Last Thursday, Andy Burnham attended a ‘Question Time’ style event hosted by the Editor-in-Chief of Manchester Evening News, Darren Thwaites, and attended by a ‘passionate’ audience in Oldham Library. The topics covered ranged from the youth and homelessness, to transport in Greater Manchester. Other notable attendees were Baroness Beverley Hughes, Chief Constable Ian Hopkins, and Bob Morris, Chief Operating Officer of Transport for Greater Manchester.
One of the first questions from the audience raised the issue of Greater Manchester’s future generations. Burnham replied using a recent survey that revealed 40% of year 10 students in Oldham and Rochdale had ‘no hope’ for the future. This statistic is one that the mayor said “bothered” him. He sought to highlight initiatives like the introduction of free bus passes for 16-18 year olds.
He also encouraged the creation of a UCAS-style system for apprenticeships. These procedures reflected his concern that the education system favoured applications to university over other paths. This preference within the education system could also mean that many young people are “left behind”.
Another topic that was brought up was the problem of rough sleeping. Homelessness has become somewhat of an epidemic in Manchester. The city has some of the highest levels of rough sleeping in the UK (data from Homeless Link). Burnham had previously pledged to eradicate homelessness by 2020 in his mayoral manifesto. However, he admitted that achieving this would be difficult. Despite this, he explained the success of ‘#abedeverynight’ campaign that was implemented to tackle the issue and raise awareness. The campaigns funding recently received a boost by Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany who promised to donate all profits from his testimonial match to the campaign.
The issue of transport was also prominent at the event. Audience members expressed their frustration at the transport systems in Greater Manchester, including commuting journeys. This involved companies such as Transpennine Express and the systems in the heart of Manchester – the bus and Metrolink services. Burnham shared this feeling, and argued that although devolution had given him far more power on the matter, it was still not enough. He would need more control to improve the system through initiatives such as the integration of the transport systems, or an oyster card-like system – much to his frustration.