Last week, the Greater Manchester Metro Mayor candidates were put to the test answering questions and debating key issues facing the VCSE sector at an event hosted by the GM Leadership Group.

The event was held on Tuesday 23rd April at Central Methodist Church in Manchester and was chaired by Ben Gilchrist. There were over 80 representatives in attendance from the VCSE sector and Metro Mayor candidates from three of the major parties:

  • Andy Burnham – Labour
  • Jake Austin – Liberal Democrats
  • Astrid Johnson (substitute for Hannah Spencer) – Green

The Chair of the GM VCSE Leadership Group, Warren Escadale, gave an introduction to the VCSE sector and, along with other Leadership Group colleagues, shared their ambitions on what they want to achieve over the next four years.

The Metro Mayor candidates were each asked to speak about their vision for Greater Manchester and how they see the VCSE sector supporting that vision.

Astrid Johnson on behalf of Hannah Spencer

Astrid Johnson, talking into microphone, sat at a table between other candidates.

Astrid Johnson, spoke on behalf of the Green Party candidate Hannah Spencer. She advised that Hannah is very passionate about all Greater Manchester residents deserving to have access to a warm home and access to food, but acknowledged that it is not a reality for a lot of people in our city region. Astrid raised her concerns on key issues such as homelessness, the climate crisis, mental health and said that the “NHS is on its knees”. She confirmed that herself and Hannah both welcome the VCSE manifesto and support all six policy areas.

Speaking of the value of the VCSE sector, Astrid said: “The VCSE sector are doing a lot of heavy lifting where government isn’t, VCSE work is now more important than ever”.

Andy Burnham

Photo of Andy Burnham sitting and talking a microphone on stage behind a table with a black tablecloth. Astrid Johnson, representing Green is in the background, out of focus. 

The current Labour Metro Mayor, Andy Burnham, spoke about how his vision remains the same as the one he set seven years ago, in that a good home, a good job, good health and life for all, with all GM residents able to grow up and grow old.

Andy is proud that Manchester is one of the most progressive places in the UK. He is keen on building solutions from the bottom up with place first, coming before party. Andy highlighted how he bought the VCSE sector into the Reform Board to help influence on big issues such as homelessness, issues where the VCSE sector can make a real difference. Andy asked for the sectors support on Thursday 2nd May.

On investment into the VCSE sector, Andy said he “Looks to further embed current principles and link the VCSE sector into the Single Settlement”.

Jake Austin

Jake Austin, standing giving a speech. His hands are counting.
The Liberal Democrats candidate, Jake Austin, began his speech by thanking and confirming his support for the VCSE sector. Jake highlighted that although the Liberal Democrats helps the VCSE sector across Greater Manchester, there is still room for improvement. He advised that his party is focussed on building investments, capacity, transport improvements and affordable housing.

On his vision for Greater Manchester, Jake said “I believe the VCSE sector will be empowered by the Liberal Democrats and I will fight for every resident in Greater Manchester”.

Answering your questions

Metro Mayor candidates participated in a Q&A session in which attendees from the VCSE sector were able to put forward questions to the candidates covering topics such as transport and young people.

At the end of the event, the Metro Mayor Candidates were each asked to provide a closing statement.

Jake Austin – “I pledge to invest in the Voluntary, Community and Enterprise sector and lift you up. I am very keen on an investment-led approach in Greater Manchester”.

Andy Burnham – “The VCSE sector serves communities in different ways which should be cherished. I will continue to lead from prioritising issues Westminster neglects”.

Astrid Johnson – “Hannah is passionate about making homes more comfortable, cleaner air, better greener public transport and making streets safer for women and girls”.

The Chair closed the meeting and invited all three Metro Mayor candidates to sign the 2024-28 Greater Manchester VCSE Manifesto, showing their commitment to working closely in partnership with the VCSE sector over the next four years.

The Greater Manchester VCSE Leadership Group expresses its gratitude to the Metro Mayor candidates for their attendance at the event and wishes them the best of luck in their campaigning.

Metro Mayor elections are taking place on Thursday 2nd May 2024. Remember to take an ID with you. You can find acceptable forms of ID here:

photo of event chair and candidates lined up post-event. Ben Gilchrist, Jake Austin, Astrid Johnson and Andy Burnham

Left to right:
Ben Gilchrist the event chair; Jake Austin, Lib Dem; Astrid Johnson, Green; Andy Burnham, Labour.