• Ask the panel: Metro mayors priority lists

Ask the panel: Metro mayors – what should be top of their priority lists?

Ask the panel: Metro mayors – what should be top of their priority lists?

In May both the Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester will elect their first metro mayors as part of devolution agreements with the government. Winning candidates will make strategic decisions affecting the whole of the regions they represent, taking in the major cities of Liverpool and Manchester as well as multiple local authority areas in their surroundings. Ahead of the election, we ask a panel of North West experts:

What should be top of the new leaders’ priority lists when they take up the posts?

Matthew Fedigan
director, Domec Professional Services Ltd and chair of RICS North West Regional Board

I’d like to see these new leaders collaborating with their local business communities and investing in skills, where needed, to provide economic certainty. They need to work closely with their local property sectors to improve housing choice, and better transport connectivity also needs to be prioritised.

RICS has long called on the government to share infrastructure funding on a more equitable basis, and welcomes plans to provide a high speed rail link between Salford and Liverpool. But more is needed to provide both of these cities with much better connectivity and allow local businesses to compete on a level playing field.

Both the Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester have a huge opportunity to fulfil their potential of helping the wider economy of the North grow and ultimately the Northern Powerhouse prosper. So these new metro mayors must get their priority lists right.

Mike Horner
regional director, Muse Developments

The newly elected mayors will have a lot to consider, but I think addressing housing, and in particular affordable housing, needs to come top of their list.

Other priorities should include integrating health and social care systems and working with colleges, further education and businesses to meet the skills gap and get the youth into work.

Improving transport is absolutely key and they should prioritise integrating public transport networks with an Oyster-type card and look at a strategic plan for the delivery of safer cycling routes and facilities.

Also crucial in Greater Manchester is getting the GM Spatial Framework right, which will set out the spatial and planning approach for the next 20 years.

John Ogden
managing director, CBRE North West

Both metro mayors should combine the strengths of their respective cities to have a strong and united voice in Westminster.

They should use this devolution of power from the South to narrow the north-south divide and keep the Northern Powerhouse at the forefront of the political agenda.

Their priorities should include the continued improvement of the North West’s infrastructure, linking Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield as agglomeration has shown that bigger conurbations attract clusters of businesses.

This, in turn, should put the focus on increased transport investment, improving skills within the labour force and the creation of new housing and improved healthcare services.

Additionally, priority should be given to maintaining the excellent higher education facilities and promoting on a global scale Manchester’s capacity to be the home of bio medical research and innovation.

Chris Weights
partner and head of valuation, Matthews & Goodman

The two biggest issues are improved connectivity across the North West and a collaborative and complimentary approach to economic growth.

Improved public transport, between prime business centres in the region to the two major cities (with a maximum journey time of 40 minutes), should be the target. This would bring sustainability, vibrancy and wealth to our smaller dormitory and coastal towns and reduce housing pressure in already overcrowded city centres.

A complimentary rather than competitive focus on economic growth should be encouraged.  The Liverpool City Region should develop international commerce by promoting the Liverpool2 deep water container terminal; the thriving manufacturing base, logistics, high tech and bio medical industries offer growth potential adding to an existing and successful conference and tourism offer.

Manchester has established itself as the northern financial and business services, technology and media hub.

Both metro mayors must address the domestic perception of a provincial skills gap which does not exist.

Mark Bousfield
investment manager, Igloo Regeneration

The context of continuing cuts is key in answering this question for the Liverpool City Region.

Sefton Council must save more than £60 million over the next three years, Liverpool £90m, so the incoming metro mayor will need to be clear on how she or he fits into the continuing squeeze.

Economically, the metro mayor’s short-term priority could be the smooth, growth-led delivery of the devolution deal and other funds under the new Single Investment Fund. 2017 is likely to be bumpy, so public funding is critical in maintaining the property market’s recovery. The metro mayor can quickly capitalise on this important platform.

From this comes the need to eliminate the city region’s long-term market failures, like in central office rents and low labour market participation. The metro mayor should adopt and enforce a long-term vision, recycling public monies and connecting across the North to argue for more investment and more local input.