CITY REGION NEEDS DIRECTLY ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES.
Andy Burnham is right. The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) has been top down rather than bottom up. This dry sounding document is set to make serious inroads into the greenbelt in the county for housing development.
One needs to take into account the rampant opportunism that most politicians display ahead of elections; that said the dismay of three of the candidates standing for elected mayor of the Manchester City Region over the housing plan is notable.
There were widespread demonstrations as the consultation period closed with claims that people were unaware of what was being proposed.
There has been an opportunity to put viewpoints on line and there have been drop in sessions across Greater Manchester for people to state their case. However, many feel that the exercise was cosmetic and a product of the Combined Authority, a body mainly consisting of the ten leaders of the councils in the area.
Will the elected mayor change this perception? Will the new post herald an era where there is full democratic debate on issues like housing, the congestion charge and health? The jury is out but talk of making the elected mayor “the eleventh member of the family” suggests that Manchester City Council in particular will want to prevent the elected mayor being truly independent. The model is flawed. District council leaders sit on the Combined Authority with no direct mandate from the people. The Local Enterprise Partnerships are business organisations and strategic bodies like Transport For The North do not open their meetings to the public.
Real devolution requires politicians directly elected for the purpose of making big decisions on housing, transport, skills and health. We have Police Commissioner elections in an area of policy where there is little controversy. Why can’t debate over issues like greenbelt and hospitals be argued back and forth in election campaigns for a regional or sub regional assembly?
There need not be more politicians, the number of district councillors could be cut (Manchester has 96) and replaced with directly elected assembly people.
CENTRE LEFT CIVIL WAR CONTINUES.
I went to the Fabian conference in London last week to see if there was any sign of the Greens, Lib Dems and the anti Corbyn forces getting their act together. I was once more disappointed as they continue to rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic.
Amidst self indulgent in fighting, there were small signs that thinking is being done about local deals to allow the strongest of the opposition parties in a particular area to fight the Tories. But mostly people remained in their trenches with the Greens being attacked by Labour for standing a candidate in Copeland where the issue of nuclear power is a key one in the by election.
One red faced Labour purist, Luke Akehurst of Labour First claimed the Lib Dems should pay the price for many elections for going into coalition with the Tories in 2010 rather than support a rainbow coalition under Gordon Brown. Supporting him was Johanna Baxter of Scottish Labour saying she would never work with the SNP. It didn’t seem to occur to them that the rainbow coalition would have needed SNP support to make it remotely stable.
At the same conference, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn made a better speech. He’s hired John Prescott’s son apparently as a writer. Consequently, it had more North of England references than north London for a change. His theme that the system is rigged against ordinary people has potential.
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