+Mayoral Candidate Questions
On 6 May 2021, Mayoral Elections will take place in Greater Manchester.
The Mayor of Greater Manchester is a major figure in the political life of the region, entrusted with unique powers and responsibilities. The Mayor’s responsibilities include setting budgets and priorities for Greater Manchester’s public services including transport and the fire and rescue service; Police and Crime Commissioner responsibilities, and acting as an ambassador for the city region. The elected Mayor works together with the GMCA to deliver their vision for Greater Manchester.
As the Greater Manchester Older People’s Network, we want to hear what the candidates have to say about the issues that matter most to older people. We’ve developed six key questions that were sent to the candidates and their responses are below. These questions have been developed based on the priorities of our members. In order to form the questions, we looked at our previous reports and recommendations and considered all the issues that have been raised in our working groups over the past year. We also invited our members to let us know if they had any particular areas or questions that they wanted to raise.
+ Andy Burnham
Q1. Where and how do older people figure in your priorities for Greater Manchester? We know that people aged 50 and over are far from one homogenous group and our needs, interests and priorities are diverse. What do you see as the main factors that will improve the experience of the older population and how do you propose to make a difference?
We are already the only city-region in the UK to be recognised by the World Health Organisation as an Age-Friendly City-Region and we will build on that foundation. We know that people between 50 and retirement are especially vulnerable to job losses and so we will use our control over training and skills funding to help protect jobs and help people in this age group to change their skillset.
We will continue to work with our councils and public services across Greater Manchester to broaden all aspects of being an Age-Friendly City-Region to deliver tailored offers and opportunities to all ages, including tackling digital exclusion, building homes that are designed with ageing in mind – such as step free access, disabled equipment and accessories and dementia friendly.
Q2. One of the priorities for the Greater Manchester Older People’s Network is trying to make sure that older people have access to the services and support they need wherever they live in Greater Manchester. The experience of our members tells us that it is often a postcode lottery. How do you see the role of Greater Manchester Mayor in levelling up older people’s experiences, wherever they live?
Being an Age-Friendly City-Region includes all ten of our councils and we are working together to share and extend best practice.We want to ensure that services and support are available across Greater Manchester and through our Health and Care Partnership we have reduced the number of 15-minute care visits to ensure the individual gets the support they need, not a time-based approach.
But, there is more to be done and you will see in my answers to some of these questions more detail on how we will go about that.
Q3. We often see examples of generations being set against each other in the media. We believe that fostering intergenerational connections is key to improving the lives of all citizens. How do you see your role in bringing generations together to strengthen communities?
One of the things we have committed to in the manifesto is to establish an Institute for Ageing Well. This will include what we have termed ‘mentoring and reverse mentoring’ to bring different generations together to support and learn from one another.
The older generation can support young people as they prepare for and then move into their careers. Many older people already work with schools to support children with language development and reading.
But younger people can also help older people – reverse mentoring – by, for example, teaching them and helping them learn new digital skills so that they can access and take advantage of the many online services.
Q4. Transport is a major concern for older people and the GM Older People’s Network has supported the idea of bus reregulation in the hope that it will provide better services and customer experience. Now it seems that this will occur, what measures will you put in place to make sure that things really do change for the better?
After 35 years of bus deregulation in Greater Manchester, of rising ticket prices and routes being cut, I have decided to bring buses back under public control. We should decide where our buses go and what they charge, not the bus companies. We need a bus system that serves the travelling public not shareholders.
Re-regulating buses in Greater Manchester will bring a range of benefits for older passengers. First, we will regain the ability to decide the routes to be served and can therefore end the unacceptable situation where routes get cut at short notice and more isolated areas are left without a service. Second, we will be able to standardise the quality of the vehicles and require improvements that will benefit older passengers, such as easy access and “talking buses” announcements of next stops. Third, it will allow us to link buses and trams in a London-style system, with a daily cap on what people can spend no matter how many journeys they take. This will make public transport much more affordable for older people who have not reached retirement age and cannot access their concessionary travel pass.
My overall aim is to create a fully integrated public transport system that in time will include commuter rail services too. This plan for the “Bee Network”, an affordable, accessible, all-electric transport system with a single livery, will take Greater Manchester up to the next level as a city-region.
Q5. Neighbourhood and community safety is often a priority for older people. How would you use your responsibilities on police and crime to improve confidence and safety in communities and neighbourhoods?
When I was first elected in 2017 Greater Manchester Police had lost around 3,000 staff and that inevitably had an impact on what they could do. In my first budget I began recruiting more Police Officers and we now have 700 more Officers with over 300 more to come in this next year. I know that there is a lot of work to do to help improve confidence in our police and I have appointed a new Chief Constable to continue the work we have begun.
Last year I committed to every area having a named and contactable PC and PCSO and that is now in place so that every resident in Greater Manchester has a named contact. This isn’t for emergency calls, but does enable people to get in touch to follow up calls or report low-level issues of concern.
Q6. Digital exclusion can be a major issue for older people. The pandemic has seen more and more services and groups move to being delivered online. How will you make sure that this doesn’t exclude older people and others who can’t or don’t want to engage with online services and opportunities? How will you make sure that post-pandemic we build our communities and connections back again?
Coming out of the pandemic, we must get much more serious about digital inclusion. So much of life is taking place online that it is now essential that we help everyone to have digital connectivity and access to the conversation. What was once desirable is now essential.
In my manifesto, I have set the new ambition of getting all under-25s and all over-75s online. This will mean providing personalised help according to individual needs - access to a device, data connectivity or digital skills. To achieve this, we will create a new action network involving our councils, community organisations and digital and tech companies.
Recognising that some people may not wish to access services online, it is important that we work with all organisations in the public and private sector to maintain alternative means of accessing services over the phone or in person.
So, in my manifesto, I have set the aim of getting all over-75s online, along with under 25s, many of whom lost out on education because they were digitally excluded. We will do this by working in partnership with our amazing digital and tech companies in Greater Manchester.