Written evidence submitted by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (LRS0060)


Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee call for evidence: Post-pandemic economic growth: Levelling up - local and regional structures and the delivery of economic growth

Contact: Beth Bradshaw, GMCA.




(I) About Greater Manchester Combined Authority

(II) Call for Evidence response




The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) is made up of the ten Greater Manchester councils (Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan) and the Mayor of Greater Manchester.

The GMCA is run jointly by the ten council leaders and the Mayor of Greater Manchester. A variety of boards, panels and committees address specific areas like transport, health and social care, planning and housing.

The ten councils have voluntarily worked together for many years on issues affecting the region, including transport, regeneration, and investment. These experiences provide GMCA with valuable insights into the questions raised by the Committee. We would be happy to discuss our response and any related matters with the Committee.




Evidence base: 


Leaders in Greater Manchester (GM) has a mature history of collaboration, working together as a city-region since 1986 through various structures, originally as the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities and more recently, since 2011, as the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.


In 2009, the Greater Manchester Independent Economic Review, was launched. Developed by a Commission of prominent economists and business leaders, supported by a Policy Advisory Group, the MIER provided an evidence base to underpin policy choices regarding future priorities for strategic investment in the city-region.


Ten years on from the MIER, the Greater Manchester Independent Prosperity Review, led by a panel of six experts, provided a fresh understanding of what needs to be done to improve productivity and drive prosperity across the city-region, with a particular focus on productivity, education & skills, innovation and infrastructure.

The Greater Manchester Local Industrial Strategy, published in 2019, is therefore based on the highest quality, independently-verified evidence base provided by the IPR. The Strategy was co-designed with business, the community, the voluntary and social enterprise sector and citizens. A comprehensive consultation exercise was undertaken, including a 6-week formal consultation. The GM Local Industrial Strategy provides the framework for a strong and enduring partnership between central Government and GM partners, based on a shared understanding of GM’s strengths and opportunities, barriers to growth and contribution to the UK economy.


Local structures:


Working together to deliver local growth


As a city-region, GM has a unique partnership model at the centre of its strategy and priorities for growth. The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and the GM Local Enterprise Partnership provide collective leadership through a shared vision and priorities for the city region (set out in the Greater Manchester Strategy, which is soon to be refreshed with a 1-year recovery plan). This leadership at the city-region level provides the strategic oversight of investment, education and skills, business support, innovation and infrastructure development needed to deliver the right growth opportunities for GM. The voice of GM businesses provided by the LEP ensures that strategy and delivery reflect and adapt to the reality of business and sectors across the city-region, whilst our close relationship with academic partners from Greater Manchester’s six higher education institutions supports our work to seize future growth opportunities, increase productivity and support innovation. Working together enables GM to create attractive places to live, work and invest across the conurbation, and coordinate effective, efficient and integrated public services.

In some instances it is necessary to collaborate on a larger scale than the city-region. A key example of this is transport, to ensure GM is well-connected to the North and the rest of the UK. GM leaders and Transport for Greater Manchester therefore work closely with partners such as Transport for the North to ensure strategy and delivery of transport within GM and across the North are aligned.

Equally, some growth and investment activity needs to be delivered at the locality level, reflecting their unique spatial and sectoral assets, opportunities and challenges. Local Authorities must be empowered to develop tailored policies to tackle entrenched problems like low pay and worklessness. Some policy is best made at sub-district level, as demonstrated by the neighbourhood level principle in the GM model of unified public services.

Mayoral Combined Authorities and city-regional partnerships are ideally placed both to act in the best interest of Local Authorities and to act as a delivery arm of national Government. Bringing Local Authorities together through MCAs is a unique way to reconcile local and national priorities, as well as to pool knowledge and resources between localities which have shared interests. The GM Growth Hub was the first established and is now the largest in the country, and is a specific example of devolved infrastructure simplifying access to national and local business support, helping to tackle regional disparities.

