Why wait for government when you can create your own destiny?

When I came into local government it was not simply to administer the system. I had never had a secret ambition to be a local government officer or a social worker although I am the first to acknowledge the fantastic job they do. I saw the role of being a councillor as one of attempting to transform my community not simply to carry on in a better fashion.

To that end I wanted to try and wrench my city out of simply following national trends towards a more sustainable economic prospect.

I wanted a local workforce that was more highly skilled and able to get jobs anywhere in the conurbation. I wanted young people to come out of school with enough success in exams to go on to university and I wanted to create major job opportunities in my area that would transform the local economic scene. In short I needed a local economic strategy.

In order to achieve my ambitions I needed to work with surrounding councils. In Greater Manchester we have a long tradition of collaborative working; we jointly own the airport, one of the most successful municipal businesses in the country. We have been forced to pool our resources in order to make effective use of them and in doing this we are of course simply reflecting the reality of the way in which our local economy functions.

A large proportion of the workforce in Salford has always travelled outside of the city boundaries in order to gain employment. The largest single concentration was in Trafford at Trafford Park and many people have always come into Salford in order to work.

Some years ago with the demise of the local training and enterprise councils we created a new organisation in Manchester Enterprises that was going to provide the economic planning and support for the ten local leaders. It was able to draw on the expertise, not just of the local authorities, but also of the local chamber of commerce and under its auspices organisations such as Marketing Manchester and Midas (the inward investment company) were able to flourish. The flagship prestigious development that took place was of course the commitment of the BBC to MediaCity, a game change in decision if ever there was one.

So all of this sounds wonderful in the abstract but this is not just about better economic prospects, this has succeeded in permeating all that we do as a local authority. As a result of more young people going on to university we have transformed the prospects for example of children in care.

As a result of creating new jobs in Salford, more people want to come and live in the city. Over a five-year period this has led to our council tax yield increasing by some £7m a year and, as a result of our collaborative activity with other local authorities through the combined authority, we are in the process of saving millions of pounds off the council budget.

I have long been a believer that you first of all need to decide what you want as a local authority and then create the tools to achieve it. I also believe that too often we sit around waiting for central government to approve what we wish to achieve.

The Manchester combined authority operates on the principle of innovation and fresh thinking, we don’t always wait for government to approve our terms of reference. What we all share is a commitment to greater economic prosperity and the effects of that prosperity have a profound impact on all the services we provide.


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