The City Deal for Greater Manchester announced by government today has been hailed as a major step in empowering the region to make decisions to maximise its economic growth.
The deal document sets out a range of bespoke agreements between the government and Greater Manchester Combined Authority based on the needs and opportunities of the region's economy.
They are geared towards accelerating growth, boosting skills and encouraging local decision-making and increased self-sufficiency.
With the only combined authority in the country, Greater Manchester is in a unique position to bring forward this ambitious package of measures.
A radical Earnback model where the government has agreed in principle that up to £1.2 billion invested up front in infrastructure improvements by Greater Manchester will be 'paid back' to the combined authority as real economic growth is seen. This is the first tax increment finance-style scheme in England outside London.
These 'earned back' funds will be reinvested in further infrastructure improvements to allow Greater Manchester to reach its economic potential. The first phase of this will include the completion of the Greater Manchester Transport Fund programme, enabling the early implementation of schemes including the South East Manchester Multi Modal Strategy (SEMMMS) and the extension of Metrolink to Trafford Park.
A major shift towards local decision-making by endorsing the Investment Framework which Greater Manchester will use to align funding and assets to prioritise economic growth in the region and cut red tape. This approach, already used in the Greater Manchester Transport Fund, prioritises projects for investment based on their economic impact. By bringing together different funding streams into one pot and increasing the ability to make local decisions on priorities, funding can be invested with much greater flexibility.
There are also plans to establish a Greater Manchester Housing Investment Board with government and the Homes and Communities Agency to use national funding, local investment and public land assets to boost housing development.
Greater Manchester has already created a business Growth Hub to support local businesses through access to advice and resources. A three-year transitional funding package will enable Greater Manchester to expand this service to deliver targeted programmes, improve access to finance and strengthen business-to-business mentoring. Greater Manchester will then use Enterprise Zone revenues from 2015 onwards to ensure the hub is on a sustainable footing.
Skills and the local economy
Greater Manchester will deliver an extra 6,000 Apprenticeships via small and medium-sized businesses and pilot new incentives for businesses to invest in training. The government has also agreed a major shift enabling Greater Manchester to link mainstream skills funding with the priorities of the local economy and the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership.
Low Carbon Demonstrator
Greater Manchester and UK Green Investments will fund a 50/50 Joint Venture which will create a strong pipeline of investable low carbon projects, potentially levering in significant extra funding for Greater Manchester projects. Greater Manchester will commit resources and expertise to a low carbon hub to enable it to be a demonstrator for central government programmes and pilots to reduce carbon emissions.
Inward Investment Beacon
Government will work with Greater Manchester to develop the city's role as a beacon for high value inward investment from China and India in a unique partnership with London. Greater Manchester will match funding from central government to work in those markets to generate new jobs in the UK.
Lord Peter Smith, chair of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, said: "These agreements on the Greater Manchester City Deal taken together will have a huge impact. Our innovative new funding model has challenged orthodox thinking and means we can press forward with much-needed investment in transport infrastructure which will play a vital role in helping our economy realise its potential.
Sir Richard Leese, vice chair of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, said: "Greater Manchester has a strong track record of working together towards the greater good and we are confident that this City Deal will be a significant step forward in realising our ambitions and the potential of the region.
"This is just the first phase. We are confident that the completion of our Community Budget pilot later this year will enable us to engage further on what we hope will be a wider reform agenda.