GREATER Manchester Police will be brought out of ‘special measures’ under the leadership of a Conservative mayor, the party’s candidate for the mayoral elections has promised.

Laura Evans wants the force to ‘get back to fighting crime’ after a damning inspection report found 80,000 crimes went unrecorded in a year.

The former Trafford councillor has accused incumbent Labour mayor Andy Burnham of keeping the situation ‘at arm's length’ and failing to offer proper scrutiny.

Similar allegations have been made by the home secretary Priti Patel, who has also given public backing for Ms Evans’ campaign which places policing as its top priority.

But what will change at GMP with a Conservative mayor undertaking police and crime commissioner duties?

“The police have not been led properly and whistleblowers have not been listened to,” says Ms Evans.

“We’ve had several damning reports highlighting real problems within our police force and I don’t know why Mr Burnham didn’t jump on that.

“On my first day I will put a task force in place that will reach out to whistleblowers to ask them what is going wrong and what can we do to put it right. I want to work closely with the inspectorate to make sure we are fully following their guidance.”

Ms Evans wants to work with the government to get more police on the streets, with GMP still reeling from the government’s austerity measures which saw 2,000 frontline officers axed.

The Tory candidate also says she will also ensure that problems with GMP’s troubled iOPs computer system are solved ‘whether we have to scrap it or correct it’.

Laura Evans, former councillor for Village ward in Trafford [image by Trafford Council]

Laura Evans, former councillor for Village ward in Trafford [image by Trafford Council]

Another main drive of Ms Evans’ election campaign surrounds the proposed Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone, which would see heavily polluting vehicles charged in a bid to improve air quality.

Ms Evans has described the plans as a ‘crippling congestion tax’ and stands by her description – despite a government minister insisting in Parliament that it was not a congestion charge. Such comments have been described by the Labour campaign as ‘coming straight out of the Trump playbook’. “I think it’s just nonsense, and name calling is the kind of thing you find in a playground,” says Ms Evans.

“It doesn’t matter what you call it, whether it’s a congestion tax or a congestion charge.

“The fact is it is a charge that will be put on businesses when we haven’t got the infrastructure for electric charging that we need to support anything like this.”

An alternative plan would include a scrappage scheme to help people switch to cleaner vehicles, new traffic measures on congested roads – and more electric charging points.

Greater Manchester and the government are still at a standstill over funding for the Clean Air Zone, with local leaders asking for £150m to help businesses buy new electric vehicles.

While Ms Evans wants to do the same, she believes she stands a greater chance of working with the government to secure the necessary funding.

Ms Evans has also come out in opposition to Greater Manchester taking its bus network back into public control and introducing a franchise system.

Transport for Greater Manchester had encouraged leaders to back the proposals instead of pursuing a partnership with bus operators, which is also the favoured option of the Conservative-controlled Bolton council.

A similar model has been introduced in the West Midlands by the Tory regional mayor for Andy Street, and the option would be revisited under a Tory mayor for Greater Manchester.

Ms Evans says: “There was no appetite to work with the bus companies at all, and I think there’s been an agenda all the way through this process.

“I’m in favour of a capped system and combined ticketing but I’m more interested in doing this through an enhanced partnership.”

Ms Evans is also critical of the consultations around bus franchising, which is the subject of separate legal challenges by operators Stagecoach and Rotala.

Applications for a judicial review of the decision-making process are with the High Court and will be heard weeks after the result of the mayoral election.

“I don’t think the consultation went fair enough, there were 12,000 responses but we’ve got 2.8 million people in Greater Manchester,” adds Ms Evans.

“The questions were also very oddly worded, complex, and long. The consultation was also done during Covid, and I think we should have waited.”

On the government’s pandemic response Ms Evans is complimentary towards their efforts ‘with the difficulties we had’ – and critical of the stand taken by Andy Burnham and other Labour leaders over the £5 million they felt was needed to support businesses in Tier 3 restrictions.

But the former councillor would not be drawn on questions around the government’s reputation had been tarnished by recent controversies regarding procurement during the pandemic and lobbying, 

Ms Evans said: “I am absolutely prepared to work with the government, and I want to make sure we don’t keep arguing with the government, which is all we’ve done in Greater Manchester.

“I want to make sure that Greater Manchester is levelled up and I want to see the investment as seen in Tees Valley

“I’m here to make sure we get those jobs, and to do everything it takes to be an ambassador for every street and area in Greater Manchester.”