How can we tackle inequality in Greater Manchester?

Closed 31 Jan 2021

Opened 7 Jan 2021

Feedback updated 5 May 2021

We asked

Greater Manchester Independent Inequalities Commission’s Call for Ideas asked for suggestions on how to tackle inequality in Greater Manchester. The survey also asked for comments on current inequalities, particularly those highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, given that many of these inequalities are deep-seated and often generational in origin, respondents were invited to describe these longstanding inequalities, and to suggest how local resources might be deployed to help redress them.

The survey questions explored the following areas:

  • economic inequality
  • democratic decision-making, power and voice
  • good employment and adult skills
  • education and young people
  • democratising asset ownership
  • health inequality
  • universal basic services
  • structural racism
  • the key actions needed to tackle inequality in Greater Manchester, and the key barriers to doing so

You said

In total, we received 120 people responses to the online survey.

You told us that the current UK economic model helps to embed inequality, and that Greater Manchester should adopt a fairer model that addresses spatial inequality and targets investment towards disadvantaged areas and groups. Decision making needs to be representative, collective and inclusive of all communities, with more diversity and proper, ‘bottom-up’ co-production.

You said that access to employment, and particularly to ‘good work’, is essential to prevent the impacts of the pandemic further widening existing inequalities. Recruitment practices need to enhance the diversity of workplaces so that they reflect the wider community. Greater Manchester should incentivise responsible employers, who treat their workers well regardless of background, pay fair wages and offer flexible working. The living wage was felt to be a good way to effect change, especially through public sector procurement practice; zero-hour contracts are generally low pay and poor-quality, and reform is urgently needed. In particular, young people need targeted employment support, and the ongoing challenges faced by people of colour and those with disabilities need to be addressed.

You were clear that investment in skills was needed, with inadequate digital skills identified as a key barrier to improving employment opportunities, and digital exclusion a central factor in embedding inequality across all age groups. Learning mentors, more use of library facilities and extra-curricular provision were advocated to support children and young people. More broadly, greater investment in further education and apprenticeships would bring significant benefit, as would a wider variety of vocational training, particularly if co-designed with learners. Alongside, tailored mental health support is required, particularly for young people who have struggled during the COVID-19 crisis.

In response to our question on democratic ownership and business models to reduce inequalities, you suggested empowering local communities by promoting community ownership. Business support approaches to resource co-operatives and social enterprises would enable community asset and wealth building, helped by schemes to encourage local residents and public sector procurement to ‘buy local’.

You said that equal access to quality health and care services was required to address health inequalities. Better representation in the health and care system was a common theme, including targeting employment in the sector from under-represented communities, and involving people with lived experience in service design. Many potential ‘universal basic services’ are key determinants of physical and mental health and wellbeing: you wanted all Greater Manchester residents to have a right to affordable housing, childcare, transport and digital connectivity. Most particularly, action is needed to improve quality, choice and security in the rental sector, and to address homelessness and rough sleeping.

Many of you stressed the impact of structural racism in embedding inequality for Greater Manchester’s ethnic communities. Reform is needed to ensure better representation in leadership roles, and to test policies for their impact on all residents. The intersection between race and class inequality was highlighted: many of our poorer residents are also people of colour.  Language barriers need to be addressed by ensuring that everyone can access information and services, and have their voice heard, regardless of the language they speak. Meaningful outreach and mentoring opportunities were also felt to be good ways to bring about positive change, as was more comprehensive curriculum content on racism in schools. 

You identified underfunding and austerity-linked cuts as drivers of inequality in recent years. Alongside the unequal distribution of wealth and assets across Greater Manchester, this was exacerbating polarisation between areas and residents with resources and those without. 

We did

The Independent Inequalities Commission looked at the responses and discussed them whilst were considering its recommendations. Many of the responses chimed with what people were saying directly to the Commission, which gave weight to the ideas and has meant that many were picked up in the recommendations made in the report.

Furthermore, the Commission was able to directly recount some of the survey responses in its report, as evidence of how the Call for Ideas has shaped the content. Commission members felt that it was important to show how their thinking had been influenced by the responses that local people had taken the time to submit.

The report also provides case studies and examples of the great work that is happening across Greater Manchester to tackle inequalities.

The Greater Manchester Independent Inequalities Commission would like to thank everyone who took the time to respond and helped influence its report.


The Greater Manchester Independent Inequalities Commission was set up in October 2020 to explore the causes of inequality and offer solutions to tackle these issues.

The Commission has been reviewing evidence from academic research, local equality programmes and insight from the business, public, voluntary and community sectors to recommend new policy, activity and ways of working.

Now, the Commission wants to hear from people who have an interest in making Greater Manchester more equal, particularly those with experience of intersecting inequalities based on their gender, race, class, disability, age, sexuality, migration status, or those working with marginalised groups.

The Commission is looking for practical solutions and concrete actions that can be taken to build a more equal Greater Manchester and to mitigate the unequal impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This will inform the Commission’s recommendations for action, which will be reported to the Mayor of Greater Manchester and leaders of the 10 local authorities in March 2021.

You can find out more about the Independent Inequalities Commission on the GMCA website.


  • Anyone from any background


  • Equalities