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Government / Local politics

What problems will Andy Burnham face as Greater Manchester mayor?

The latest instalment of our weekly series, in which we use the Centre for Cities’ data tools to crunch some of the numbers on Britain’s cities.

Andy Burnham has made a formidable comeback. He had become a bit of a running joke among the chattering classes after several weird gaffes (think ‘posh coffee’ and so-called ‘barista visas’). But, while his election as Greater Manchester Metro Mayor in May surprised nobody, his results were incredibly impressive, defying what was a grim night nationally for Labour candidates.  

And within just weeks he was forced to respond to the city’s darkest hour – the bombing at the Manchester Arena, killing 22 people and scarring the city. Burnham led from the front, giving voice to the atmosphere of tolerance and strength in diversity that settled on the city in the aftermath.

Andy Burnham is now, rightly, popular. But if he’s to keep that up, he’ll need to tackle Manchester’s big problems, and deliver strong results.

So: what problems is the region actually facing, then?

For the most part, it’s the economy, stupid. The following graphs compare figures for Greater Manchester (in green) to the national average (in grey).

Image: Centre for Cities.

The employment rate is still lower than the rest of the country, on average, and that gap shows worrying signs of opening up further.

And while the total number of jobs has been increasing in line with the rest of the country since 2010, that growth is slowing.

Image: Centre for Cities.

The rest of the country is sailing away while Greater Manchester’s jobs total is starting to stagnate.

As for the people who fill those jobs, their earnings are still a fairly long way behind the rest of the country.

Image: Centre for Cities.

Despite the rate of increase being fairly similar to earnings across the country – bar a big dip in 2011 – a Mancunian in 2016 earned £479 a week on average, way below the national average of £525.

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

Image: Centre for Cities.

The skills gap between Manchester and the rest of the country is closing, as the proportion of people with no qualifications is falling faster in Manchester than it is elsewhere.

Image: Centre for Cities

And while schools are still slightly underperforming in comparison to the rest of the country – the Progress 8 score is a measure of pupils’ success, just go with it – that gap isn’t as large as in other metro regions.

Image: Centre for Cities

There are also more new apprenticeships in Manchester, while the rate of change has been largely in line with the national average. 

And though earnings are lower than elsewhere in the country, housing costs are also lower:

Click to expand. Image: Centre for Cities

Despite increasing reports of big new-build projects in Manchester being snapped up by foreign investors to sit empty, the housing affordability ratio shows Manchester is still in a better place than the rest of the country. Average house prices in Manchester in 2016 were around 6.9 times average earnings, while the rest of the country struggled up at 10.1 times average earnings.

Click to expand. Image: Centre for Cities.

But that being said, the total number of dwellings has been growing at a slower rate than the rest of the country since 2009, so it is at least possible that affordability may start to drip away.

On to the good stuff. We all know you’re really here for the transport action, and that’s where Andy Burnham has a very big problem – and a very nice reward.

Click to expand. Image: Centre for Cities.

The bad news is that bus journeys have crashed out in Manchester, even faster than the general trend against bus travel across the country. Whether its reassigning franchises, clambering towards nationalisation, or whatever other solution he fancies, Burnham will need to do something about this.

And the good news?

Click to expand. Image: Centre for Cities

Light rail journeys are soaring in Manchester, thanks to the city’s beautiful trams, and have been growing at a far faster rate than the rest of the country since 2011. More tram action, please.

And that’s about the size of it. Good luck, Andy – and good luck avoiding the urge to procrastinate on the fun new metro mayor tools over at the Centre for Cities. 

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