Manchester

Manchester councils demand more control of £22bn budget

Manchester Town Hall
Image caption Council leaders want to have more say in £22bn of public spending each year

Greater Manchester's council leaders want to appoint an "11th leader" as part of efforts to convince the government to devolve more power to the region.

Local politicians hope to have more say on how the region's budget of more than £22bn is spent each year.

The plans would mean one of the leaders of the 10 councils stepping up to run the Combined Authority full-time.

The ideas are set out in a memo sent to councillors and seen by BBC News.

It reads: "Greater Manchester is a single economy bigger than Wales or Northern Ireland, yet has considerably less freedom over its strategic priorities.

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Image caption George Osborne has indicated he is ready to make an announcement on devolution in the Autumn statement

"The platform we have created through the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, providing clear leadership and a track record of delivery, means we are ideally placed to be a trailblazer for city devolution."

The document also sets out a list of changes council leaders would pursue under the new structure, if it is approved by Westminster.

This includes the re-regulation of Greater Manchester's bus services, potentially bringing routes and fares under council control, rather than commercial operators.

Council leaders also want control over funding for business and trade and investment, alongside "significant influence if not control" over £500m which the government currently spends on skills and training schemes.

Analysis: Kevin Fitzpatrick, BBC Radio Manchester's politics reporter

Discussions on the devolution of spending powers have been ongoing for years with local leaders believing they are better placed than civil servants in Westminster to decide how billions of pounds of funding should be spent in Greater Manchester.

David Cameron's promise of more powers for Scotland during the recent referendum campaign led the region's leaders to push their case further and Chancellor George Osborne has indicated he's ready to make some form of an announcement on devolution in the Autumn statement.

Mr Osborne has made it clear he wants Greater Manchester to have an elected mayor but the region's council leaders don't think that would work. Instead, they're offering to appoint an "11th leader" who would oversee the Combined Authority and be a full-time figurehead for the region.

It's not yet clear how this "11th leader" would be selected. Greater Manchester's 700 councillors are currently discussing options but at this stage it appears it could be Wigan council that needs a new leader if, as expected, Lord Peter Smith takes on the role.

The deputy leader of Stockport Council, Iain Roberts, said the system would be preferable to having an elected mayor.

He said: "The reason we're proposing the 11th leader model is simply because we think the single-tier model of the 10 authorities working together, without a mayor over the top, has been shown to work.

"We can do this so if you've got a model that works, go with that rather than trying something that is frankly, unproven."

A Treasury spokesman said: "In June the chancellor put on the table and started the conversation about serious devolution of powers and budgets for any city that wants to move to a new model of city government - and have an elected mayor.

"We are currently working with cities and developing proposals and will provide more details shortly."

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