Leader’s blog: Making councillors accountable

The following was posted by Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council on December 7 2016 and represents his own personal opinion.

This month sees a new Our Manchester initiative to increase transparency and demonstrate accountability of members of the Council’s Executive Committee.

Twice a year each Executive Member will submit a report to the most appropriate Scrutiny Committee of their activities over the previous six months and be questioned on it, as always in public and free-to-view online.

I gave my first report to Economy Scrutiny this morning and it is reproduced below.


This report provides an overview of work undertaken and progress towards the delivery of the Council’s priorities as set out in the Our Manchester strategy for those areas within the portfolio of the Leader of the Council.


The Committee is asked to note and comment on the report.

1. Introduction

1.1 The Our Manchester Strategy was formally adopted by the Council in January 2016 and sets the ambitions for the city for the next ten years, to 2025, for Manchester to be:

• Thriving — creating great jobs and healthy businesses

• Filled with talent — both home-grown talent and attracting the best in the world

• Fair — with equal chances for all to unlock their potential

• A great place to live — with lots of things to do

• Buzzing with connections — including world-class transport and broadband

1.2 Executive Members are collectively and individually responsible for supporting the delivery of the Our Manchester Strategy and for providing political oversight and direction to officers for better outcomes for Manchester residents. In October, the Executive published its collective political priorities and those of individual Executive Members, all of which are aligned to the Our Manchester Strategy.

1.3 This report sets out how I as the Leader of the Council have sought to deliver these priorities over the past six months and is the first of twice yearly reports to this Committee, with reports being submitted to Scrutiny Committees at their May and November meetings from now on. A complete list of all my activities on behalf of the Council can be found in my public service contract

2. Leader of the Council — Portfolio

2.1 As Leader of the Council , my portfolio consists of overall policy co-ordination, economic development, external relationships, support on regeneration (North Manchester and City Centre), legal services, and the digital economy (business development). In addition, in the agreed Executive Priorities 2016–2020, I have as priorities the north/south divide (locally and nationally), personal relationship with Manchester Residents (Our Manchester) and Devolution (ensuring it delivers for residents).

3. Activity over the Past Six Months

3.1 The most important area of activity over the past six months has been leading the Executive through the process to set a three year budget 2017–2020. As well as meetings with Executive Members, this also entails regular meetings with the City Treasurer, Executive Member for Finance and other Senior officers. A first meeting has taken place with the Trade Union Forum to discuss the overall approach to the budget.

3.2 Perhaps almost as important is the appointment of a new Chief Executive. Having established the job role and person specification, I have with Councillor Flanagan appointed Penna as recruitment consultants following a competitive process. As well as Chairing the appointment panel I have had around a dozen lengthy phone calls or face-to-face meetings with potential candidates and have maintained regular dialogue with the lead recruitment consultant. Arrangements have been put in place for stakeholder involvement in the recruitment process, including non- Executive Councillors.

3.3 Following the adoption of the Our Manchester Strategy, the Manchester Leaders’ Forum has been renamed the Our Manchester Forum and its membership is being reviewed, including the appointment of new independent members. A framework has been put together to allocate lead responsibility for all the ‘we wills’ in the strategy and the performance framework has been finalised. This year’s State of the City Report sees the transfer of performance monitoring from the old to new framework.

3.4 In terms of Our Manchester, as well as attending two training workshops, I have given the introduction at a number of others which have included members, officers, and partner organisations amongst the participants. I have taken part in question and answers at all the Staff Listening in Action sessions held so far. I have regular meetings with the political and officer leads, Councillor Sue Murphy and Sara Todd, to review progress.

3.5 The Health and Social Care integration and devolution agenda has had a number of major developments formally approved through the Health and Wellbeing Board but brokered through many other meetings. The three pillars of the Manchester locality plan are crystallising in a single accredited care organisation for the provision of out-of-hospital care, a single clinical commissioning group in a formal partnership with the City Council to provide a single commissioning function, and agreement to establish a single hospital trust for the city containing all three general hospitals.

