8 november 2014, and so it came to pass

To uncharacteristically stay with the same topic, some reflections a week after the government's number two signed a pretty substantial devolution deal with greater manchester's ten number ones. Aficionados may recognise that many details are, to a degree, more of the same: GM already had earnback and transport powers, housing and planning has long been under discussion. However, this is a stake in the ground that pulls those things significantly forward, idenifying budgets and pushing forward mechanisms that enable local control and making a good first fist of, probably more importantly, reducing central government "oversight" and conditions. It is recognition of the seriousness of that which forced hands all round on the solution everyone knew would be needed at some time, of an elected mayor for the whole manchester city/region (the 3 million people of greater manchester). As the eleventh member of the combined authority, a goverance scheme designed in wigan not whitehall, this institutional innovation is emphatically not an imposition but a sensible evolution of the local system, with the new powers neatly split between the mayor and the ca, and with the optionality of more movement, in areas such as health, benefits and planning, from both local and central to regional-level, as and when the time is appropriate. There has been some gnashing of teeth, not least that this seems to be championed by the governing conservative and liberal democratic parties rather than labour, the party of eight of the ten signing local leaders (and almost certainly the new mayor) which does seem to represent a certain flat-footedness evidenced also in the broader "northern powerhouse" narrative that this is a part of. Economically, devolution is a good thing, and the advantages of manchester going first (after london of course) are significant, in terms of international championing and investment, the bully pulpit bearing down on "one size fits all" national schemes and london-bias and the leverage of locally co-ordinated powers and budgets. Its not yet the £22 billion spent here of course, but we're on our way.