Monday, 14 March 2016

Devolution needs to be stopped and rethought

Let me just say it. Its time to stop the Greater Manchester Devolution. 

Stop it, rethink it. 

There seems to be so much wrong with this process that, not only is there an independent campaign calling for a referendum [1] but even Greater Manchester’s local newspapers, including the Manchester Evening News, have bandied together to form a ‘Fair Devolution’ campaign [2] to get a better deal. 

So what are some of the things wrong?

Housing. The £300 million pound fund [3] has mainly gone to private developers despite there being over 80,000 people on Greater Manchester housing waiting lists [4] and a sharp rise in homelessness. As it is currently structured it is very difficult for social landlords to access this fund to build badly needed social housing. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Health. The health budget (offered at £6 billion) [5] has been devolved and is thought to be between £1 to 2 billion less than it needs to run properly [6]. This will cause even further strain on the regional NHS. It remains to be seen if this regional approach is a threat to how the NHS operates as a whole. [7] 

Democracy. The majority of people in Greater Manchester know very little about this devolution process at the moment. The last time the issue of an elected mayor came up it was rejected by Manchester [8]. Having the role now imposed as part of the devolution deal, the interim Mayor was chosen with no opportunity for public discussion or public hustings [9]. The forthcoming full Mayoral elections will require a substantial amount of money to run [10]. This greatly narrows the field of potential candidates.

As it stands, devolution doesn’t address the towns ‘left behind’ in Greater Manchester [11], the cuts to the police [12] or local Councils [13]. And it should do all of these things as well as being good for business [14].

Crucially, in addition, this devolution, ignores the potential of the process to reignite the Climate Change and Poverty agendas that are critical to the future for all of us.

Devolution as policy and principle is a good thing. When its works properly, it allows people to have a greater say in democracy, it allows greater responsiveness to the needs of those people. But that is not what is happening in Greater Manchester.

In Greater Manchester, a historic opportunity is becoming a badly thought through mess. Innovation is no guarantee of progress.

The Green Party in Manchester, as the second largest party in the city by vote, want a proper say for the people of this region.

Its not too late to stop this version of devolution. And rethink it.



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