The lessons learnt through the response to the pandemic are still emerging, however, a small number of key points are already apparent. Locally driven processes and responses are often more effective than those prescribed centrally through ‘top-down’ approaches and enabled improved co-ordination and collaboration between agencies. Relaxation of Government requirements and increased local control has allowed us to work more efficiently and effectively, bringing forward new tools (e.g. digitalised records) that have increased productivity.


Stakeholder engagement:

GMCA is uniquely positioned to engage with and bring together stakeholders across the city-region as partners for growth. For example, the Greater Manchester Employment and Skills Advisory Panel (ESAP) brings together representatives from GM core strategic partnership networks, including education/skills providers, employers, the VCSE sector, local authorities, and central government. It works to align employment and skills policy with national and local developments, through the design and implementation of a comprehensive local skills and employment plan that supports transitions from pre-16. Similarly, GM has been able to build confidence in the business base and local residents in its economic recovery work, through regular meetings with Business Organisation Representatives operating in GM. During the pandemic these fortnightly meetings were increased to a weekly basis to share local business intelligence and align and amplify messaging in local areas to support businesses. Organisations involved include GMCA, the Growth Company & Business Growth Hub, the GM LP, the Chamber of Commerce and others, and during the pandemic membership has been increased to include Transport for GM, GM Police and the GM Hoteliers Association.

Government’s levelling up policy must continue to focus on devolution of powers and funding to Combined Authorities, which work in partnership with LEPs and Growth Hubs to better integrate and coordinate policy and decision-making that supports business and growth for their core-cities and towns, as well as the surrounding region.

Sustainable local economies:


Green economic recovery & upskilling

A green economic recovery is at the core of GM’s ‘Building back better’ agenda, and covid-19 recovery provides a unique opportunity to drive forward both the regeneration and net zero aims of the city-region whilst addressing local skills and employment gaps. The limitations on mobility due to social distancing provide a new opportunity for city-regions to capitalise on and develop local talent, as many people will be less able or less inclined to travel to training or work.

As a key part of recovery, GM plans to target and inspire young people, to get them into progression routes and employment opportunities through green skills. Focusing on retrofit is a way to reposition and reprioritise construction skills around the city-region’s ambitious climate agenda.

Leadership of local net zero and skills-based priorities

In GM, leadership of local net zero and skills-based priorities comes from Local Authorities working together as a Combined Authority. GMCA has set an ambitious target to reach net zero by 2038 and therefore this ambition is at the front and centre when making decisions about growth and sustainable local economies.

Working at the Combined Authority level enables green economic recovery work to be done at scale, and for training and job opportunities to reach a wider geographical area than the Local Authority level. GMCA has a shared understanding around skills intelligence for low carbon and is able to identify where the gaps and opportunities are across the city-region, and where we respond.


Targeted regional investment:


Shovel ready’ projects

Shovel ready’ projects can build the capacity of local economies and improve productivity, through well targeted and designed infrastructure projects which are aligned to local plans. When there is an economic downturn such as we are experiencing due to the pandemic, shovel ready projects can help to create and support jobs particularly in the construction sector but they can also support the achievement of wider economic goals. Forward certainty of funding is critical to ensuring that projects are developed and that a pipeline is maintained.

GMCA is due to receive £54 million of the Government Getting Building Fund’ to support several regeneration and infrastructure projects which can be delivered within 18 months. These schemes will create almost 12,000 direct jobs and a further 1,876 employment opportunities in construction. A total of 45 apprenticeships will follow with the building of over 1,000 new homes, 4.5km of roads, cycle ways and walkways supporting 29 businesses and 205,000 m2 of commercial space. These major building projects will help to drive economic recovery from the covid-19 crisis as well as support GM’s existing plans for homes, jobs and the environment.

