#Manchester City Council, #LevyBeeNetwork and #climate action- what we learn, aka “Three ways to hell”

Three ways to hell: What do we learn about Manchester City Council?

There seem to be three possibilities for civil society organisations trying to get Manchester City Council to play a useful role in making this city greener or fairer  in any meaningful sense.

Firstly , if they don’t like you or the ideas you are bringing forward (no matter how implementable and useful those ideas are) they will flat out ignore you.  So, Climate Emergency Manchester (full disclosure – I am member of its core group) produced a report With Love and Rockets: What can we do, in Manchester, about the Climate Emergency before Christmas? By April 2020?” late last year. It was full of implementable ideas we and other individuals and groups came up with.

We sent it to the Council.


Two weeks later a letter was published in the MEN – even that didn’t get CEM an acknowledgement of its labour and ideas.

cem men letter 2019 11 02

If you are “adopted” by the Council, there seem to be two possibilities

Firstly, Manchester City Council will draw you into what looks like their ‘decision making’ processes- they  use you as a long-term fig leaf. The price of staying “inside” is twofold. First you have to defend their indefensible inaction. This will strip you of your morale, and – more importantly – your credibility with broader civil society.  Secondly (and this is never explicitly stated), you must not activate your organisations supporters to apply pressure. The role that your organisation could and should have fulfilled- co-ordinating, galvanising, leading – will not be done

This – whether they want to admit it or not (and they don’t, of course) – is the experience of Manchester Friends of the Earth on climate change.  Sure, there is the work on divestment, or fracking, but on the bread and butter issue of what is actually being done on climate change locally, in each of the ten local authority areas (as opposed to what is promised, or what credit is being taken for external factors that have lowered local emissions – austerity and the move from coal at a national level)- a deadly and deadening silence.

Secondly, they will use you as a temporary (though they don’t tell you this in advance) fig leaf, dropping you when the initiative you have poured your heart, soul and countless hours into  becomes even potentially inconvenient. That is, they will let you do a whole lot of very hard work, use you relentlessly for publicity purposes, and as soon as there is even the slightest pushback, the slightest difficulty, they will drop you while claiming they haven’t.

This, I think (as an outside observer), has been the experience of the Levy Bee Network

All this betrays a total lack of ompetence and courage  – and now the credibility – to be part of progressive society moves for a better world.  Who in their right minds is going to want to work with the Council now?  There must, surely, be councillors who are aghast at this latest cock-up. While they will not speak publicly, hopefully they are making their views very forcefully known behind the  scenes.  Fun fact – the Manchester Labour Party will at some point be having its AGM (maybe November now?) and various Executive Member roles are up for grabs.

And this, remember, is a Council made up of 93 nominally “Labour” politicians, a party that once – a very long time ago – was about changing things for the better.

Finally, this  occasionally I get criticised – or hear second hand of criticism – for failing to “work with the Council.”  Well, number one I tried (see 2008-2012, and even as late as 2014). But there is a big number two in all this – why would ANYONE want to with an machine that has three settings, that leaves you unused, useless or else used-up-and-spat-out?

What is to be done?

In the short term, those outraged by the Levy Bee Network cowardice should write to all the members of the Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee, calling for it to be raised as urgent business at the next NESC meeting on Weds 22nd July.  You can find a list of the councillors, their emails and Twitter accounts here.

Longer-term – we as activists, campaigners, citizens need better skills and knowledge, better networks to collaborate and co-ordinate.  The “Active Citizenship Toolkit” project for CEM (I am lead on it) is one way to do that.  Groups that actually want to be better at what they do could have a long hard look at that and push past any excuses they have, and get in touch to be ‘crash test dummies’ for it.

Posted in Manchester City Council | 2 Comments

Interview with Rosemary Randall, psychoanalyst and author of brilliant #climate novel “Transgression”

A superb novel about climate activism (and much more) was released earlier this year. It is by Rosemary Randall, a retired psychoanalyst who has written a great deal (of extremely useful) work on the psychodynamics of meetings, and on climate change. You can read a 2013 interview I conducted with her for Manchester Climate Monthly.
A review of Transgression (ordering details at the foot of this interview) will appear soon (I would gush too much about it, so I have asked Dr Sarah Irving to read and review it).

1. “Transgression” is your first novel – can you say a bit about how it came about, what you hope readers will take away?

