+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.
+ Melanie Horrocks
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?
I think when dealing with all residents over 50 we need to look at the needs they have both as a whole, but also at the intersectionality of need. I have discussed already the need for elders within the Jewish community, whose age and religious needs require balance when looking at care home provision. Similarly issues around senior care within the lGBTQIA+ community. However, most over 50,s are a long way from residential care, and often still working and so share many concerns around transport, and the environment with younger groups. The key issue here for me would be engagement with groups such as yours and listening to ensure policies I had in these areas complimented the needs of older people across Greater Manchester.
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?
There is a real disparity across the region in many services and support, due in a large part to 10 years of Tory austerity. These will have been severely impacted by covid, with the poorest in the region often most severely impacted. As such the support of the Mayor as an advocate in these areas is more urgently needed. A lot of my discussions and promises made in this campaign are around access t information and support but also on education on where to access support – and this would be relevant to older people as much as any their group. We often have great services but there is a lack of awareness how to access them. This has to change, as until the full level of need becomes clear nothing more substantial can be done. My fear is we do not know the real picture in our region as so many aren’t asking for help. That must change.
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?
As a home educator we would often, as a community, spend time with older people, both those working voluntarily in places we were vising or through a series of care home visits with music groups which my friend organised. Those times were so important, and gave me the insight into how intergenerational time as a wider community and benefit everyone. I think that a wider scheme where the generations can access each other, through schools and colleges would be great, and would be something to explore. They say takes a village to raise a child, but often we have lost that village due to modern life. Helping to build communities gain is very much part of my vision for greater Manchester.
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?
I have been clear throughout my campaign, many residents of Greater Manchester are being denied the opportunity to use public transport. Have welcomed Andy Burnham implementing a long standing green party policy regarding the buses, and would now like to see this go further. Public transport must be truly integrated, not just with the various facets it brings but also with active travel. I would like to see flat fee’s for travel across the region, with the opportunity for both significantly increased bike storage at interchanges but also the ability to take bikes on the trams ad buses for fully joined up transport across the region. This would revolutionise commuting, but also access to our green spaces in leisure times.
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?
I have worked as a criminal defence lawyer within the region, and then spent 6 years as a senior lawyer within the IPCC. I fully understand how the police operate and how things can go wrong. If elected Mayor I would get GMP out of special measures are work to restore trust and confidence in the force. This would extend to working with police to address the growth in online and telephone frauds which often target older people – a significant part of which would be education in how to spot fraudulent communications and how to report them.
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?
Community is at the heart of my campaign, from housing needs to transport policies, we all now know the value of community. Community hubs, ideally in local libraries, would be a great way to initiate community engagement and the promises I have made throughout my campaign on education and bringing people together. Where the police information on cyber crimes can be found, but also where the police hold regular workshops on the issue. Where school leaders can find older people with experience in a relevant field, to arrange visits, or where information on any aspect of life in greater Manchester can be accessed.