Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation

Devo Manc: A journey not a destination

The pace at which the devolution settlement in Greater Manchester is developing has many people trying to catch up to understand the practical impacts of proposals. It’s important to understand that these proposals have not just arrived fully formed out of the blue but build on many years of developing relationships across GM.

The changes themselves may not directly feed down to communities and residents for a while yet either and so we really need to see this agreement as a signpost on a road, indicating a direction of travel. The Memorandum of Understanding between central and local government outlines a roadmap further reinforcing the nature of devolution being a journey, not a destination.

From our past partnership working in GM it is vital to understand that subsidiarity will be a key principle in these plans. The devolution deal won’t see services move to a GM footprint but the bigger institutions and public bodies aligning their work in order to ensure local plans are more effective than would be the case in a service directed from Whitehall. Partnerships and governance structures will develop with the intent of ensuring very local approaches can be designed at a district and neighbourhood level. A clear signal has been sent in the Memorandum of Understanding with the note to “new delivery models” in the plural and services delivered in the community. This is not the substitution of one form of centralism for another.

This intention doesn’t of course guarantee success in itself. The next few years will be financially challenging, irrespective of the result of the next election and any change at this time has some level of risk. Governance structures will need to be robust, views and assumptions challenged but ultimately with all major partners working together in harmony. Leadership will be tested in an area with so many public bodies currently having a critical role in local commissioning and delivery.

In our conversations with VCSE organisations within GM it’s clear that a majority of organisations are in favour of devolution in principle but many add caveats. Just as the local public sector is changing its relationship with central government many want a renewed relationship between local government and communities within GM. With increasing control of public services passing to our wider city there are opportunities here that have not existed before but we need to ensure we take part in developing debates at a neighbourhood and district level as well as seeking to influence the direction the city takes as a whole.

February 2015