In November 2014, a ‘devolution deal’ was agreed between the UK government and Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).
This led to the transfer of functions from Whitehall, including over transport, planning, skills and economic regeneration. As part of the deal, the GMCA agreed to the creation of the new post of ‘metro mayor’, who would become its chair. Several subsequent deals have led to further functions being conferred on GMCA. 6 Greater Manchester Combined Authority, ‘Greater Manchester’s Seven Devolution Deals’, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, no date given, www.greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk/media/4695/greater-manchesters-seven-devolution-deals.pdf
What is the Greater Manchester Combined Authority?
The GMCA was established in April 2011 using powers under the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009. As a combined authority, it has the ability to take certain collective decisions across council boundaries.
The GMCA has 10 constituent local authorities: Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, and Wigan. The total population of the area covered by the GMCA is 2.8 million.
The Labour Party currently has majority control of eight of the constituent councils of the GMCA. The two exceptions are Bolton and Stockport, which are both under no overall control and led by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats respectively.
Who is the mayor of Greater Manchester?
The metro mayor of Greater Manchester is Andy Burnham (Labour), previously MP for Leigh and a former cabinet minister under Gordon Brown.
Burnham was first elected in May 2017 and re-elected in May 2021, receiving 67% of first-preference votes, including over 60% of the vote in all 10 local authority areas. He was elected using the supplementary vote (SV) system, but since he received over 50% in the first round, second-preference votes were disregarded.
The next election mayoral election in Greater Manchester will take place in 2024. This election will use first-past-the-post, instead of SV, following the passage of the Elections Act 2022.
What powers are devolved to Greater Manchester?
Like other mayoral combined authorities, the mayor of Greater Manchester and GMCA exercise powers over transport, skills, planning and regeneration, policing and fire services. GMCA also holds responsibilities not devolved elsewhere including for health and social care commissioning, and aspects of justice and employment policy.
The mayor and GMCA have control of a devolved transport budget and associated transport powers. They are progressing plans for bus franchising and smart ticketing, as part of a wider vision to create a ‘London style’ transport system. They also have powers over the local roads network.
GMCA is also responsible for the 19+ adult education budget, enabling it to develop a skills strategy that fits the needs of the local labour market. Like the Greater London Authority, but unlike other mayoral combined authorities, it is responsible for commissioning employment support for long-term unemployed and disabled workers.
On housing and planning, the mayor can undertake compulsory purchase orders, with the consent of the local authority in which the site to be purchased is situated. The mayor can also develop a statutory spatial development strategy, but only with the unanimous agreement of all constituent councils, which the mayor has so far been unable to achieve.
The role of the police and crime commissioner has been merged with the metro mayor role, along with responsibility for the fire and rescue service.
GMCA has partial control of a £6 billion health and social care budget, exercised via a partnership with the NHS, and has a co-commissioning role over local offender management systems. 8 BBC, ‘Manchester signs devolution deal for more criminal justice system powers’, BBC, 7 July 2016, retrieved 5 May 2022, www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-36735175
The government’s Levelling Up white paper, published in 2022, announced that Greater Manchester, along with the West Midlands, would gain further devolved powers through a new ‘Trailblazer’ devolution deal, which is now being negotiated.
What is the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s budget?
In 2020/21, GMCA’s revenue was £1.93bn. This gives it a significantly larger budget than other combined authorities, reflecting the wider set of responsbilities devolved to Greater Manchester. Most of this revenue (63%) comes from central government grants.
Some revenue also comes from local taxes. The mayor has the power to set a council tax precept to provide additional discretionary spending power. For 2022/23, this precept has been set at £102.95 per year for a Band D property. There is a separate police precept, as in other parts of England, while some business rates revenue is also retained locally.
Overall, GMCA raises around 16% of its revenue directly from local residents and businesses. Its constituent members also pay a transport levy and a waste levy, which account for another 13%.
As GMCA raises more money locally than most other combined authorities, the structure of its budget is closer to that of a local authority, and it is slightly less dependent on central government grants than some other MCAs. Its budget is similar to that of Manchester City Council, although much smaller in per-capita terms.
How does GMCA compare to the rest of the UK in terms of social and economic outcomes?
The GMCA region underperforms the UK average in terms of core economic indicators such as productivity and household income, at 87% and 84% of the UK average. The area is also below average in terms of employment, skills and social mobility, although Trafford stands out for its high level of social mobility.
Manchester is also much less car-dependent than the rest of the UK, with a disproportionate share of the population commuting by public transport, though the region as a whole is below average on this measure.
How does the GMCA area overlap with other administrative boundaries?
The GMCA area is well aligned with other local administrative boundaries, unlike some other mayoral combined authority areas. This has made it simpler to integrate a wider set of public service functions into the devolution arrangements.
GMCA is coterminous with the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership, the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, the Greater Manchester police force, and Transport for Greater Manchester.