City of Devolution – Keri Landau

The Conservative Government of the 1980s considered the Labour dominated city-wide council of its time to be an ‘out-moded’ and ‘anti-entrepreneurial’ institution that had no place in a contemporary state[1].  Fast forward thirty years, under a new Conservative Government, Greater Manchester has re-emerged with fireworks. Not only has the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (which overlays still largely Labour led authorities) been accepted as a credible part of state apparatus, but Manchester is undoubtedly George Osborne’s golden child, filled with promise and leading the way for the future.

The crucial distinguishing factor with devolution, compared to previous rounds of negotiations around funding formulae, competition for national grants or coming together piecemeal around initiatives, is this – New Economy Manchester. The headlines may have appeared overnight but the hard work has been a long time coming and two particular things stand out in Manchester. One is dedicated and fearless leadership, and the other is the building of an evidence base in support of its plans. New Economy’s forecasting and integrated assessment crafted the conclusion that growth can only be achieved if the city is trusted to run its own affairs, and budgets.  The devolution agreement, including over skills, and the health and social care deal too, have not been given through begging and borrowing. They have been hard won. Yes, the deals were passed quickly but the conversations started long ago.

Whilst on the face of it, the implications may appear to be for public sector bodies alone (and this is hard enough to handle with 10 councils and as many CCGs), this is but the first step towards city-wide change. Greater Manchester will have to take business and third sector organisations with it if it is to achieve its ambitious objectives. Organisations based in Salford, Wigan or Rochdale, look sharp with your eyes up. Those who think they have a role to play in the transformation of integrated community based care and support, speak now or forever hold your peace. The changes to Greater Manchester are not going anywhere, and whilst they may seem complex and in some places unreal, there is a political imperative on all sides to ensure this works. It has to. The rest of the country is watching.

[1] Deas and Ward ‘Metropolitan Manouevers’ in Peck and Ward (2002) City of Revolution; Restructuring Manchester, Manchester University Press

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