Mayor is quizzed over ‘fail­ing’ rail­way ser­vices

Middleton Guardian - - YOUR VIEWS - CHAR­LOTTE GREEN

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 cre- ated 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, left, and M.E.N. editor-in-chief Dar­ren Th­waites at the ques­tion and an­swer session

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