R&D Funding

As referenced in our response to UKRI’s R&D Road Map, a genuine place-based approach to R&D funding needs to put city-regions in the driving seat of their covid-19 recovery. The existing model disproportionately favours businesses in London and the South East with little consideration for regional disparities. A step change to the existing R&D funding model is required, with a new, long-term and devolved approach to facilitate city-regional involvement in both the setting of research priorities and the allocation of funding. GM is encouraging innovation by making it the cornerstone of our Local Industrial Strategy, in health and social care, advanced materials & manufacturing, in meeting the clean growth challenge, and in digital and creative. Devolution of innovation funding would enable R&D resources to be targeted to greatest effect on key priorities.

Regional Funding:

UK Shared Prosperity Fund

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is fundamental to deliver ongoing regional growth and investment. The EU funding it replaces has been worth around €414m to GM in the current 7-year period, with matched funding and Local Growth Fund-type investment on top.

We urge Government to adopt the key principles for the SPF GM and other UK cities and regions have set out:

LEPs and Mayoral Combined Authorities should provide the strategic overview for SPF investment, acting as key primary investment partners for devolved allocations. Government should fulfil its commitment to align SPF with Local Industrial Strategies to embed them as drivers of decision-making and investment.

The role of local structures in allocating funding & regional growth

Funding decisions need to be made at the most appropriate level. We believe that most sub-national decision making can and should be done at the Mayoral Combined Authority level, a model which provides the basis for strategic decision making across a functional economic geography. Greater Manchester has developed structures to integrate decision making across different areas and in particular is developing a Spatial Framework and Infrastructure Programme to boost connectivity, housing and jobs.

The developing Spatial Framework has a key role in supporting opportunities for place-based growth across the whole of Greater Manchester, providing the homes and jobs, plus the infrastructure that underpins them, that are needed for a prosperous future. For example, the Stockport Mayoral Development Corporation provides a blueprint for innovative town centre regeneration that supports environmental and age-friendly aspirations and which could be replicated in other areas around the country.

There are some issues which span across wide geographies and which may need pan-regional organisations to support, for example Transport for the North. However, such bodies should focus on pan-regional issues and recognise a principle of subsidiarity. They should be accountable to local politicians as well as central Government, and should not add additional ‘layers’ between MCAs and Government. Otherwise, such bodies risk creating additional bureaucracy and undermining the democratically-elected role of Mayors (and their Council leaders).


Project Speed:


Delivering public investment and infrastructure projects


Government should accept the National Infrastructure Commission’s recommendation to devolve infrastructure budgets, with appropriate accountability. Applied to all infrastructure, delivery would be accelerated by a sustained funding model across resource and capital for both the development and delivery of a forward capital pipeline with supply chains, enabling schemes to come forward for delivery as capital funds are assigned to them. This would create a continuous pipeline of development and delivery across the country which would provide a strong boost to Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.


Identifying and distributing growth opportunities

Devolved decision-making and appraisal, aligned with devolved funding for growth and investment projects, is the best model for Government to identify and distribute growth opportunities to deliver on ‘levelling up’. GMCA has had early conversations with HMT and relevant departments about a ‘place-based appraisal’ model which could maximise the return on public money. The consideration of this approach by MHCLG in relation to the Brownfield Land Fund is welcome and will speed up delivery.

The Greater Manchester Infrastructure Programme, which GMCA is ready to progress with Government in support of the forthcoming National Infrastructure Strategy, is designed to reform infrastructure delivery and create appropriate accountability and outcome mechanisms with Government. Together with the CSR, Devolution White Paper and Green Book Review, there is a unique opportunity to boost Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda and support recovery.

Balance and capacity

Decision making should strike a balance between Whitehall and local leaders which allows for Local Authorities and Mayoral Combined Authorities to identify projects which can deliver at speed, in areas which will benefit from it the most. The ‘Getting Building Fund’ allocations to GM are a good example of how this can work well.


GM has a long history of delivering infrastructure projects, demonstrating capacity and capability of delivering on behalf of central Government in a way which delivers value for money.


September 2020