Region to become low carbon economic area

December 18th, 2009

EnvironmentA groundbreaking agreement between the 10 Greater Manchester local authorities and the Government will be signed today.

The deal means that Greater Manchester will have more powers and responsibilities devolved from central government – ensuring the region has much more of a say in its own destiny.

The agreement unites the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) behind one formal arrangement. The pilot has been the subject of extensive discussions since the Chancellor announced the Manchester City Region pilot as part of his April Budget.

The deal recognises the role of Greater Manchester as a key focus for national growth and in helping to create the conditions for national recovery in the aftermath of the recession.

Lord Peter Smith, chair of AGMA, and Phil Woolas MP, Minister of State at the Treasury and Minister for the North West, will sign the agreement at a ceremony on Friday in Bury.

It puts the seal on a number of public sector reform measures, combined with new powers and responsibilities.

These include:

– The Manchester City Region has been named as the UK’s fourth low carbon economic area (LCEA), the focus of which will be the built environment. Working with local, regional and national partner agencies, granting LCEA status will deliver benefits for Greater Manchester and the rest of the UK, through stimulating the wider supply chain, sharing learning and best practice with other regions.

– New statutory powers for the city region to be able to set its own skills policy, and new freedoms to determine priorities for adult apprenticeships. This will give the city region the freedom to identity the priorities for their young people and offer opportunities that can attract and motivate young people to achieve their potential.

– A single allocation for the Manchester City Region for places in schools for further education for 16 to 19-year-olds (except for academies). This means that Greater Manchester will, as a region, determine the mix and number of places needed for schools and further education and control an annual budget worth hundreds of millions of pounds. It will also give the city region the freedom to determine the number of apprenticeships and where they should be based according to need.

– A range of service delivery pilots throughout Greater Manchester which will focus upon the need to drive up skills, increase employment, support children in their earliest years, as well as new service delivery models to transform deprived neighbourhoods.

– A commitment to improve data sharing arrangements between public agencies and local authorities.

– More local influence over licensing of private landlords

– A commitment to examine how the Manchester City Region can assume greater transport responsibilities and influence, comparable to the powers held by Transport for London.

The agreement also aims to build on Manchester’s international reputation to attract and maintain businesses from across the world.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne said:

“Cities like Manchester will play a key role in driving future national growth and improving efficiencies, helping us to halve the deficit in four years. Manchester is one of the largest and fastest growing economies outside London, and today’s agreement shows our shared commitment with local government and businesses to ensure the city region continues to be an economic success.

“We’re determined to give local government and other services greater autonomy to respond to the needs and concerns of local citizens. Manchester is clearly ready to take on these new responsibilities, and I look forward to seeing the benefits this will deliver for the local economy.”

Lord Smith added:

“I am delighted that the contribution Greater Manchester can make to future national prosperity has been recognised by this agreement.

“We have placed growth at the very top of our agenda and we recognise to meet the challenges ahead we need to develop new ways of working with government departments to tackle skills development, worklessness and reduce levels of deprivation.

“The details of the agreement which have been announced so far will enhance our capacity to meet these challenges and ensure that we have the strongest platform for growth.

“The areas identified for cooperation are absolutely critical to ensure that Greater Manchester succeeds as a place where people want to live, work and invest. By working together, we have a much greater chance of ensuring that success for our residents. Across the UK and indeed the world, I am convinced the Manchester City Region will be seen as a beacon of development and a stimulus of growth.”

Minister for Science and Innovation Lord Drayson said:

“Greater Manchester is a fantastic choice to receive the city region package. The Manchester universities are known for leading research on the built environment putting the region in the best position to face the low carbon future head on as the built environment. The freedom Greater Manchester will have to set its own skills strategy recognises the very strong employer engagement and partnership working across the city region.”

Communities Secretary John Denham said:

“Today’s city region agreement gives councils new powers, free from central red tape, to work together to improve skills and create jobs, build more affordable homes and tackle climate change in a more cost effective way that puts local people first. Local people live, work and study across council boundaries and it is right that councils work together on the pressing issues their areas face.”

Commenting on the new skills pilot, Mike Blackburn, chair of the New Economy Board and BT’s regional director for the North West, said:

“The future prosperity of the city region will be secured by ensuring that the people living and working here have the right skills. These are the skills that meet the needs of businesses and are flexible enough to respond to the needs of the economy of the future.

“The prize for getting this right is huge. For businesses it will mean higher productivity, increased innovation and faster growth, as well as greater resilience to the effects of future economic shocks. For individuals having the right skills acts as a ladder into employment and a route to greater achievement.

“Greater Manchester and the government have decided to put employers in the driving seat to reform the skills system and support economic development. Through these new powers we will create a more agile and demand-led skills system where increased employer and individual ambition drives investment in skills to the benefit of all.”

The agreement can be read here:

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