Hunt now on for chief executive as Boylan plans retirement from Greater Manchester Combined Authority

The search is now on for one of the most powerful jobs in local government as Eamonn Boylan is to retire as chief executive of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and Chief Executive of Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM).

He took the helm of GMCA – which includes the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) – in 2017, and in 2019 took over at TfGM and succeeding Sir Howard Bernstein as the most senior civil servant in the region when he assumed Bernstein’s role of head of paid service of the Combined Authority.

His retirement at the peak of his career is the culmination of 42 years spent in public service, which has included periods in local government in Manchester, Sheffield and London, as Deputy Chief Executive of the Homes and Communities Agency, and as Chief Executive of Stockport Metropolitan Council.

He has steered GMCA and TfGM through devolution agreements and the recent launch of the BeeNetwork. 

He has also had to deal with the horrific terrorist attack on Manchester Arena that led to big changes in Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, to the Greater Manchester response to the Covid crisis, and the firing of Ian Hopkins as the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police and the recruitment of his successor.

His leadership has seen him negotiate the Trailblazer devolution deal signed with the government earlier this year, which has unlocked more responsibilities that will allow the city-region to develop policies and programmes that work for the local context in skills, transport and housing, as well as securing a commitment to a single settlement budget.

In a warm tribute, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham noted Boylan’s role in creating the integrated London-style public transport system – the Bee Network – “This is a sad day for GMCA and TfGM and for me personally. Eamonn has been a great support to me since I first took office in May 2017, and I have always appreciated his strong counsel over the years. He has got us through some of our most challenging times and also our positive times, including overseeing the introduction of the Bee Network.

“He should be extremely proud of his legacy in our city-region and the difference his work has made to people’s lives. It is a testament to the man that he has committed his whole working life to public service, and he absolutely deserves to retire on his own terms on a high. We will miss him.”

He is to step down after the May 2024 Mayoral elections and the process to recruit a new Chief Executive will start with a report to be discussed at GMCA Resources Committee next week.

Boylan said: “The last six-and-a-half years leading the Combined Authority, and four years leading Transport for Greater Manchester, have been the most challenging but also the most enjoyable in my career, and I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to work with so many brilliant people inside these organisations and across our city-region.

“We have delivered on so many fronts. The Trailblazer deal is evidence that we remain at the forefront of the argument for devolution. The sheer determination and tenacity that everyone demonstrated across Greater Manchester during the pandemic shows how much stronger we are when we work together with one voice. We have also made significant progress in areas such as adult skills, public service reform, developing the digital ecosystem, moving on with our hugely ambitious Green agenda, and getting on with delivering Places for Everyone. I am immensely proud of what we have created together in Greater Manchester, and I hope that we continue to grow and prosper and make this city-region the best place to get on, grow up and get old.”