A freeze to the Greater Manchester mayor's salary and an extra £4.5 million for funding rough sleeper accommodation have been signed off by the city-region's leaders.
The combined authority had its final meeting of the municipal year to discuss a lengthy 30-item agenda covering policies involving transport, housing, and the economy.
It also marked the final time that Andy Burnham (pictured) addressed leaders before seeking re-election for his second mayoral term.
The meeting on Friday took place a day after the mayor announced that Greater Manchester would be bringing its bus network back into public control from January 2023.
Mayoral salary frozen
Mr Burnham had to excuse himself from discussions around the £110,000-a-year mayoral salary, which will stay the same for the coming term regardless of who wins the election.
The proposals were put forward by an independent remuneration panel, including members of the Chamber of Commerce and the Trade Union Congress.
Greater Manchester’s metro mayor is paid more than any other, and the panel said this was appropriate as the city-region has one of the largest populations and budgets in the UK.
The role also doubles as police, crime and fire commissioner, with some combined authorities still employing a separate person to undertake those roles.
“Given the powers of the Greater Manchester Mayor, £110,000 represents value for money when for instance compared to the West Midlands CA,” the panel’s report says.
“The West Midlands mayor is paid £79,000 but the West Midlands also retain a separately elected Police and Crime Commissioner who is paid £100,000.”
Leaders of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) agreed to the recommendations tabled by the panel.
Extra funding for rough sleeping support
The GMCA also approved plans to spend a further £4.5m in the coming 2021/22 financial year on A Bed Every Night (ABEN).
More than 400 beds have been secured for rough sleepers across the 10 boroughs through the flagship scheme introduced by Andy Burnham in 2018.
The aim of the service is to move people into settled accommodation through the private rented sector with support from schemes like Housing First or the government’s Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme.
Manchester and Salford have the highest concentration of accommodation, with the former deciding this year to take control of 47 units that had previously fallen under ABEN.
Demand for accommodation and support has risen sharply during the Covid-19 pandemic, with the GMCA asked to maintain ABEN services for another year.
The total investment could rise to more than £6m if the government confirms its £1.5m contributions towards the scheme.
Numbers struggling during Covid on the rise
The meeting heard that the number of Greater Manchester residents claiming unemployment-related benefits has risen by 84 per cent since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This is still less than the growth in claimants across the UK as a whole, which stands at 102 per cent.
Furlough remains a constant in many people’s lives with 184,600 residents using the scheme as of January 31 – a 78 per cent increase on figures reported last October.
Greater electric vehicle uptake needed
Greater Manchester has committed to expanding its electric vehicle charging network as part of its ambitions to becoming carbon-neutral by 2038.
Earlier this year leaders agreed to set aside £10m as their contribution towards a joint funding package with the government which has yet to be agreed.
The network, which has been rebranded from GMEV to Be.EV, has also moved to a pay-as-you-go model having previously been free at the point of use.
But just 0.2 per cent of new vehicle registrations are electric vehicles, which is significantly behind the national average of 0.34 per cent.
In order to meet their carbon reductions, electric vehicle registrations will need to increase to 9.3 per cent by 2025, before increasing to 36.12 by 2030.
For clean air compliance 15 per cent of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles will need to be electric by 2025. This equates to over 300 taxis and 1,800 private hire vehicles in less than five years.
In 2019 there were only 19 electric hackney carriages being driven in Greater Manchester.
Bike hire scheme gets extra funding
Greater Manchester’s successor to the failed Mobikes was one of three transport schemes to get more money from the combined authority.
Around 1,500 bicycles will be made available in Manchester, Salford and Trafford as part of the first phase of the £10m scheme, which was due to be rolled out this spring.
Improvements to the Fallowfield Loop and cycle storage facilities on the Metrolink’s Bury line were also approved through the Mayor’s Challenge Fund (MCF).
A separate report to the GMCA revealed that the fund had identified the potential for almost £500m in investment to improve walking and cycling in the city-region.
The MCF is also being used to deliver the first phase of the long-awaited Bee Network in Greater Manchester.
A strategy to change the way people travel around Manchester and Salford city centres was also approved by leaders.
Manchester council wants 90 per cent of all trips to the city centre to be made on foot, by bike or using public transport by 2040.
To meet their ambitions the town hall is looking at several proposals including reducing the number of buses idling in Piccadilly Gardens, permanently pedestrianising areas like Deansgate, and creating a cycling ‘triangle’.
Millions to unlock housing
Around £41m will be spent unlocking the development of more than 2,700 potential homes – including affordable housing – on brownfield sites across Greater Manchester.
The GMCA voted to confirm the 21 projects which will be supported by the latest round of grants through the government’s £400m Brownfield Housing Fund.
The aim of the BHF is to support projects which have stalled due to high costs of bringing them back into use, or to explore the potential of sites that have yet to come forward.
Meanwhile the GMCA also agreed to bid for an additional £17m in grants from the government’s Green Homes Grant scheme.
The city-region has already received £10.3m to create a fund where residents can apply for grants up to £10,000 towards the cost of installing energy efficiency measures in their homes.