The genesis of the novel was strange. The plot and characters appeared, pretty much fully formed, in my mind when I came round from a major operation three years ago. It was as if the anaesthetic or perhaps the morphine had released something from thetransgression cover unconscious. More generally however, the novel deals with political events and experiences that had a big impact on me personally. Although these events – the political agitation in the run-up to Copenhagen and the devastating failure of the negotiations – are only ten years ago I’ve been struck by how much of that period has been forgotten in the grim grind of austerity. Most of the people I meet in XR for example are completely unaware of their predecessors, of the size of the climate movement of that time and of its successes (the near-closure of the UK coal industry, the rejection of a third runway at Heathrow for example) as well as the failures. The (in my view misguided) idea of some in XR that everything that went before was useless probably has something to do with this. But many of those involved at that time were angry, clever, inventive and innovative and many of the techniques used by XR were honed and developed by those who were involved in the earlier period. It was also a time when the whole movement was much broader and more connected I think, with more overlap between people engaged in different aspects or approaches. My aim in writing the novel was primarily to tell a story however and I hope that what readers will take away is the satisfaction that comes when you read a novel that speaks to you in some way.

2.  It’s obvious where you got the knowledge for the psychoanalysis scenes, but the activist scenes read pretty well too – for instance you’re particularly strong on the emotions around big actions and meetings, both “positive” and negative” –   how did you do the research for them?

Over the years I’ve talked a lot with my son and his partner and some of their friends about their involvement in the kind of climate activism that features in the novel, so that was the primary source, along with my own involvement with more community based action where there was a lot of overlap between people taking part in direct action and people doing more conventional stuff. Something which provided additional background was a piece of research I did which explored the quite different emotional experiences of climate activists and climate scientists. The characters however are the products of my imagination. When you write fiction you become a thief – you steal stuff from everyone you know – an incident that your transform, a personality trait that finds its way into a character for instance – but most of this happens unconsciously. Once a character has formed in your mind, that character writes themselves. The actual incidents – climate camp, the ambush of the train, the occupation of the open-cast mine for example – are a mash-up of events that actually happened but transposed in place and time. If you were there you will probably identify what I’ve drawn on and be either pleased or irritated at what I’ve done with it.

3.  There are some characters (no spoilers) who are particularly caught up in their own views of the world, who don’t seem to be able see things from anyone else’s point of view, and thus do quite a lot of damage to those they purport to love and serve.   They are also the most prominent (but by no means only!) male characters – was that a conscious (!) decision?

Thomas (the transgressive psychotherapist) is perhaps an amalgam of all the bad men I’ve ever known, all the male arrogance, all the sense of entitlement, all the blindness to reality. I did want him to seem real however and I hope that the reader gets glimpses of another side to him. Similarly with Jake, I wanted the reader to see how powerful self-deception and self-duplicity can be as well as how destructive. I hoped that some of the other male characters – Felix for instance with his wounded sensitivity, or Stefan with his skilled good sense – would provide another side to the portrayal of masculinity.

4.  We’re ten years on now from the events in the book – either side of the Copenhagen conference and the revelation that the UK environment movement was riddled with police spies.  Any plans to revisit the same characters, or to write another novel in light of the deteriorating situation?

A number of people have asked me what happens to the characters in the novel and how I would write a sequel but at present I don’t have any plans to follow them up. I suspect that their later lives might be much less interesting than the events of ‘Transgression’. Felix and Clara in particular are at a turning point in life, they have all the hope of youth and face all the disappointment of a bitter political reality. I’m not sure I could write the sequel to that at present.

The current deteriorating climate situation is of course so inflected by the Covid-19 crisis that it feels much too early to be able to put anything intelligent into words of any kind, let alone fiction – but who knows. At the moment I’m working on another novel which is set during the cold war and maybe by the time I’ve discovered whether that one will work and whether I can finish it I will find it in myself to write more fiction about the climate crisis.

5. Anything else you’d like to say?

There’s been a lot of fiction written about the kind of future we might face as a result of climate change, most of it understandably dystopian and I’ve often wished that there was more fiction about what this issue feels like now, what it feels like to live it. Although ‘Transgression’ is set a little bit in the past my hope is that it gives imaginative space to what it feels like to be involved politically in this most desperate of issues. So much of what people talk to me about at present is the same as what people felt ten and fifteen years ago – the anger, the distress, the anxiety, the sense of your world being reshaped, the need to throw over your existing life and commit yourself, the fear that we will not succeed in stopping this. There was perhaps a little more hope then but the devastation that came with Copenhagen and the imposition of austerity was immense, greater than anything I’ve seen since. So perhaps my hope is that as well as creating a good story I’ve given space for some of the feelings and experiences of the climate movement to be validated imaginatively.


