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GM hustings 2017: Mayoral candidates discuss the NHS, GMSF and the Northern Powerhouse 16 March 2017

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All three runners for the position of Greater Manchester’s mayor went head-to-head earlier this month with the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, the NHS and the Northern Powerhouse on the agenda.

As we look ahead to what the future will bring for Manchester, there are many important issues that need addressing to ensure the city is moving in the right direction, making it all the more crucial for Manchester’s leadership to remain strong.

With the appointment of Greater Manchester’s new mayor in the pipeline, earlier this month, three of the candidates came head-to-head to in the first hustings of 2017. On the agenda were the NHS, the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) and the Northern Powerhouse, among other pressing issues.

Damian Waters, regional director of CBI North West, who organised the event, commented: “The Metro Mayors are set to become genuine political heavyweights, likely to play an increasingly important role in UK democratic life and they will have significant powers to shape local decision making.”

Over 300 people attended the event to hear the opinions of runners Sean Anstee (Conservative), Andy Burnham (Labour), and Jane Brophy (Liberal Democrat). Here, we take a look at what was discussed at the event.

The NHS

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is expected to be one of the key considerations for Manchester’s public when it comes to voting for mayor on May 4th. Health and social care has never been more important to voters as they consider who will influence the ideas and priorities of the region's budget.

Mr Burnham talked policies that were solid, including the full devolution of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) budget, tailor-designed dementia-friendly homes, and an integrated cycle system across the conurbation.

Conservative Mr Anstee debated this, arguing that he didn’t see any issue with private companies bidding for the NHS business if the patients felt the benefit. He also stated that a healthy economy is the way to a healthy population. Meanwhile Lib Dem Ms Brophy talked about the pressures of shrinking budgets and ever-changing rotas, claiming the solution would be to maximise unused public spaces for physical activities.

Greater Manchester Spacial Framework (GMSF)

During the hustings, discussion around whether the GMSF - a draft development including proposals for extensive housing development and green belt release - should be approved dominated conversation.

Ms Brophy said: “The spatial framework needs to be rewritten, it’s currently a top down approach. Green belt development is not the way forward, it needs to be more discerning and unlock brownfield sites first, that just need a bit more government incentive. We should build upwards where we have infrastructure already in place.”

However Mr Anstee disagreed, claiming the framework would be critical to the future of Greater Manchester. Elsewhere Mr Burnham stated the framework need not be scrapped but he did say it needed much work, as in its current form it put the city at risk.

The Northern Powerhouse

Mr Burnham also had much to say when debate came to the subject of the Northern Powerhouse, arguing that prime minister Theresa May was not providing the north with enough attention.

"We have got a situation where every single secondary school in Manchester, in Rochdale, in Sean's borough Trafford and in my borough, Wigan, is going to lose under the government's new schools funding formula.

"You can't build a northern powerhouse by cutting northern councils, northern schools. We need to see evidence here that they are going to invest in it.

Tory Mr Anstee was also keen to bridge the north-south divide, arguing that Manchester is not inhibited by factors that hold the capital back and has many of its own assets. He stated that he wanted to make the UK stronger by making Manchester even better.

The Lib Dem candidate discussed a shift of power to the north, considering new investment in the Manchester city region, strong links to the European Union (EU) and remaining in the single market to ensure proper investment in Greater Manchester.

On April 12th at Neo we’ll be sponsoring the Manchester Publicity Association’s (MPA) ‘Big Debate’ event, featuring the three main mayoral candidates. Will you be attending?

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