VICTORY: Council to come clean about Clean and “Green” City Fund #Manchester

Manchester City Council will finally reveal how they have been spending the  £14.5m “Clean City” Fund. The scheme was set up last year to disperse an unexpected Manchester Airports Group dividend. The Council’s Finance Scrutiny Committee has been successfully lobbied, and is ‘inviting’ Deputy Leader Bernard Priest and Executive Member for Culture and Leisure, Rosa Battle, to appear at their Thurs 25th September meeting. They will be joined on the day (10am, Town Hall), by the chief officer in charge of communications, Sara Tomkins.

During the brief discussion about “Clean City” (transcript below) at the committee’s meeting on Thursday August 28th, Councillor Shelley Lanchbury also called on the Council’s communications team to release whatever information they could as soon as possible, and said she was “slightly annoyed” that it hadn’t already been done.

NB The sound drops out of this video from about 1min 30 to 1 min 55, so that you can read the email the Councillors received.

See also: Manchester City Council proclaims itself transparent. but if you want to know how clean city money is spent you gotta use the Freedom of Information Act (July 2014)

MCFly says: This isn’t actually how democracy is supposed to work, I think. Campaigners shouldn’t have to send emails to all the councillors on a committee and then also turn up to a day-time meeting with a video camera in order for unelected officers to do what they had been instructed to do two months previously by our elected representatives. Manchester’s democracy is not in the best of shape, imho.

If you want to learn new skills, meet interesting people and – via your example – lobby for the creation of a seventh scrutiny committee about environmental matters such as climate, biodiversity, disaster preparedness etc, then check out environmentalscrutiny.info. There are lots of ways of being involved without coming to any meetings. Inevitably though, there are monthly meetings …

Mon 22nd September, 7 to 8.30, Moss Side Community Allotment, cnr Bowes and Caythorpe St

Mon 20th October, 7 to 8.30pm, Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount St

TRANSCRIPT

- may not be entirely accurate – you can compare against the video. #didmybest

Cllr Ollerhead: Just before, actually … I also want to just address something … I’ve had – we’ve all had – an email from Marc who is sitting in the back. Hello Marc, waving the camera.

Marc sent an email , it’s a [unintelligible] email. We have asked for this previously, it is in the minutes of the last [meeting. So what I am proposing is that we put this onto next month’s meeting. I’ve spoken with Councillor Priest yesterday There wasn’t time to get all the details on there

Cllr Flanagan: Chair, I got the same email. I was going to email Marc, I don’t know if he’s received it yet. But as you know, the Clean City Fund has been reviewed. It isn’t Councillor Priest who’s taking the lead on this, it’s Councillor Rosa Battle. So I think we should invite her.

Cllr Ollerhead: I’ll have to invite Rosa. But it’s the communication element of this. I think what Marc’s getting at is – forgive me Marc if I’m getting this wrong – Marc wants to see exactly how we’ve responded to that

Cllr. Flanagan: Sorry chair, if I’m not mistaken the email also goes into where the fund was up to, and what decisions had been made and as well as the communication element. So if I’m not mistaken, so you’re probably right, both Bernard and Rosa should be here.

Cllr Ollerhead: Yeah, I’ll happily invite Rosa and Bernard as well. Marc, we’ll have something on next month’s meeting for you.

Cllr Lanchbury: Sorry, I was going to raise it too… I actually chaired for that particular meeting. And I remember having a look at the minutes and making sure that they too were very robust about the fact that we wanted – I think I made some changes to begin with (?) – to make sure it was robust about what we wanted in terms of the communication. And I do think that even with having this at the next meeting, we should still say to Communications that there is a point where they could now send out a list on the money that has already been allocated, particularly the small group money. Because we know that small groups that have had money. And I think that this list could be communicated BEFORE the next meeting, and a wider proper communications afterwards. There is stuff that can go out, including the fact that there’s the review going on, and things like that. I am slightly annoyed that it wasn’t done.

Cllr Ollerhead: … okay, so we’ll add that on for next month and invite Sara (Tomkins) back for that as well. So we’ll get Rosa, Bernard and Sara (Tomkins) back for that. So, moving on to…

Posted in Democratic deficit, Green spaces, Manchester City Council | Leave a comment

Master of all they survey – #Manchester #climate questions unasked…

Don’t know if you’ve had the “satisfaction” survey from t’Council?

http://www.enventure.co.uk/Manchestersummerautumn2014/mccresidentperceptionsurveyspring2014.htm

There was even a bit on climate change. Which is progress, of a sort.

citycouncilclimatechangesurvey

But of course, even though they claim they are trying to

“engage all individuals, neighbourhoods and organisations in Manchester in a process of cultural change that embeds ‘low carbon thinking’ into the lifestyles and operations of the city.”

they did NOT ask “have you heard of the ‘Manchester A Certain Future’ document – you know, the one that has been around for 5 years, and was promoted during most of that time by experts in communication?”, or “do you think we are doing a good job on climate change.”  Gee, can’t think why they didn’t ask those questions. Can anyone suggest reasons?

