A new report measuring Greater Manchester’s progress against its own ambitious targets for a thriving economy and a healthy, self-reliant population has been published.
The first Annual Performance Report, produced by Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) assesses how far the area has travelled in its journey towards where it wants to be by 2020.
The Greater Manchester Strategy, called Stronger Together, sets out a vision for the region as a place of opportunity with strong economic growth and job creation and skilled, independent residents who are able to share in its success.
The report paints a picture of strong performance against many challenging targets – with recent momentous developments including last year’s devolution deal with government and this year’s memorandum of understanding on health and social care integration, paving the way for control of a budget of around £6bn to be devolved to Greater Manchester by 2016.
But the report also notes that there are still entrenched challenges, although devolution moves giving the region greater freedoms and flexibilities will help tackle them.
Tony Lloyd, interim Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “This is an important report which paints a picture of the strides which are being made towards the goal of a healthier, wealthier region where everyone can thrive.
“We are making significant progress, especially in backing the growth of Greater Manchester’s economy. The challenge now is to increase the scale and speed of work to help residents share in that success by supporting them to become more independent, healthier, better skilled and better paid.
“Devolution arrangements enabling Greater Manchester, rather than Westminster and Whitehall, to make or shape the decisions which affect its own destiny are emerging as a crucial ingredient for success. We will continue to make the case for further freedoms and flexibilities where appropriate.
“But we will not lose sight of the fact that devolution is a means to an end, not an end in itself. And that end is a better Greater Manchester for people and business alike.”
Mike Blackburn, chair of the Greater Manchster Local Enterprise Parntership, said: “With work ongoing to deliver the various components of the recent devolution deal, this is an ideal moment to take a wider view of our strategic progress to date. From a business perspective, Greater Manchester is gaining significant traction on its journey towards a new sustainable economic model.
“In particular, it’s pleasing to see that business development is one of the stronger areas of performance with loans through the Greater Manchester Investment Fund and Evergreen ensuring our growth aspirations remain on track. But this success must also start to show its impact on the workforce which means there is plenty more to be achieved in skills by working alongside Government and the combined authority to enhance the skills and training system in Greater Manchester.
“We must also continue to leverage decisions that will ensure Greater Manchester achieves further powers and flexibilities over its infrastructure developments. Housing is identified as one of the key challenges in this respect and it should take an equal priority alongside the transport programme.”
The strongest progress has been in creating the conditions for economic growth. Indeed the region’s growth rate – as measured by Gross Value Added) – exceeded that of South East England (4.6% compared to 2.8% for 2012-13, the most recent available figures.)
GMCA has overseen the largest transport investment programme outside London. New powers gained will drive further improvements. These include control of an ‘earn back’ deal (which will give the region up to £900m of extra transport funding over the next 30 years in recognition of the economic impact of its own infrastructure investment, funding the delivery of schemes including the Trafford Park Metrolink extension) and new powers to manage and co-ordinate transport across the region, for example through the franchising of bus services.
Tens of millions of loan funding has been invested in supporting growing Greater Manchester businesses through the GMCA’s Greater Manchester Investment Fund. This funding is recyclable and is re-invested when it is paid back. The GMCA is also working with complementary externally-managed loan funds such as the Evergreen fund, which invests in commercial property across Greater Manchester and the North West. The Life Sciences Investment Fund will see a further £20m invested to support cutting edge research in Greater Manchester.
Investment in groundbreaking research into advanced materials such as graphene taking place in the area is also growing.
Areas where further progress is required include health. Greater Manchester has some of the worst life expectancy figures in the country but it is hoped that health and social care devolution will enable the greatest and fastest possible improvements to health and wellbeing in the area.
Greater Manchester is not yet building enough new homes to meet its target of 61,000 new homes by 2020. The newly-launched £300m recyclable Greater Manchester Housing Fund to invest in new development will help, but more needs to be done together with government if this target is to be met.
The median salary in Greater Manchester is still £2,250 (9%) less than the UK figure of £27,195 and this in itself is reflective of the workforce’s skill levels. While the region has gained more influence over training spending for 16-24 year olds through the devolution agreement, there are still vast areas of skills spending over which it has little influence.
Greater Manchester has made significant strides in public service reform, integrating services which help people to become more self-reliant and independent. An example is its Working Well programme, which is helping people with complex needs back into the workplace.
But this work now needs to be scaled up and the devolution agreements will support this.
The full detailed performance report can be read here.