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Chancellor George Osborne announces directly elected mayor for Greater Manchester

Manchester clients will be able to commit to 10-year pipelines, according to experts, after the chancellor announced that Greater Manchester will get a directly elected mayor with powers over transport, housing, planning and policy.

The proposal is the latest in a series of pre-election pledges by the government to encourage growth in the North in an effort to create a “northern powerhouse”.

The first mayoral elections would take place in 2017 and the mayor would have wide-ranging powers with a particular focus on housing and transport budgets.

Mike Brogan, chief executive of Manchester-based social housing consortium Procure Plus, said: “The announcement is great news for us.

“It means money will come direct to the region and all the planning on how it’s spent can be done by us.

“We won’t get additional funds, but it ringfences our money – and that’s the most important thing.

“It also means we can start longer-term planning – we’ll be working on a 10-year rather than a three-year cycle.”

The move comes despite the fact that 53 per cent of Mancunians rejected the government’s proposals to introduce an elected mayor in May 2012.

All 10 of Greater Manchester’s local authority leaders have signalled their support for a directly-elected mayor.

The mayor would have control of a new Housing Investment Fund of up to £300m, which would be used to help build around 15,000 homes across Greater Manchester over a 10-year period.

Local road spending would be devolved as part of the plan, with the mayor taking responsibility for local transport and long-term budgets, which could enable better planning and a more co-ordinated transport strategy.

Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce head of business intelligence Christian Spence said: “Devolution of road funding will help Manchester to be more strategic and flexible.

“It will mean we can concentrate on the schemes that will have the greatest economic impact.”

Manchester fares

Chancellor George Osborne said the mayor would bring a “powerful voice and practical improvements for local people” in Manchester through “better transport links, an Oyster-style travelcard, and more investment in skills and the city’s economy”.

Subject to local consultation, there will also be franchising of bus services, with Greater Manchester controlling franchises, fares and service routes and frequencies.

Greater Manchester would commit to introducing an Oyster card-style smart ticketing system that could be used across all modes of public transport across the region.

The mayor would also be given direct control of a revamped earn-back deal.

The current deal, which builds on 2009’s Greater Manchester Transport Fund, provides a revenue scheme to Greater Manchester if additional gross value added is created by the city’s funding of major infrastructure projects.

If projects are successful in driving economic growth, Greater Manchester receives a larger proportion of the resultant tax generated by this growth than would otherwise be the case under standard business rates.

This formula would be scrapped under the proposed new powers for the region, with local decision-making likely to provide greater certainty and larger investment opportunities for contractors.

According to the chancellor, the move would enable a Metrolink extension to Trafford Park to go ahead.

Mr Spence said that “growth springs up wherever the Metrolink goes” and the transport scheme has been highlighted as a principal driver of investment in Manchester.

On housing, Greater Manchester has a significant pipeline, particularly in south Manchester and Salford, but Mr Spence said a lack of available land remained a problem.

“There’s not enough land being made available for development – that’s a real problem in the city of Manchester itself – and brownfield sites are a difficult issue for us,” he said.

The newly elected mayor would have more power over planning decisions, including the ability to create a statutory spatial framework, which is designed to help local authorities manage future housing and land supply.

This strategy would need unanimous approval from the mayor’s cabinet.

“The combined authorities are now thinking about joined-up planning and can now focus on making collective decisions on where’s best for housing investment – it means we can react to where the demand is,” Mr Brogan said.

“We should be thinking, ‘How are we going to make these investments work hardest for the most amount of people?’ These planning decisions can help us do that.”

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