The GMCC Assembly meeting on 6th February was the first to take place in its new home at the Chamber's offices in Elliot House on Deansgate. The new GMCC Assembly Room will host all future Assembly meetings and will become the focal point for all discussions on the policy issues and campaign activity that the Chamber is working on.
The meeting was dominated by the issue of the elected mayor for Greater Manchester and also what the devolution deal signed by the Combined Authority and the Government would mean in practice for business.
Issues raised in the discussion centred around the role of the Chamber acting on behalf of business in Greater Manchester in dealing with the mayor and making sure that active engagement starts now. That way there is a degree of certainty that when the elected mayor is voted in, following the election in 2017, that they will be fully aware of the big issues that GM business want to see tackled. From early indications transport and skills are already high on the agenda.
The role of the LEP was also discussed at the Assembly and following feedback from members it is highly likely a future meeting will take place with representatives of the LEP and other business groups to establish how the new governance structure will be accountable and effective for the whole of the GM business community.
Members used the Chamber's interactive voting system to give their views on whether they felt that a shift in local financial control would prove effective. It should be noted that at no stage in the current devolution proposals are there any indications that changes to local taxation (including business rates) are being discussed however previous feedback from members has indicated they feel this should be a necessary part of the whole devolution programme.
When asked what they felt the impact of locally decided taxes would be, members were pretty evenly split with 30% saying they felt there would be a decrease in taxes whilst 23% felt there would be an increase. When asked if they agreed to higher local taxes if they were retained for local spend on business 64% said they agreed with this. The final question asked was whether they felt that more local control would be beneficial for business - 93% said yes even though the exact details of how the devolution offer would work in practice are still, at best, sketchy.
The issue of devolution and the elected mayor will continue to run and there will be further papers and briefing notes on this issue from the Chamber in the coming months. For further information and to download our initial briefing paper click here.
As well as the devolution debate members had an update on the Chamber's skills work including a viewing of the Skills Video that can be found on our skills campaign page.
Ideas for future meetings included:
A pre election question time event followed by a similar event after the election when the shape of the government - coalition or otherwise - is decided.
There is also a need to begin to link with other Northern cities - part of the Northern Powerhouse - to make sure the activity matches the needs of the private sector and it doesn't become a public sector dominated agenda.
Finally, the issue of high speed broadband came up again with further examples of where access to adequate broadband is sadly lacking and hindering business. We will pick this issue up again.
If you have any comments or ideas on the above, or want to know more about the Assembly or the other forums for members to meet and discuss issues please get in touch.
Director of Policy & Communications