Mayoral candidate Will Patterson proposes a green future for Greater Manchester

Will Patterson proposes a green future for Greater Manchester (GM) in his bid to become the first elected mayor of the region on the 4 May 2017, replacing the current interim mayor Tony Lloyd.

Patterson answers questions previously posed to four other major mayoral candidates: Andy Burnham (Labour Party), Sean Anstee (Conservative Party), Shneur Odze (Ukip) and Jane Brophy (Liberal Democrats). The Meteor’s questions, concerning the important issues facing the people of GM, are on the housing crisis, inequality and unemployment, health & social care, xenophobia & multiculturalism, the environment and the fire brigade.

Current chair of the Wigan and Leigh Green Party, Patterson is a late comer to the mayoral race. The previous Green Party mayoral candidate Deyika Nzeribe passed away due to a heart attack on New Year’s Day. Patterson has promised to continue Mr Nzeribe’s good work, saying:

“These are tough circumstances to run in, but I’m honoured that I have the chance to continue the great work Deyika started.”

GM mayoral election

The Devo Manc devolution deal for Greater Manchester offers the elected GM mayor an opportunity to address the problems outlined in the following six questions. Answers from the other mayoral candidates can be viewed via links at the end of each of Patterson’s replies:

 

The people of Greater Manchester are being hit hard by the housing crisis. What do you plan to do about it, particularly in the areas of social housing, private renting and homelessness?

“The first step is to rewrite the Spatial Framework, [plan that allocates land to be used for housing and business use] which largely ignores the need for social and affordable homes, and pushes for building big ticket developments on Green Belt land. So, I’ll reject the Framework as it is currently written and push instead for a People’s Housing Plan, which will work primarily with housing associations and smaller developers who will be more likely to use the land more effectively rather than simply banking it as some of the larger companies do. I’ll prioritise development on brownfield sites and other vacant spaces, looking first at empty properties and converting currently vacant office space.

Current planning legislation allows Councils to push for developers to build social housing on their land, and I’ll work with the ten local authorities to enforce those rules. I’ll also support the development of housing co-operatives and community land trusts as not-for-profit housing enterprises. I’ll support moves towards a Living Rent scheme to ensure that rental costs are set against local earnings, as proposed in London, and to make maintaining a home even more affordable, I’ll push for the Passivhaus standard of energy efficiency to be introduced to all new builds, and for a retrofitting scheme for existing properties, helping to lower energy bills.

Looking specifically at homelessness, I’ll support the Housing First model in Greater Manchester, giving vulnerable people access to secure accommodation right away. I’ll support refuges for families fleeing domestic violence, and I’ll support the reopening of the shelters which were closed in Hulme and Harpurhey.”

To compare Patterson’s answer above to the replies given by Andy Burnham, Sean Anstee, Shneur Odze and Jane Brophy – click here.

 

What are your plans for the economy in regards to reducing inequality and unemployment in Greater Manchester?

“There’s no question that the British economy has been too heavily centralised around London and the south East, and the idea of centralising the Greater Manchester economy around Manchester City Centre and Salford Quays won’t improve matters for the majority of people in Greater Manchester. Instead of accepting current proposals to keep most of GM’s office space focused on the City Centre and the Quays, I’ll work with Councils to deliver a real ten-Borough development strategy, supporting a diverse range of workplaces and jobs around the region, which will also help to address the “brain drain” in communities like Oldham, where young people can get good qualifications, but don’t find enough opportunities to use them in the area, forcing them to leave to find work elsewhere.

The housing strategy and energy efficiency campaign will also generate jobs in construction and repair, and I’ll push to attract investment in growing sectors such as renewable energy and the tech sector, rather than industries at risk of increased automation.

In terms of tackling inequality, I’m a supporter of the Real Living Wage, not just the arbitrary level set by the Government. I’ll campaign for Councils to adopt this for their employees and suppliers, and GMCA tenders will require partners to pay their workers a real living wage. I’ll also push for Greater Manchester to pilot a Basic Income scheme, guaranteeing every citizen a clear standard of living.”

To compare Patterson’s answer above to the replies given by Andy Burnham, Sean Anstee, Shneur Odze and Jane Brophy – click here.

 

Health and social care are currently in an intertwined crisis. How will you solve this in GM with the inadequate funding from government?

“As I write this answer, Surrey County Council appears to have magicked away a large part of its social care shortfall! It’s likely that this has been arranged with “Mates’ Rates” from the Department for Communities and Local Government. I’ll demand transparency regarding any agreement made, and an equivalent deal for GM.

In the short term, however, Councils and the Combined Authority are being forced to do more with less, but there are some really innovative approaches to this being taken right here in Greater Manchester, in particular by Wigan Council, who are using their Deal to engage local community groups in service provision to help pick up the slack, reducing demand on overstretched services. While The Deal is by no means a perfect solution, it has meant that where implemented well, the people who need help still get it. As Mayor, I’ll work with Councils where they’re doing good work, and roll it out across GM.”

To compare Patterson’s answer above to the replies given by Andy Burnham, Sean Anstee, Shneur Odze and Jane Brophy – click here.

 

Since the Brexit vote to leave the European Union there has been a worrying rise of xenophobia and far right political views being expressed in the UK. How will you protect and promote multiculturalism within GM?