'Transgression' is now available, £2.50 Kindle, £6.99 paperback.
Also available direct via www.rorandall.org
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Job Alert: #Climate Lead Greater #Manchester, Groundwork £28k, closes 9am 6 April

from here

Climate Action Lead

Groundwork is a federation of charities mobilising practical community action on poverty and the environment across the UK. In Greater Manchester, our vision is of a greener, more resilient City Region with stronger, healthier communities, responsible businesses and enhanced prospects for all local people. We work across Greater Manchester and surroundings districts helping communities find practical solutions to the challenges they face. We provide training and create jobs, reduce energy and waste, reconnect people with nature, build bridges within communities and transform whole neighbourhoods.

Over recent years, we have delivered environmental youth leadership and social action programmes, community-led climate and nature programmes and worked with businesses to reduce their carbon impact and be more efficient and resilient. We believe that the time is right to take our work to the next level so have created a new post of Climate Action Lead. The successful candidate will be passionate about the environment, sustainability and inspiring people to be part of the solution to climate change.

This post is part funded by Young Manchester.

Main purpose of the post:
  • To champion climate change activism internally across the Trust and externally in networks and partnerships, sharing learning and drawing on international best practice.
  • To be responsible for the successful delivery and reporting of Groundwork GM’s outcomes as part of the Young Manchester’s strategic leadership and sector co-ordination programme.
  • To further position Groundwork GM as the trusted provider of community and youth activism in responding to climate change, including carbon reduction and the importance of green and blue infrastructure in mitigating the impact.


To apply

Please submit a CV and covering letter, outlining what motivates you to apply for this job and the key skills and experience you bring, to greatermanchester@groundwork.org.uk by 9am Monday 6th April 2020.

We also request that you complete our Equal Opportunities Form however please note that completion of this form is voluntary.  Any information collected is used only for the purposes of monitoring the implementation of our Equality and Diversity policy and procedures during recruitment and selection.  The information is not used in any way to inform the shortlisting process. Data is held securely and is not provided to any member of the selection panel.

For further information about the post please contact Michaela Howell, Head of Communities: 0161 220 1000 or  michaela.howell@groundwork.org.uk

Posted in International, Job Alert | 2 Comments

#Manchester Council to spend £196k on #climate boss – except nobody has been appointed

Manchester City Council has earmarked 196 thousand bounds for a new boss for its Climate Change “Agency.”  Sounds great, eh?  There’s just one small problem. Well, two.  Okay, three.

  • First – despite a national advertising campaign last year (they refuse to say how much they spent – they have failed to appoint anyone
  • Second – as of late December, they had not approached any partners for matching funding for the post.
  • Third – this would be a general with an army of  (checks notes) … three…(Manchester City Council seconds two staff to the “Agency”)

In the budget papers to be discussed at Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee (1) next Monday at 10am we learn this(page 33 of this document)

mcca spend

Well, that’s kind of funny, because last Friday, after some time-wasting delays, a representative of Manchester Climate Change “Agency” (2) grudgingly conceded that

“As you’ve pointed out, we haven’t announced on our website the appointment of a new chair for the Partnership. So, no, we haven’t appointed a new chair. When this changes we’ll announce it on the website and via Twitter”

(This followed a FOIA to Manchester City Council – the answer was “talk to MCCA”)

A FOIA in late 2019 revealed that the council had approached NO partner organisations for funding for the post.

This is how this Council is operating, in its so-called “emergency” – throwing around big numbers meant to impress, but not actually DOING any of hte work.

There are a series of questions that need answers

  • how much money was spent advertising the role?
  • how many people were shortlisted?
  • how many were interviewed?
  • what were the criteria for the post?
  • was any body offered the job?
  • if they declined, what reason did they give?

and, crucially,

  • since this was surely known about by the MCCA BEFORE the contentious 4th February NESC meeting, why did they not volunteer the information? Why did it have to be winkled out by a citizen. And why is the nonsense claim still in the budget papers?

It will be interesting to see if any of these questions is ever answered.



(1) Manchester City Council has six scrutiny committees. Resources and Governance deals with the Council’s internal processes.  There is an urgent need for a seventh committee, dedicated to climate and environment. If you live, work or study within Manchester City Council’s boundaries, you can sign this petition.

(2) It’s not an “Agency”. It’s a community interest company entirely funded by Manchester City Council. And immune to Freedom of Information Act requests. The City Council has spent over 400k on it, and not had any independent value-for-money assessment done.