Posted in Climate Change Action Plan, Low Carbon Culture, Manchester City Council | Leave a comment

What does the word “community” mean? Applying the same scepticism that MCFly uses for t’Council in #Manchester

mossgardensThe “MossGardens” people have put out a glossy flyer which you can see to your right. After months during which not much appears to have happened at the site, (the far end of the old Stagecoach bus depot), they are having an action day, on Sunday 31st August. The Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee of the City Council is visiting the site soon. In fact, on Sunday 31st August.

With luck the members of the Committee, who did a pretty good job on the climate report last Tuesday, will ask whoever turns up a few obvious questions;

  • How often have you come down in the last month? Or is this in fact your first time here?

  • What have you got out of being involved?

  • When will you next be coming down?

We shall see.

MCFly says: I (Marc Hudson) thought seriously about not writing this. I know that it will be perceived as some sort of partisan attack because I am involved in the Moss Side Community Allotment. (And to be clear EVERYTHING I have said here is my own personal view and in NO WAY claims to represent the opinion of any other people involved in MSCA.)

So why write? Well, because the word community is being steadily leached of its meaning. That sows cynicism, not flowering plants, and should be challenged.  The same scepticism that is applied to the rhetoric that Manchester City Council spews out should also be applied to “civil society”.  Or am I missing something?

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How many leaf-blowers does #Manchester Council have? #answerisblowinginthewind

Dear Councillor Battle,

this morning while walking around Alexandra Park I noticed a workman with a loud leafblower, clearing leaves away from the tennis courts’ fence. Presumably this is in preparation for the weekend’s launch events, which I look forward to as much as you.

The roar of the blower got me to thinking, as so many things do, about “what is a low carbon culture”, and is Manchester engaging “all individuals, neighbourhoods and organisations in Manchester in a process of cultural change that embeds ‘low carbon thinking’ into the lifestyles and operations of the city.”

But those are big questions.  I have some more specific ones;

a) How many leaf blowers does Manchester City Council own and operate, as of August 29th 2014?

b) How many leaf blowers did Manchester City Council own and operate as of August 29th 2013?

c) Has any audit been done on the carbon emissions impact of using leaf blowers as opposed to some people using good old-fashioned rakes?  (if there has been, I would like a copy)

I know that there is a 10% “sustainability” criterion for council contracts (and congratulations – that’s a very good thing).

d) Is there any provision in contracts issued for parks maintenance to encourage contractors not to use leaf-blowers?

I would have preferred to avoid the delay associated with going through formal processes, but since my previous attempts to get information have met with considerable silence, please consider this a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Marc Hudson
[address]

I sent this to Councillor Battle (cllr.r.battle@manchester.gov.uk) on Friday 29th August, and included informationcompliance@manchester.gov.uk

Councillor Battle has kindly replied to acknowledge receipt. Information Compliance will doubtless soon be sending me a reference number.  Watch this space in about 20 working days (i.e. end of September).

Posted in Low Carbon Culture, Manchester City Council | 6 Comments

Good news from #Manchester Town Hall. (not #climate, but Living Wage)

Manchester City Council wants to throw its weight around for the greater good – in the form of a Living Wage. Following a resolution by the Council in March to “introduce a Living Wage for all of the Council’s directly and indirectly employed staff and to promote its introduction across the city”, they’re setting up a “Task and Finish” group.

The group, which will be chaired by Councillor Luke Raikes (see video below), will meet four times before reporting back to both the Economy and Finance Scrutiny Committees. The meetings are open to the public, and will happen in September, October, November and January. The other members of the group Councillors Rebecca Moore and Andrew Simcock Sarah Russell, Mark Hackett and Nigel Murphy.

The key objectives of the group are

  • To determine how the Council as an employer and procurer of services can maximise the number of people in the city earning the Living Wage.
  • To develop an understanding of how other authorities have introduced a Living Wage and identify the best model for introducing a Living Wage in Manchester.
  • To develop a step by step plan to implement the Living Wage in all of Manchester’s schools, the Council’s contractors and sub-contractors as soon as is practicable.
  • To establish a strong social and economic case of the benefits that introducing a Living Wage will bring to the city, which links to the Council’s strategic priorities.
  • To ensure that the introduction of a Living Wage will continue to be meaningful in the long term and resilient to changes in national policy and legislation.

