Gaps in the Greater Manchester Strategy
The new Greater Manchester Strategy ‘Our People, Our Place’ was launched last week with ten new priorities announced to make Greater Manchester one of the best places in the world to grow up, get on and grow old. With a compelling focus on people – described by Mayor Andy Burnham as Greater Manchester’s ‘greatest asset’ – and some whispers of alternative economics, the Strategy shows a marked shift towards new priorities for GM. However, its strength will be in its delivery, and there are some gaps that could be addressed to go further towards achieving the goals set out in the strategy.
People and Place
Collaboration between the public, private and voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sectors to deliver place based growth which benefits local people is at the forefront of the new strategy; certainly in rhetoric terms.
The Greater Manchester Employment Charter and Framework will be developed in partnership with the GM Local Enterprise Partnership and will encourage all businesses who sign up to pay the Living Wage; invest in developing their workforce; and use their procurement power and supply chains to deliver social value to local places. The unique expertise of the VCSE sector will also be utilised to ensure that communities are in control of and have a part to play in their success.
This integrated approach links intrinsically to CLES’ approach to strategy and particularly in creating a new local social contract. However, there are some important gaps in the GM approach that if filled could ensure that the strategy succeeds in its goals. There is little mention of the vital role that anchor institutions can play in delivering local economic benefit and social value – in a conurbation made up of ten local authorities, with four universities and twelve hospitals between them, this seems like a substantial oversight.
Similarly, there is no mention of wealth. Local wealth building with deep roots in local places seeks to tackle inequality by ‘ensuring the economic development of a place is shared more equally among its residents’. Wealth in this sense goes beyond private gain, and looks to develop social life so that a decent standard of living is had by all. The work CLES have undertaken collaboratively in Preston over the last five years in which, amongst other things, a cooperative network has been developed alongside the repatriation of procurement spend saw reductions in unemployment and deprivation as well as other social and environmental benefits.
The devolution deal and election of a Metro Mayor in Andy Burnham offers real opportunity for change, and a strategy focused on place based growth that seeks to harness the power of the procurement spend of anchor institutions and develop cooperative and community businesses could see considerable material change in the lives of the people in all the places that make up Greater Manchester.
“By looking close to home, and further afield, and conducting action focused work which can be supported by CLES, Greater Manchester could turn the rhetoric of the strategy into a reality and succeed in its goals of becoming a UK inspiration and world leading region.”
– Grace Brown
With the inclusion of evermore commonplace buzzwords, the new strategy hints at alternative economics. Co-design and inclusivity are mentioned throughout, and at the launch event, trickle-down growth was said to have failed Greater Manchester; Mayor Andy Burnham spoke of solidarity; and Deputy Mayor Baroness Beverly Hughes stressed the need for the empowerment and inclusion of women to create strong and safe communities.
Again though, while at face value these are all concepts to be encouraged by, whether they will translate to benefit communities and their residents remains to be seen. Indeed, 14-year-old Cara Kennedy from RECLAIM’s Team Future underscored the need to include young people and other demographics in any work seeking to truly benefit people and place.
While the inclusion of women in creating ‘Safer and Stronger Communities’ is important, it is also number eight of the ten-point priority list and is the only priority where the value of women is mentioned. This brief acknowledgement seems far removed from the transformative feminisation movements happening in city regions across the world.
The feminisation of politics goes beyond basic gender parity, and focuses on decentralising decision making by bringing usually marginalised voices into the debate to do politics in a different way that places greater emphasis on relationships, everyday life and the community. In Barcelona, for example, the feminisation of politics is seen as vital, and a range of citizen platforms are aiming to pluralise and transform governance and the municipal institutions of the city.
Andy Burnham stated that the strategy will see leaders and institutions do politics with people, rather than to them, moving away from a ‘politics-as-usual, top-down approach.’ Feminising the other priorities in the strategy – from ‘A Green City for All’ to ‘A Thriving Economy’ – would be one way of doing this and would, in the words of Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, ensure that the strategy was an ‘agora, not a temple.’
It is yet to be seen what impact the Strategy will have on the people and places of Greater Manchester, but devolution and Brexit offer radical opportunities for a reshaping not only of the local economy but of economic practice and policy itself.
At the launch, Andy Burnham expressed hope that the Strategy will see other places start to take inspiration from Greater Manchester, rather than directives from Westminster. This is a worthy hope, but the aspects missing from the strategy are arguably as important as what is included, and demonstrate that perhaps Greater Manchester should seek further inspiration for the delivery of the strategy.
By looking close to home, and further afield, and conducting action focused work which can be supported by CLES, Greater Manchester could turn the rhetoric of the strategy into a reality and succeed in its goals of becoming a UK inspiration and world leading region.