Priorities & Pledges
As the election results rolled in on Friday 5th May, local government in the North of England changed for good. Three Northern Mayors were elected to newly-formed combined authorities in Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region and Tees Valley. These Mayors will have extensive powers over transport, infrastructure, skills and planning. Their priorities and respective manifestos will now come under significant scrutiny. If they are to succeed then they will need to ‘hit the ground running’.
In order to deliver on their respective agendas, the new Mayors will have to capitalise on the unity shown during devolution negotiations. The cooperation of constituent authorities will be vital and by no means a given. The General Election is the next milestone, but after that focus will be drawn to the Mayors’ profiles, priorities and pledges.
At Quatro we have brought together the priorities and pledges of the three new Mayors. This will give you an idea of the emerging character for these new civic leaders, the impact they will have on local government in the North of England and the future for the Northern Powerhouse.
Previously the Member of Parliament for the safe Labour seat of Leigh, his campaign prioritised: early years, affordable housing, public transport and investment in digital and green industries.
By far the most high profile of the candidates to seek a mayoralty, Andy Burnham made the north-south divide a core message of his campaign. As a former Cabinet Minister under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown he has the most experience out of any of the new Mayors when it comes to running Government departments. Whilst he was expected to win the election with a significant majority he outperformed expectations on polling day by winning a majority in every borough of the new Greater Manchester authority, including Conservative Trafford. This came as an additional surprise considering the less favourable performance of Labour candidates nationally.
“All our children starting school ready to learn and leaving with hope of a good future, through a new drive to improve technical education and help with transport costs”
“A decent affordable home for everyone to rent or to own, with nobody forced to sleep rough on our streets”
Growth and Development
“The 21st Century Industrial Capital, a world leading Digital City and Green City, where businesses are supported to succeed and jobs are decently paid and secure”
“Reliable and affordable public transport serving all communities, with less congestion on our roads”
The best place to grow up
The best place to live, work, get on
The best place to grow older
A more equal society
As the previous Member of Parliament for Liverpool Walton, Rotheram made his mark in parliament campaigning, alongside Andy Burnham, for families of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster. A Corbyn loyalist, he won the election in the first round of voting with 59.3%. Rotheram campaigned heavily on his record in the constituency and his background as a native Liverpudlian. The message was clear, “vote for Steve Rotheram because he is one of us”.
His priorities were grouped into five values or qualities: ambitious, fair, green, connected and together. Each quality grouped the pledges of his manifesto into cogent themes.
“I believe we can be a city region that really punches its weight on the national and international stage. I want us to be a dynamic and prosperous economy creating wealth for our nation and opportunity for our people.”
“I will put fairness and social justice at the heart of everything we do as a City Region….. I want this to be a region that values and nurtures all its citizens, that ensures everyone has access to education, good public services, rewarding work and a decent affordable home.”
“I want our region to be at the forefront of innovation in sustainable technology and be a zero-carbon City Region by 2040. I want us to be a place that cherishes its natural assets, its green spaces, its ecology and its heritage.”
“I believe our future prosperity depends on our ability to renew and modernize our connections – to fulfill the potential of port expansion, to revolutionise our digital capacity, to foster our export capacity and culture, and ensure we are an integral part of the UK’s agenda for high speed rail.”
“We are a region of many identities, towns and communities, but we are also united by history, geography and some fundamental shared values.”
Previously the Leader of the Conservative Group on Stockton Council, Houchen’s victory was by far the biggest surprise of the local elections. A local man, he was elected to represent the council seat of Yarm and Kirklevington in 2011. He contested the parliamentary by-election in Middleborough after the Labour MP, Sir Stuart Bell, passed away in 2015.
He clinched the win in the second round of voting, beating Labour’s Sue Jeffrey 48,578 to 46,400. So far the priorities of the Tees Valley Mayor are fairly general. Given the unexpected result it was clear that the Conservative campaign focused on publicising key messages rather than developing detailed manifesto proposals. Of all the new Mayors, Houchen perhaps has the most unique challenge since every council that makes up the combined authority is Labour controlled.
