This weekend, we welcome the prime minister and his authorities to Manchester and we accomplish that with an enormous, constructive supply: we might help you outline – and ship – levelling up.
If Conservative delegates need proof of our capacity to ship, they may solely need to lookup. Our metropolis’s skyline is dramatically totally different to the one which greeted them simply two years in the past, reworked with the assistance of a housing funding fund now recycling proceeds from loans into extra reasonably priced houses.
For a definition of levelling up, they may solely must stroll out of the Midland lodge into St Peter’s Sq.. There, they may discover a seen illustration of what the primary London-style public transport system outdoors the capital will seem like.
As a result of I’ve taken the choice to place buses again underneath public management, Better Manchester is within the distinctive place of with the ability to combine bus and tram right into a single system – the Bee Community – and, with the suitable backing, it could possibly be in place by Could 2024.
It appears like we’ve arrived on the crunch second within the lifetime of this authorities. Within the aftermath of the pandemic, will levelling up turn into a unifying drive to shut the north-south divide? Or will it turn into the following divisive subject for the nation after Brexit and Covid, the place solely favoured cities, and people with a Tory mayor, get the assets they want?
This query remains to be very a lot within the steadiness. I believe the reply will start to turn into clear by the best way the Conservative social gathering handles its go to to Manchester.
The early indicators aren’t good. Some are clearly arriving in combative mode. Yesterday, the mayor of the Tees Valley, Ben Houchen, issued a very immature and inaccurate broadside towards his Labour counterparts, and me particularly. It will be really easy to reply in type, however the place would that get us and the nation?
Manchester has good cause to protest towards most of the choices taken by this authorities and I’ve little doubt that some individuals will. I’ll defend their proper to take action however may also ask everybody to maintain it non-abusive – that approach, protest is extra highly effective.
In my view, I’ve taken the choice to not rerun the arguments of 2020 and am as an alternative creating the chance for a reset second. However, in doing that, it is vital that I remind individuals what really occurred final yr and reply to the Houchen cost of “grandstanding”, which can little doubt be repeated by others this week.
This time final yr, Better Manchester was a really totally different place. The streets had been abandoned, gatherings in houses had been banned and the general public temper was low. In July, we had been one of many first locations in England to go underneath tier 2 restrictions. It was a tricky summer season for everybody, significantly our companies, which acquired no monetary help.
In September, the federal government ordered Bolton’s pubs, bars and eating places to shut in a single day, once more with none assist.
After which, within the first week of October, after we had been advised we had been heading for tier 3, I advised the federal government I’d settle for it so long as there was honest help for the individuals who would haven’t any job to go to.
However all through protracted behind-the-scenes negotiations, that was by no means on supply. Individuals working in pubs and betting outlets had been solely deemed to be price 67% of their wages, not the 80% provided to everybody else.
That was the purpose of precept on which we caught out and absolutely the entire level of a mayor is to supply highly effective illustration when your lowest-paid residents are being unfairly handled? It’s why the then Conservative chief of Bolton supported the stance I took.
Better Manchester’s expertise of the pandemic supplies proof of our want for levelling up. And the levelling-up deal we’re proposing to authorities may assist take the nation right into a extra constructive part – and get the connection proper between Whitehall and the mayors. Alongside a London-style public transport system, I may also decide to eradicating 1m tonnes of carbon from the Better Manchester financial system, retrofit 1000’s of houses and create 1000’s of respectable jobs within the course of. And, if we get the backing we want, I’ve no drawback with being held to account by the federal government for delivering what we promise and known as out if we don’t.
I believe this association works for them and for us. We wish levelling up. They are saying they need levelling up. So why don’t we put the arguments of 2020 behind us and degree up Better Manchester collectively?