In her latest Reporter column, Tameside Council's Executive Leader, Cllr Brenda Warrington, reflects on Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham's Question Time event in Droylsden.
It’s now been more than five years since the formation of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), which is made up of the Mayor of Greater Manchester and the ten council leaders in the region.
The GMCA took control of a number of powers through the devolution agreements signed with the government in 2014.
Some of these powers, most notably health, transport and policing, were topics of discussion last week as we welcomed the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, to Guardsman Tony Downes House in Droylsden when Tameside hosted the regular Mayor’s Question Time.
For an hour and-a-half, the Mayor gave his views on issues residents have told us matter to them in Tameside and Greater Manchester.
One of the best discussions was on the future of Greater Manchester’s Transport Strategy, most notably the £1.5 billion programme of investment in the Bee Network. Once complete it will give our city-region the largest walking and cycling network in the UK by quite some distance, delivering a number of environmental benefits, especially around improving our air quality.
As exciting as all this is, residents at the Question Time event quite rightly made it clear that there are transport improvements they’d like to see here and now.
The Mayor pointed out, as I did in my column last week, that there remains a huge funding gap in transport infrastructure between the North and London.
The results from the recent consultation about introducing a London-style system of public control of Greater Manchester’s buses should also be available soon and will feed out into our aspiration for transport in our city region. A network run for passengers and not profit, where you can get a tram from Ashton to Manchester and get back by bus on a single ticket, is closer now than it has ever been.
Of course the conversation wasn’t limited to just transport and the environment.
I was delighted the Mayor, while answering a question about Greater Manchester’s pioneering health and social integration, highlighted Tameside as the borough that has gone the furthest so far in making it a reality.
Another topic was homelessness. Thanks to the great work of our own Homelessness service, we’ve reduced the number of rough sleepers in Tameside from 36 to two in a year.
On policing, the Mayor also laid out the work being done to reduce knife attacks and other serious crimes in the city region.
I’ve said before that I see 2020 as a year of delivery in Tameside, but it’s clear that this year will be an exciting time for Greater Manchester as well.
My thanks to Andy Burnham. We will be working closely together to make a real difference to the borough and the city region.