Mayor is quizzed over ‘failing’ railway services
GREATER Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham was quizzed on issues ranging from ‘failing’ rail services, affordable housing and rough sleeping at a packed ‘Question Time’ event.
Members of the public put tough questions to the region’s most powerful political figure during the live Q&A session chaired by Manchester Evening News editor-in-chief Darren Thwaites.
Deputy mayor Baroness Beverley Hughes, Chief Constable Ian Hopkins, Bob Morris from Transport for Greater Manchester, Oldham council leader Sean Fielding and Assistant Chief Fire Officer Leon Parkes, also attended.
Brexit; the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework and the quality of schooling and early education were also hot topics at the #AskAndyGM event.
Mr Burnham said he would continue to campaign for the reinstatement and improvement of train services, especially to ‘crucial’ areas such as Mossley and Greenfield, which been badly affected by timetable changes and staff shortages.
“It’s been a terrible fiasco and as ever it’s the travelling public who have paid the price,” he added.
Reiterating his mayoral promise to eliminate rough sleeping by 2020, Mr Burnham said there had been a ‘significant escalation’ in the response to the crisis, boosted by Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany’s pledge of support.
The plan is to provide emergency beds every night, not just when temperatures drop2 below zero.
Mr Burnham said the current situation has created a ‘revolving door’ for people moving in and out of accommodation.
He said he was ‘more confident than ever’ the 2020 goal could be achieved.
Speaking about the emergency bed plan, Mr Burnham said: “We think it provides the first stable platform for people to get into a place where they can begin to stop worrying about where they’re going to be staying and focus on themselves.
“Just imagine what that message it sends out about Greater Manchester if we do achieve it, that we’ve ended rough sleeping here.
“It says a great thing about the people - that we’ve rallied round and ended this terrible crisis that we’re seeing unfolding before us on our streets.”
Turning his focus to Oldhamers in the audience, Mr Burnham said the borough’s main issues were a lack of youth aspiration; crime and anti-social behaviour; and the challenge of town centre regeneration.
He referenced a recent survey conducted in Oldham and Rochdale, which asked year 10 pupils whether they had hope for the future.
Around 40 per cent of those who responded said they did not.
“When I was growing up in the 1980s, it was tough, but people would have had hope,” Mr Burnham added.
“I think there are lot of young people who are just left behind by the school system. It doesn’t connect with them.”
The mayor said the issue was one of the reasons he was so passionate about delivering free bus passes for 16 to 18-year-olds - and to introduce a UCAS-style system for apprenticeships.
●●Andy Burnham and M.E.N. editor-in-chief Darren Thwaites at the question and answer session