Lifestyle, Manchester

Ask the Experts: Manchester Devolution Question Time

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By Jack Holmes

Recently, Manchester Metropolitan University’s (Manchester Met) Faculty of Business and Law began a seminar series on ‘Greater Manchester and the Business of Devolution’, part of the wider 2016/17 D/Evolving Manchester seminar series. In its first event, the faculty offered the public and Manchester Met students and staff a chance to ‘Ask the Experts’.

The panel at this event consisted of a mixed group of local and regional experts, each bringing their own unique viewpoints and experiences to the table, chaired by current Managing Editor of the Trinity Mirror group, Eamonn O’Neil. The event also included a group of panellists from a wide range of backgrounds, including politics, finance and the media industry:

Michael Taylor is the current External Affairs Advisor to the Vice-Chancellor at Manchester Metropolitan University and made his name as an award-winning business journalist and events producer.

Mark Hunter, a Liberal Democratic MP, has won 9 out of his 12 standings in more than 30 years of public service and is currently the MP for Cheadle.

Michael Moore is a senior advisor on devolution at the PricewaterhouseCoopers group. He was also an MP for over 18 years, and was the Scottish Secretary of State between 2010 and 2013.

Clive Memmott is the Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce as well as the Director of the British Chambers of Commerce and Brockholes Enterprises Ltd, an award winning nature reserve. He is also a Trustee of the National Football Museum in Manchester.

Nicky Unsworth is the CEO of the leading independent agency BJL, who have been listed in Campaign’s top 50 agencies and works with a diverse range of clients including Subaru, Asda, Ronseal, Swinton, Lambrini and Hallmark.


The event explored dozens of different aspects of the devolution of power to the city of Manchester, and the so-called ‘Northern Powerhouse’ as a whole, the idea of moving powers from central government to a local level being a complex process, even when focusing on a single aspect such as healthcare, housing or the justice department. The panel explored the issues as they came up in great detail, whilst still making sure that the majority of their opinions were easily unpacked by those less knowledgeable in the world of politics.

The big issues of Manchester as it continues its process of devolution included a number of heated topics, both current and more historic. From the current EU Referendum to the issues of equality, and minimum wage, there was debate on a huge range of issues.

The audience were made up of a mix of business men and women, professors from Manchester Metropolitan University and beyond, as well as members of the public looking to expand their thinking when it comes to the future of Manchester.

When asked what Manchester would look like after five more years of continued devolution, each member of the panel was able to describe their own perceived vision. However, it was Michael Moore that spoke extensively on how devolution has affected his own country of Scotland, and how he foresees it affecting Manchester. He said, “There are three areas where it’s been a real success, health and social care, business rates, though not without risk, and accountability”. It was the last of these points that went on to spark a number of debates about the process of local government, Moore arguing that, with the extended movement of power to local government, “The cabinet will have to listen to your mayor”.

This, in turn, raised the issue of equality on the local government scale, as currently the 2017 Greater Manchester Mayoral position front runners are all white males: Andy Burnham, Ivan Lewis and Tony Lloyd. Arguing that more women should become involved in politics took a step away from the debate about Manchester’s devolution, but felt like it needed to be discussed when the issue had come up naturally through discussion.

“It’s ridiculous, I do hope we hear from more women who come forward,” was the Liberal Democrat MP Mark Hunters’ position.

Both Nicky Unsworth and Michael Moore pointed out that that issue could largely be addressed by moving the inclusivity of the selection process for these political elections back a step. “We’re losing something at a very early stage,” Unsworth pointed out, reminding the audience that most women had already been screened from the selection process long before they faced the public eye.

Debates continued through the night with more key issues raised. The effect on sports and concert venues in the city, as well as Manchester as a brand, were all hot topics when it came to the envisioned Manchester of tomorrow. “They really have given us a lot to think about, haven’t they?” one audience member laughed at the end of the event.

You can keep up with all the upcoming events in the series on the Manchester Devolution website that will be running from now until June 2017. You can also look at all the comments from this question time at #MMUdevoqt.

Do you have an opinion on any of the issues raised during the Ask the Experts event? Share them with us at @HumanityHallows and @Holmesblogs

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Jack Holmes

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