Priorities & Pledges
Buy Back Tees Valley Airport
Houchen pledged throughout the campaign to use the Mayors new £15 million budget to buy the Airport from its current owner Peel Investments Ltd. In regional television debates Cllr Houchen did not rule out using a Compulsary Purchase Order to force a purchase from the current owners. Peel have said that airport is currently losing £2.5million a week and that passenger numbers have fallen from 918,000 in 2006 to 132,000 last year. Houchen has committed to reversing the decline of the airport and using it as a vehicle for regeneration.
“I will use part of the new public money at my disposal to conduct a deal with the airport owner, Peel Investments (DTVA) Ltd, which will give back the airport services to the people of Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.
For too long Teesside airport has been allowed to decline. It was sold off a generation ago and local people have had less influence. The result has been a struggle for flights compounded by policies such as drop-off fees and passenger fees that actively discourage airport users.”
Clean up Cleveland Police
Houchen has also made clear his intention to review and reform Cleveland Police. Cleveland Police has suffered a number of scandals recently. Most notably they have been found to have acted unlawfully in monitoring the phones of former police officers.
“The last few years have been so turbulent for Cleveland Police that I have no philosophical objection to bringing the organisation to an end. I have reached the decision that if elected as the Mayor for Darlington, Teesside and Hartlepool I would establish a commission to make recommendations to ministers on finding or establishing a successor body that could adequately replace it.”
Jobs and Skills
During the campaign Houchen pledged to introduce a new investment fund to drive jobs and growth. As of this point what the fund is worth and what the principles underpinning it involve have yet to be clearly articulated. In addition and since his election he has shown interest in the establishment of The South Tees Development Corporation.
After the chaos and activity of the last few weeks I know where Nike got the inspiration for their ‘Just Do It’ slogan.
What started as a Twitter discussion around the lack of female speakers at the Northern Powerhouse Conference in February rapidly became something much bigger. We had clearly hit a nerve by starting a conversation on who the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ was designed to benefit. Our view is not that economic growth isn’t important – it is – but growth for who? It shouldn’t the only focus of plans and discussions.
So in a matter of hours we decided we had to ‘Just Do It’ (or words along those lines) and make the most of the momentum that was with us. The Peoples Powerhouse began with a few of us, myself, Jo Miller, Chief Executive at Doncaster Council and Donna Hall, Chief Executive of Wigan Council. Quite quickly, other key influencers became involved including Barbara Spicer from Plus Dane Housing and regional and national bodies such as SOLACE, LGA and North West Employers. The aim now is to bring more diverse voices and experiences to help shape the next 12 months.
We deliberately chose Doncaster Football Stadium to host our first event as we wanted to very clearly say this is an inclusive and not an elitist conversation. We also wanted to ensure that it didn’t become all about Manchester, which can be all too easy on any discussion or agenda about the North.
Until earlier this year the Northern Powerhouse plans and narrative have focused more on transport, infrastructure and business than skills, jobs, the environment, happier and healthier people and communities. But numerous studies and regeneration programmes have shown that it does not follow that everyone in the community automatically benefits from economic growth. By focusing mainly on economic growth we will miss the opportunity to transform lives for the better in the North of England. That’s what we hope we can now bring to the debate and plans, helping make the Powerhouse even stronger.
The organisation I founded, Transform Lives based in Liverpool, aims to transform peoples’ lives and communities through coaching, training and consultancy. We have expertise in areas such as designing and mobilising volunteer and employment programmes, supporting people and groups with their health and wellbeing and delivering employability training through our Positive Workology modules.
We’re just one company and there are so many more organisations, groups and people with skills and expertise across the North that could really help bring about a Powerhouse that changes people’s lives for the better.
We aim to build a long term movement for change that supports good and inclusive growth in the North and our particular focus will be on how people are the key to growth. We want to include all sectors and sections of the community and this includes harnessing the combined skills and leverage of the public sector, voluntary, community, civic leaders and business.
We’ve been overwhelmed by the interest and offers of support. The enthusiasm people from all sorts of backgrounds have shown us has given us the confidence to go for it. We’re starting with the Doncaster event, but that’s certainly not the end of the conversation or the change we want to bring about. We hope you can join us on May 9, and help work with us to shape a Peoples Powerhouse we all benefit from and are proud to be part of.
To get involved in the People’s Powerhouse email Tracy Fishwick at firstname.lastname@example.org
To register to attend visit http://transform-lives.org/events/
Guest writer: Tracy Fishwick, Transform Lives