Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, answered questions from students and the wider Manchester community at Mayor’s Question Time on September 29 in the Students’ Union.
The event covered a range of topics spanning from student-centred questions surrounding transport and policing to wider issues of homelessness, the cost of living crisis, and even the monarchy.
The Mayor was asked about the availability and quality of student accommodation. Burnham addressed this issue by proposing the creation of a new “Greater Manchester Good Landlord Charter” which would set out standards and regulations for landlords, which he proposed rolling out in student areas.
Discussion of housing issues extended beyond the student community, as the pledge Burnham made in 2017 to end rough sleeping in Manchester by 2020 faced scrutiny. The Labour Mayor argued he’d made progress, stating “tonight 620 people are in ‘A Bed Every Night’”. Despite this progress, he admitted his pledge was not yet met as currently there are approximately 75 people sleeping rough in Greater Manchester.
Questions regarding gender-based violence and safety were directed to representatives from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) , who attended the Question Time as part of “a panel of experts”.
In a response to the issue of safety in Piccadilly Gardens, one GMP representative claimed “there’s no such thing as no-go areas”. The panel referenced new initiatives being undertaken to keep the city centre safe, as plain-clothed officers are now on duty in the city centre to monitor any potential criminal acts.
The event concluded with a more nationally focused question. Burnham was asked if there should be a referendum on abolishing the monarchy and the House of Lords. His immediate answer was no – instead, he proposed a “rewiring of Britain”. Elaborating, he explained “that means proportional representation. A Senate of the nations and regions, instead of the unelected lords”.
He continued, saying the country needs “maximum devolution so we get more power to do more for ourselves and we can decide what we’re doing without having to get permission from anywhere”.
To cap the Question Time off, the Mayor asked for the audience to vote with a show of hands on whether they support proportional representation or not. Save for a pair of outriders, the entire audience voted “yes”, showing a snapshot of the region’s support for more devolution.
The Mayor’s Question Time is available to catch up with on The Mancunion‘s Facebook page.