In remarkable defiance against the democratic wishes of people all across Greater Manchester, including Bury, the ten council leaders who run local councils across the region yesterday decided we should have a mayor and installed current Police & Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd (the former Labour MP for Manchester Central).
Two very expensive referendums were held in 2008 and 2010 to determine if Bury voters would prefer an elected mayor and both times, the people of this borough voted a resounding NO. This time around, however, Bury was not given the choice. In order to create the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ Tory Chancellor George Osborne decided Bury voters were wrong to vote no twice and directed the 10 Greater Manchester council leaders to select a regional mayor from within their ranks.
In the end, the choice came down to two individuals, current Wigan Council leader Lord Smith or Greater Manchester’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd. It’s interesting that while Peter Smith has been a committed leader of Wigan Council for almost two and a half decades, Tony Lloyd just can’t seem to get comfortable in any job. Having been elected Labour MP for Manchester Central in 2010, he then quit that role in 2012 to become the Police & Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester. Now, again, after a few short years he has quit that job to become the Mayor of Greater Manchester.
Mayor Tony Lloyd now has powers over policing, all health & social care, planning, skills funding, transport and housebuilding across the entire region. What skills or qualifications does Mr Lloyd bring with him? Well after attaining his degree at 22 he became at councillor at 29 and has been in politics ever since – he has had no significant role in policing (other than as PCC for 3 years), health, planning or transport.
Lloyd is the wrong person for the job. I am very disappointed that both Conservative Trafford Council leader Sean Anstee and Lib Dem Stockport Council leader Sue Derbyshire did not choose Lord Smith instead. As chair of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Lord Smith had the experience necessary to make the transition to a regional mayor.
What now for Bury? Times could be tough, decisions on local services that should be made at Bury Town Hall will now be made by an unelected mayor sat in Manchester. I am very worried for the future of Bury.