tribute to the leaders who are putting this together. I hope that the Minister will reflect that in his comments.

Greater Manchester will be empowered, through larger devolved budgets, to promote better skills, infrastructure and economic development in return for growth plans. Through the retention of our business rates growth, we can develop our constituencies within our cities even better. We have an enterprise zone that has not quite got off the ground yet; the zone, announced in 2011, is at Manchester airport. We need to push to ensure that in our spatial planning, we are getting the industrial strategy right so that we can increase our tax base. Manchester airport has just announced £1 billion of investment for the duration of a 10-year transformation plan. As you know, Mr Brady, we are moving from 23 million passengers to 55 million passengers a year over the next 10 to 20 years, so the potential is huge.

We have announced an interim mayor, Tony Lloyd. I wish him every success and pay tribute to him and the 10 leaders for their co-operation in bringing this agenda to the Government’s attention, and for securing the package that they did in the Queen’s Speech this time round.

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