Labour conference latest: Party’s mayoral candidate says he would switch budget to affordable schemes

The front runner to become the first mayor of Greater Manchester has pledged to switch the new combined authority’s housing budget from incentivising luxury city centre developments to affordable schemes in the conurbation’s outer boroughs.

Andy Burnham (pictured), who was selected to become Labour’s candidate for the first directly elected mayoralty of the Greater Manchester combined authority last month, told the built environment reception at the party’s annual conference in Liverpool that he wanted to overhaul how its housing budget is targeted.

He told the reception the £300m per annum budget was currently focused on “high end, luxury developments” in Manchester city centre. “I want that to be refocused on the outlying towns. I want to bring social housing and affordable housing back into those town centres so that we can bring life back in.”

Burnham said that while central Manchester and Salford had seen an “enormous transformation” over the past 20 years, there was a big division with the neglected outlying towns, particularly in the north of the conurbation.

He said: “There are areas that have had that kind of regeneration and then there is a sweep of towns across the north of Great Manchester that don’t feel they have shared in that process of change.

“We have had to reassess the idea from the mid 90s that if you regenerate a city centre you will also lift up everywhere else around it. You can have a gleaming city centre and within a mile’s walk you can see some pretty serious dereliction.

“We have had the incredible progress around city centre. The next 20 years has to be about the whole of Greater Manchester.”

Burnham added that the majority vote to leave the European Union in Greater Manchester’s outlying towns had partly been fuelled by the perceived sense of neglect in those places.

He said the regeneration of these outlying town centres would involve a rethinking of their functions, including whether they needed as much retail space and more green space.

The Leigh MP also said there needed to be a fresh look at listing regulations, which he said could be a barrier to the regeneration of Greater Manchester’s rich stock of historic industrial buildings. 

He also told the reception that building the High Speed 3 rail route, which is intended to improve journey times between the north of England’s major cities, was the country’s “highest transport investment priority, higher than Crossrail 2 and even higher than High Speed 2.”

The reception was held by the RICS, RIBA and the Chartered Institute of Building.