You can find out more here:


MCFly explains

Task and Finish groups are sub-groups of councillors (usually from one or two of the six scrutiny committees, but other keen councillors can be a part of ‘em). They tend to form to discuss a specific problem that is too unwieldy for any single committee, and which needs further investigation.

A cynic might say that councillors put themselves forward so they have something to put on their next election leaflet, to Show That They Care. But actually, there aren’t that many Alan B’stard councillors – most are doing it because they want to make a difference or because they want to get ahead. And they tend to actually be interested/care about the issue (I know, call me naïve).

The T and F groups tend to have three “investigatory” meetings where witnesses are called, discussions held. These witnesses won’t just be Town Hall officers, but the great unwashed from the wider world too. There’s a final meeting to stitch things together, and then the Task and Finish group reports back to the committee(s) it came from.

Recommendations are heard, usually accepted and then, theoretically can become enacted. Officers prepare an “action” “plan.” Occasionally – as is happening currently with the Environmental Sustainability Subgroup that came from a suggestion by a former member of the Economy Scrutiny Committee in mid-2013 – the members ask for the economyscrutinyjune2014implementation plan to have more detail. (“Following endorsement of the final report of the Environmental Sustainability Subgroup its March 2014 meeting, the Committee asked for a report proposing how the recommendations would be measured. This was submitted to the June meeting of the Committee, which asked for a further more detailed version to be provided. ”)

Being the Chair of a Task and Finish is a good way to show the rest of the Labour group whether you have the makings of a potential “Doer” (can you run good meetings, ask the right questions, get on with officers of all qualities etc etc).  Kate Chappell chaired the above-mentioned Environmental Sustainability Sub-group, but had to relinquish the role for the final meeting because… she had catapulted to the role of Executive Member for the Environment.

Marc Hudson
mcmonthly@gmail.com

Posted in Manchester City Council | Leave a comment

Sponsor pollution monitoring in Trafford

from the Breathe Clean Air Group.

WE NEED YOUR HELP

As you already know, the Breathe Clean Air Group is undertaking a programme of AIR POLLUTION MONITORING in Davyhulme and Urmston. The purpose is to see how bad air pollution is already and to establish a base line, if/when the Davyhulme Incinerator becomes operational.
Currently, we are focussing on the detection of nitrogen dioxide near the M60 motorway, using diffusion tubes. The tubes are sent to an accredited Laboratory for analysis. So far we have been shocked to find that in most cases, the results have been ABOVE the European safety limit.
Now, BCAG is proposing to extend this monitoring to cover as many areas as we can.
In order to fund this vital work, we are giving the opportunity to individuals and local businesses to sponsor part of the air pollution monitoring programme. We are looking for donations to our air testing scheme. All sponsor’s names will be included in a roll of honour (if they wish) on our website.

Here’s the different ways that you can contribute:

  • Send a cheque payable to “The Breathe Clean Air Group” to 16 Blinco Road, Urmston, Manchester, M41 9NF.
  • Email us at info@breathecleanairgroup.co.uk asking for our bank details and we will send them to you to transfer money directly to our account.
We look forward to your generous support in order to protect the air we breathe.
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Environmental Dashboards + #Manchester Strategy = I heart Richard Leese

You can now film Council meetings (1). At Finance Scrutiny (one of the 6 committees that attempts to hold the bosses’ feet to the fire) the Leader of the Council, Richard Leese, spoke briefly about the Manchester Strategy 2015-2024. This will replace the existing “community strategy”, and will be consulted on next year.
He makes mention (starting at about 1 min 40) of three “dashboards” which monitor how things are going on the economy, social policy and the environment.These are updated monthly.

I distinctly remember being told a year or so ago that a monthly environmental dashboard would be difficult/impossible and only a long-term possibility. It’s all very intriguing.

So, I’ve just written to a the Head of Policy, Partnerships and Research and to the Environmental Strategy Manager to find out more.

Dear Mr Sadler and Ms Bowles,

yesterday I attended Finance Scrutiny Committee. During the discussion of the Manchester Strategy, the Council Leader, Richard Leese, mentioned that there are three dashboards that are maintained, and that these are “an economic one, a social policy one and an environmental one” that are “updated on a monthly basis” and that these are “real-time” dashboards.

Where on the Manchester City Council website can I find the Environmental Dashboards for the months of May, June and July 2014?

I note that the Economy Scrutiny Committee receives Real Time Economy Dashboard in its Overview Reports.

I also wonder if the members of the Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee already receive the equivalent? From the discussions on Tuesday 26th and looking at the Overview Report for that committee, it seemed they do not.

Many thanks in advance for your reply

Marc Hudson

Watch this space!

Marc Hudson
mcmonthly@gmail.com

(1) This is, potentially, a game changer, imho. Or part of changing the game, at least.

Posted in Manchester City Council | Leave a comment