Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham was in high spirits giving an intimate ‘fireside chat’ at the close of the first day of the CIH’s Housing 2022 conference in the city’s Central Convention Centre.
“Before Covid, Manchester was known as the home of the 24-hour party people,” Burnham told the audience at the AICO Cafe on the exhibition floor. “Now things are getting back to normal I’m committing to reclaiming that title from 10 Downing Street, although they have set the bar very high.”
It wasn’t all gags from the Northern bete noir of Boris Johnson\s governemnt. Burnham also spoke at length about his ambitions for transport in the city region, bringing buses back under council control, aligning their services with the council-run metro system, and setting fare caps of £2 for a single journey, and £5 a day charges on local public transport, bringing Greater Manchester in line with the sort of public transport experience Londoners have long been entitled to.
Burnham added that this was particularly vital in the wake of the pandemic, with passenger numbers still only having to returned to around 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels on buses, and around 80 per cent on Metrolink. The mayor also noted that, while public transport may not seem to be an immediate priority for a housing audience, new homes are little use if you can’t get to them, or from them for work, and highlighted the work the Greater Manchester Authority is carrying out with housing associations in the city region, particularly highlighting efforts being made to encourage digital inclusion.
Turning to the government’s much-vaunted ‘levelling-up’ agenda, Burnham didn’t seem entirely sold: “I think we have a long way to go, depending on what you mean by ‘levelling up.’ If you’re talking about real economic parity between the North and the South, then we’re still a very long way off.”