‘Devo Manc’, is devolution now happening?

News appears this morning form Manchester that the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Central Government are well on track to unleashing city-regional devolution, starting with ‘Devo Manc’.  See: http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/government-offers-greater-manchester-devolution-8026003

The bribe or sticking point or contentious issue will be the demand for an elected mayor.  What would Greater Manchester think about that?  Well, firstly it gives the voters a choice, secondly they could elect someone not of Manchester (the city itself) but representing the wider city-region i.e. Rochdale or Wigan (from one of the other 10 local authorities), thirdly it hasn’t damaged Greater London at all has it…???

But look at the 2 examples of decentralisation given, complete control over skills funding and £450m for a Metrolink extension.

So let’s imagine that the West Midlands ever got round from making the move from talking to doing… and straight to transport – £450m… well that would buy you a lot of rapid transit.  Firstly, the Walsall-Stourbridge line building a rapid transit spine through the heart of the Black Country and hugely improving connectivity across the area and into the West Midlands transport network.  It would certainly also herald the very welcome development of the SPRINT bus rapid transit network additionally to provide intra-city-regional connectivity across ‘Greater Birmingham’ if you like.

Importantly it demonstrates that (Greater) Manchester will become a much better known (and run) city region.  It will change the perception of Manchester to the world which will greatly help them on the world stage.  It is the contrast with success that kills you.  While I often say we shouldn’t always compare ourselves with Manchester (look to Lyon, Lille and Dortmund instead) I do wonder if this could actually damage the West Midlands as we will not look like such an attractive proposition – with little local control, instead that central control hindering our ability to develop our city region as we would like, minimal control of any significant funding and power to make the change we seek.

Hopefully this move will catalyse a drive for real change and ambition and collaboration.  A recognition that by acting together we really are stronger, that we can have a shared ambition that compliments rather than constrains each other?

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