Greater Manchester mayoral candidates outline their vision

The three candidates - Sean Anstee (Conservative), Jane Brophy (Liberal Democrat) and Andy Burnham MP (Labour) on stage in Manchester.

Greater Manchester’s mayoral candidates for Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats lined up on stage at the Midland Hotel in Manchester last week for the first mayoral debate, organised by property website Place North West.

Before a sell-out attendance of around 300 property and construction professionals, the three candidates Sean Anstee (Conservative), Andy Burnham MP (Labour) and Jane Brophy (Liberal Democrat), outlined their ideas for Greater Manchester should they win the mayoralty for a city region of 2.8 million people. 

Each candidate had their own vision for the region, whether it was “global wealthier city region where everyone is able to reach their potential” (Sean Anstee), a “European city open to the world” (Andy Burnham) or a “shining tolerant beacon to the country and the rest of the world” (Jane Brophy). The candidates now have just over two months to convince the public that they have the values and experience to lead the city-region through its greatest democratic change and opportunity for decades.

One of the key topics for the hustings event was the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework with Andy Burnham and Jane Brophy taking the opportunity to criticise the draft proposals. Andy Burnham will doubtless be pleased with the sharp contrast between his view that “building according to the current framework doesn’t give the variety of homes we need. Transport is not integrated, it puts too many cars on the road, and it’s not ambitious enough for industry, it’s too dependent on warehouses, and we can aim higher.” and that of Sean Anstee, who defended the current framework, saying that there needed to be development to address the needs of the city region. 

Whilst Anstee’s defence of the framework was well received in a room of 300 property professionals, Burnham was keen to point out that the voice of the public needed to be listened to and acted upon if Greater Manchester was to develop solutions on housing and planning that had public as well as industry support. Following the exchanges at the debate, Anstee will be positioned as the architect and impassioned defender of the framework (not at all a vote winning stance) and Burnham as the candidate who will re-write it, given the chance.

Burnham made it clear that he was not in any way opposed to development but that it needed to be carried out in such a way that it gained the widest possible public support. He said that it was essential for the construction sector and the new mayor to work together to bring the public onside as that would lead to better development for the people of Greater Manchester.

Labour is the very strong favourite to win the mayoral election on 4 May but Burnham is clearly not taking anything for granted, conducting a full-on campaign across the region and keen to engage the business community. The new mayor is a vitally important role for the city region and the successful candidate will have more devolved powers available to them than any other mayor in the UK apart from the mayor of London. 

In the spring, Manchester City Council’s new chief executive Joanne Roney takes over from Sir Howard Bernstein who has been chief executive of Manchester City Council since 1998. With a new mayor and new council chief executive, Greater Manchester is set to enter an interesting period that will shape the future of the city region for many years to come.      

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