A new era for English devolution: Greater Manchester to get new ‘Scotland-style’ freedom over finances

The single settlement system will change the way the region is able to tackle social issues, taking on a more preventative approach.

Greater Manchester (GM) is taking English devolution a step further, by moving towards a Scotland and Wales-style funding system. The city region will receive more freedom from the government over its finances. The single funding settlement is the first time such a flexible grant will be given to an English region.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, announced that in the next spending review, the government will amend the way the region can access funds. In moving away from the current system of managing money from across approximately 150 sources to one central block, Greater Manchester will have more control over how its budget is allocated to provide support to residents.

Burnham explained the benefits of having funding come as block rather than being tied up in ‘lots of different pots,’ including changing the way Manchester can tackle social issues, and take on a more preventative approach, rather than campaigning and reacting.

“We currently have a budget of about £1.5bn, it sounds a lot but it’s tied up in 150 different funding streams, all of which have got their own rules and requirements.

“But we’re moving beyond that, so that we’ll be able to decide much more ourselves how we are going to support our communities,” he said.

The annual budget allocated to Scotland is partially funded by a block grant from the UK government. The grant is raised from different taxes.

Greater Manchester has been advocating for more devolved power for years. In 2014, a devolution deal between Westminster and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, meant the region had more control over its policy, planning, housing and transport.

The single funding settlement that is similar to the system in Scotland and Wales, is part of the ‘Trailblazer Deal,’ which was secured in March this year. The deal furthers the role of local decision-making through additional powers, new financial freedoms, and new accountability arrangements. It was hailed by Andy Burnham and other regional leaders as the most significant devolution deal yet.  

With devolved powers, the mayor has initiated a number of changes on how the city region is run, including the publicly owned Bee Network of buses and the capping of fares to £2 per journey.

On the signing of the ‘new era for English devolution,’ as it has been described, Burham said:

“We’ve worked hard to secure this Deal and have achieved a significant breakthrough by gaining greater control over post-16 technical education, setting us firmly on the path to become the UK’s first technical education city-region; new levers and responsibilities to achieve fully integrated public transport including rail through the Bee Network by 2030; new responsibilities over housing that will allow us to crack down on rogue landlords and control over £150m brownfield funding; and a single block grant that will allow us to go further and faster in growing our economy, reducing inequalities and providing opportunities for all.”

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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