Greater Manchester - Governance

Governance

See also: Greater Manchester Combined Authority, List of Parliamentary constituencies in Greater Manchester, List of civil parishes in Greater Manchester, and High Sheriff of Greater Manchester

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) is the top-tier administrative body for the local governance of Greater Manchester. It was established on 1 April 2011 as a pilot combined authority, unique to local government in the United Kingdom. It consists of ten indirectly elected members, each a directly elected councillor from one of the ten metropolitan boroughs that comprise Greater Manchester. The authority derives most of its powers from the Local Government Act 2000 and Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009, and replaced a range of single-purpose joint boards and quangos in 2011, to provide a formal administrative authority for Greater Manchester with powers over public transport, skills, housing, regeneration, waste management, carbon neutrality and planning permission. Functional executive bodies, such as Transport for Greater Manchester, are responsible for delivery of services in these areas. Beneath the GMCA are the ten councils of Greater Manchester's ten districts, which are Bolton, Bury, the City of Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, the City of Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan. These district councils have the greatest powers over public services, and control matters such as council tax, education provision, social housing, libraries and healthcare. Eight of the ten metropolitan boroughs were named after the eight former county boroughs that now compose the largest centres of population and greater historical and political prominence. As an example, the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport is centred on the town of Stockport, a former county borough, but includes other smaller settlements, such as Cheadle, Gatley, and Bramhall. The names of two of the metropolitan boroughs were given a neutral name because, at the time they were created, there was no agreement on the town to be put forward as the administrative centre and neither had a county borough. These boroughs are Tameside and Trafford, centred on Ashton-under-Lyne and Stretford, respectively, and are named with reference to geographical and historical origins. The lowest formal tier of local government in Greater Manchester are the parish councils, which cover the various civil parishes in Greater Manchester, and have limited powers over upkeep, maintenance and small grants.

For the first 12 years after the county was created in 1974, Greater Manchester had a two-tier system of local government, and the metropolitan borough councils shared power with the Greater Manchester County Council. The Greater Manchester County Council, a strategic authority based in what is now Westminster House off Piccadilly Gardens, comprised 106 members drawn from the ten metropolitan boroughs of Greater Manchester. It was a sub-regional body running regional services such as transport, strategic planning, emergency services and waste disposal. In 1986, along with the five other metropolitan county councils and the Greater London Council, the Greater Manchester County Council was abolished, and most of its powers were devolved to the boroughs. Between 1986 and 2011, the boroughs were effectively unitary authority areas, but opted to co-operate voluntarily under the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA), which served to create a co-ordinated county-wide approach to issues of common interest to Greater Manchester, such as public transport and the shared labour market, as well as making representations to central government and the European Union.

Although used as a "successful brand", Greater Manchester's politics have been characterised by "entrenched localism and related rivalries", historically resistant to regionalism. The major towns in Greater Manchester retain a "fierce independence", meaning Greater Manchester is administered using "inter-municipal coordination" on a broadly voluntary basis. That eight of the ten borough councils have (for the most part) been Labour-controlled since 1986, has helped maintain this informal co-operation between the districts at a county-level. After the abolition of the county council, the ten authorities of Greater Manchester co-operated voluntarily on policy issues like Local Transport Plans as well as funding the Greater Manchester County Record Office, and local services were administered by statutory joint boards. Now under the direction of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, these joint boards are Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) which is responsible for planning and co-ordinating public transport across the county; the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, who are administered by a joint Fire and Rescue Authority; and the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority. These joint boards are made up of councillors appointed from each of the ten boroughs (except the Waste Disposal Authority, which does not include the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan). Greater Manchester Police was formerly overseen by a joint police authority, but is now overseen by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester owing to reforms introduced in 2012. The ten boroughs jointly own the Manchester Airport Group which controls Manchester Airport and three other UK airports. Other services are directly funded and managed by the local councils.

Greater Manchester is a ceremonial county with its own Lord-Lieutenant who is the personal representative of the monarch. The Local Government Act 1972 provided that the whole of the area to be covered by the new metropolitan county of Greater Manchester would also be included in the Duchy of Lancaster – extending the duchy to include areas which were formerly in the counties of Cheshire and the West Riding of Yorkshire. Until 31 March 2005, Greater Manchester's Keeper of the Rolls was appointed by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; they are now appointed by the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain. The first Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester was Sir William Downward who held the title from 1974 to 1988. The current Lord Lieutenant is Warren James Smith. As a geographic county, Greater Manchester is used by the government (via the Office for National Statistics) for the gathering of county-wide statistics, and organising and collating general register and census material.

In terms of representation in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, Greater Manchester is divided into 28 parliamentary constituencies – 18 borough constituencies and 10 county constituencies. Most of Greater Manchester is controlled by the Labour party, and is generally considered a Labour stronghold, with only four constituencies (since the 2010 General Election) belonging to the Liberal Democrats, and two constituencies to the Conservative party.

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