3.6 At Greater Manchester level, as well as being Vice-Chair of the Combined Authority (CA), I have specific responsibility for economic policy and for Rail North / Transport for the North. My economic responsibilities include being Deputy Chair of the Manchester Growth Company Board, which is still in the process of assimilating a number of previously free-standing companies into the new group structure. The CA is reviewing and revising the Greater Manchester Strategy underpinned by some “Deep Dive” research carried out by New Economy with the aim of maintaining the growth and jobs priority but with a bigger emphasis on inclusivity. Responding to the Brexit vote and subsequent impacts has also been a priority.

3.7 I am a member of the CA’s Transition Task Force, which has overseen the preparation of the various parliamentary orders required to give the devolution deal full effect, and the changes to the CA required to deliver the deal. I am a member of the newly formed Resources Committee which is also the appointments panel for the CA Chief Executive.

3.8 I Chair the Association of Northern Rail Partnership Authorities (ANRPA) which is the parent body of Rail North and appoints local transport authority representatives to the Transport for the North Partnership (TfN) Board. Association meetings receive regular reports from Transpennine Express and Northern Rail on the progress of the new rail franchises. TfN is leading on developing major pan-northern transport schemes underpinned by the northern independent economic review. TfN is moving towards becoming a statutory body at which point TfN will merge into ANRPA which will be the accountable body for both Rail North & the TfN Partnership Board. I maintain regular dialogue with the Chair of HS2 and we were actively consulted regarding the proposed new alignment into Piccadilly Station.

3.9 I have initiated a number of service reviews. That of our highways function has led to the re-creation of a Highways Department led by a Director of Highways. A review of HR & OD, management, and lean systems is leading to a new people strategy being developed. This is in part to respond to operational issues but also to what staff told us in the ‘Bheard’ survey. With Councillor Flanagan, I have also initiated a review of special grade posts, the outcome of which will go to Personnel and Council in December.

3.10 I have also initiated a wide-ranging review of city centre management which is due to report in December.

3.11 I represent the Council on the board of Manchester Airport Holdings Ltd, the main board of Manchester Airport Group. The Group is taking through a plan for major changes to Manchester Airport to bring apron & terminal capacity both up to the capacity of the runway and to the quality passengers now expect. An important role for me is ensuring we maintain a good working relationship with IFM, our equity partner. MAG has also carried out a governance review although this has not led to any major changes. I have also been involved in the appointment of two new non-Executive Directors to the board.

3.12 City Centre Regeneration and Strategic Development merit a report in their own right and I meet each of the Strategic Director (Development) and Head of City Centre Regeneration once a month to review progress but I will stick to a few headlines. The City Centre Infrastructure Group has continued meeting regularly and has slightly extended it’s remit to look at cycling and bus schemes feeding into the city centre, and proposals to increase capacity around the Regent Road / Water Street junction. I and the Chief Executive are meeting regularly with our Salford counterparts to discuss regional centre issues.

3.13 Major development discussions I have been involved in include Northern Gateway, the Factory, the BBC site and First Street. I also represent the Council on the board of Manchester Life. A company structure for the Sharp Project, the Space Project, and One Central Park has now been established under the name of Manchester Creative Digital Assets Ltd. I have been very involved in our Smart City work, including the establishment of City Verve, our internet of things Innovation UK funded demonstrator project.

3.14 In July I stood down as Chair of Core Cities (UK) having initiated the Inclusive Growth Commission and the Core City work on whole place leadership. Manchester continues to have the policy and research portfolio in the Core Cities Cabinet. I continue to Chair the LGA’s City Regions Board, a co-sponsor of the Inclusive Growth Commission and leading for the LGA on city policy, devolution, employment and skills, and English governance post — Brexit. As well as being an ex –officio on the LGA Executive I also sit on the Business Rates Localisation Task and Finish Group.

3.15 I hold monthly one-to-one meetings with each member of the Executive, at which amongst other things is an opportunity to talk about key service delivery issues in their portfolios. These are supplemented by numerous ad-hoc meetings. I also have a regular meeting with the Chair of the Children’s Services Improvement Board to discuss her report to Ministers.

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