“It’s clear that the Brexit vote has been seen by some as a validation of poisonous, divisive politics which will surely sicken many people across GM – regardless of how they voted in the referendum. It’s time that people in power stopped kowtowing to far right sentiment, and that includes bowing and scraping to welcome Donald Trump and his racist administration to the UK on a state visit. If they turn up in Greater Manchester, I will happily slam the door in their faces, making it clear that they and their views are not welcome in Greater Manchester.

I’ll also campaign for Theresa May to stop using EU citizens currently living in GM as a human shield in her negotiations with the EU-27: when the UK signed up to the Common Market, and all the treaties since then, we as a country made a promise that citizens of fellow member states would be afforded the same rights and responsibilities as UK citizens if they came here. And many have indeed come to GM and become a part of our community based on that promise of fair treatment. For the UK to break that promise for political convenience would be a mark of national shame and it’s not one I will accept, so my message to EU citizens living in GM is simple and clear: your home is here, your life is here, and you are still welcome here.

We need to look very closely at our policing strategy. We need an absolute zero tolerance of hate crime and vulnerable communities need reassurance that GMP is on their side against extremism. That’s why we need a rethink of current counter-extremism strategies, which focus far too heavily on one specific community and at times appear to presume the guilt of that community’s members. Extremism comes in many forms and I will make clear to GMP that I view far right extremism as the clearest, most present threat to communities across Greater Manchester.”

To compare Patterson’s answer above to the replies given by Andy Burnham, Sean Anstee, Shneur Odze and Jane Brophy – click here.

 

What actions will you take to protect the environment, particularly in regards to the green belt, air pollution and carbon dioxide production?

“Our current approach to business and economic growth is decades out of date and is putting our environment at risk. The Spatial Framework’s focus on building big-ticket housing on the Green Belt rather than targeting brownfield land and vacant properties for more affordable, efficient housing provision is a big mistake and needs to be corrected before developers can be let loose on the green spaces that make GM an attractive place for all of us to live.

A big step towards minimising congestion, air pollution and emissions is to decentralise the GM economy: rather than focusing primarily on the City Centre and Salford Quays, promoting our other town centres as attractive places to do business will promote investment there, support local businesses, and reduce journey times while reducing demands on our already congested infrastructure. Meanwhile, I’ll work with businesses to promote flexible working and more work from home options, reducing demand for office space while still maintaining investment, reducing demand at peak times, and cutting unnecessary journeys. This is an age where we don’t all need to be in the same office at the same time to do our jobs and work collaboratively – we should be harnessing that opportunity.

I’ll invest in public transport and push for better rail options – I’m frustrated at the constant cheerleading for HS2 when the services that the people of Greater Manchester need and use every day are so overstretched: clapped out, overcrowded rolling stock making the daily journey a nightmare and all but forcing new commuters into their cars. A more integrated public transport system with more public ownership run in the interests of passengers rather than shareholders will make for a more attractive offer for travellers, and a better cross-region network directly connecting more of the outer Boroughs rather than forcing them into the City and out again will also help.

More active travel options will help – in particular exploring the Barcelona model of Superblocks: dividing in particular high density housing and urban areas into zones of nine blocks where traffic can flow around the outside but is restricted inside the zones allowing a safer space for pedestrians and cyclists.

And while I’m not convinced that a blanket congestion charge will do anything other than monetise pollution, we can explore restricting access to congested areas for higher emission vehicles, and push the Department for Transport to introduce smart road pricing options to tackle the major hot spots and help fund more public transport improvements.”

To compare Patterson’s answer above to the replies given by Andy Burnham, Sean Anstee, Shneur Odze and Jane Brophy – click here.

 

The Firefighters of GM were recently threatened with the sack so they could sign fresh contracts with poorer working conditions. This occurred during a period when deaths due to fire rose in GM while cuts were being made to the fire service. What are your plans for the GM Fire service while it is under your control as mayor?

“Fire & Rescue is another area where local government has been forced to do more with less – putting lives at risk across GM and beyond. It’s not right that firefighters should be forced to bear the brunt of service cuts with poorer conditions, which could potentially endanger further lives.

Unfortunately, it does look as though these conditions will be imposed in advance of the election, so I’ll look for back office savings that can be made, bringing the Fire Service administration into the Combined Authority to cut costs there, working to protect frontline firefighters from further cuts or even worse conditions. I’ll also look for more single station facilities, bringing police, fire and ambulance services under one roof where possible to save on estate costs across the board while prioritising keeping current services levels intact, and of course, I’ll be sure to work closely with the FBU on any plans. I trust them and their members to know best how to do their job.

Finally, I’ll invest in greater demand reduction: for example, too often, the Fire Service has to deal with the consequences of flooding. In this case, greater flood defences will reduce demand and allow firefighters to concentrate on their top priority. And of course, I’ll make sure that fire safety regulations are being enforced properly, particularly in the private rented sector, again, reducing demand and keeping tenants safe.”

To compare Patterson’s answer above to the replies given by Andy Burnham, Sean Anstee, Shneur Odze and Jane Brophy – click here.

 

Conrad Bower Originally published here

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