WIGAN Council leader Lord Smith faced questions posed by councillors from across the region as part of the interview process for GM mayor.
Along with fellow candidate Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd, Lord Smith outlined his vision for Greater Manchester at the first of four meetings.
I want to use my experience over the next couple of years to make sure we have a smooth run-in to 2017Lord Peter Smith
Council leaders from each of the region’s 10 local authorities will choose between the two next month following the sessions.
At the opening meeting, held at Manchester Town Hall earlier this week, Lord Smith pointed to his stewardship of the combined authority as proof he has the necessary characteristics to take on the role.
He said: “We got the best devolution deal from the government last year, we got that because we’ve got an organisation those in Whitehall feel they can trust.
“We’ve got all these opportunities to deliver and we’ve got to show Westminster that we can do it.”
The council leader also confirmed he would have to step down “with reluctance” from his role in Wigan if he got the mayoral job.
He added: “We want to reform public services; many of the poorest in our communities have been left high and dry and have not seen the benefits (of successful economic strategies in GM) and we want to make sure they do.
“I want to use my experience over the next couple of years to make sure we have a smooth run-in to 2017.”
Deputy leader Coun David Molyneux will cast Wigan’s vote in place of Lord Smith. The successful candidate will be announced at the combined authority’s AGM next month.
Mr Lloyd, who will continue as police and crime commissioner if he gets the interim job but not draw two salaries, said the mayoral role “has to give GM a national voice.”
He told the chamber: “We’ve got some great assets across our conurbation, we’ve got world beating institutions and I could go through a lot of positives but we also face some major challenges. A quarter of young children are living in poverty and 250,000 living with fuel poverty and many facing unemployment.
“We have got real and entrenched problems and now we have an opportunity to tackle them. The Scottish referendum changed things significantly.
“The task we need to perform, through the interim mayor, is to give a national voice. And a capacity to reform how we deliver our public services, not just more cheaply but also better. And we have to make sure our institutions are democratically responsible to the people we represent.”
Both candidates then fielded questions from GM councillors to outline their suitability for the job.
Three more similar sessions are scheduled over the next fortnight before both are interviewed on May 29.
The interim mayor will oversee the region until 2017 when an election will take place to determine the first full mayor of GM.