Posted in Manchester City Council | Leave a comment

Epic incompetence from #Manchester Climate Change “Agency”, with bonus historical fudging

Manchester Climate Change “Agency” is a community interest company established by Manchester City Council.  Manchester City Council has spent over $400k on this organisation It has produced some glossy booklets.  There has been no independent assessment of it.

When it suits their purposes, the Council says that if you’ve got questions about how the “Agency” is spending money, you need to talk to the “Agency”. You can TRY talking to the Agency, but they will give you the run around. They cannot be FOIAed (1)

The Agency has failed,  since November 2018 to produce anything approaching an actual plan for the zero carbon adventure we are all supposed to be going on. Because reasons…

But now, on the City Council’s website there is finally a page, a mere 7 months after the declaration of a climate emergency, that talks about that climate emergency. It is written by the “independent” Climate Change “Agency.”

And it says

epica useless 1

and when you click on that link

mcca epical uselessness

Yeah. You can’t even arrange a page on your website.  No wonder the City achieved a 2.5 per cent reduction last year, instead of the 13 per cent target.  Bravo!

UPDATE: The 15 actions can be found elsewhere and will be discussed in due course.


That historical revisionism?

Earlier in the piece they claim

“But we haven’t suddenly woken up to this issue: in 2009, we played an integral role when residents, businesses and other organisations came together to produce the first ever climate change strategy for the city; Manchester: A Certain Future.”

Nope.  The sequence was this:

Manchester City Council promised, in early 2008, a consulted-upon climate strategy by the end of 2008.
They broke that promise and instead hired a London -based consultancy to write “A Call to Action”, released in January 2009
It was so utterly rubbish and offensive that activists (including myself) wrote “The Call to Real Action”, released in April 2009.

A Climate Change Action Plan was agreed in November 2009. A stakeholder steering group was set up. It was to have annual elections and host an annual day-long stakeholder conference so climate change could move beyond the Hulme-Chorlton-Didsbury triangle, and so ALL communities could be engaged and involved, learning from each other, sharing experiences and solutions..
Elections were never held. One day-long stakeholder conference was held in 2010. Two half day atrocities were held in 2012 and 2013. The conference was then unilaterally abolished by the second chair of the “steering” group.

The Manchester Climate Change Agency came along in 2015, after Councillors realised that they were going to need a better stab vest, more opaque and impressive-sounding.

The attempt to rewrite history is feeble, needy and frankly embarasinng.



(1) A cynic might say that the very reason the “Agency” was established was to be a more effective stab vest for the Council, one that was totally opaque.

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Adani, Siemens and Manchester City Council – half a million reasons why….

Let’s keep this short.

Meanwhile, Manchester City Council and University of Manchester have an ongoing relationship with Siemens under the MSG programme (1).

siemens manchester

But the City Council volunteered the info  that “There is no contractual relationship between Manchester City Council and Siemens as part of the Triangulum project”.


And a Freedom of Information Act can reveal (drumroll please)

a) Manchester City Council has spent almost half a million ($460k) over the last three years for some CCTV with automatic number plate recognition (2)

TC730 Demountable CCTV with ANPR Capability.  £460,345.00 for 3 years.

For all the talk of social value and ethical procurement in the Council, in response to the question –

Has Manchester City Council held any internal discussions about

a) its ongoing relationship with Siemens (if it has one) in light of Siemens’ decision about Adani – if so, please provide minutes/copies of correspondence

b) creating and maintaining a list of companies with which it will not do business on the grounds of those companies environmental record. (If such a list/policy already exists, please supply, but I think it does not).

we are told

Capital Programmes don’t have a relationship with Siemens and would not hold a list of companies we won’t do business with.

Procurement have not been involved in any discussion regarding item (a) or (b).

Oddly, there seems to be some info we’re not being given-

Reports and minutes of a meeting, and those reports and minutes will be exempt from FOIA disclosure under Section 21 of the Act.

Now, this is interesting.  Because it means that there is, somewhere, a publicly accessible, set of minutes. and report. Weaponising  section 21 of the FOIA, the Council doesn’t even have to give us a clue as to where that might be.

It is therefore reasonable for a public authority to inform the applicant that it holds the information in order to give them the opportunity to access it by another route.

In plain English, they rather than just saying “yeah, go and look at Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee meeting for April 31 2018, you’ll find what you need,” instead they are in effect saying “good luck looking for that particular needle in our Giant Haystacks, sucker.”

I love the smell of democracy in the morning.

Meanwhile, the planet burns.  And Climate Emergency Manchester has a petition.  And they know how ridiculous that seems, but, what are you gonna do?



(1) Mutually Supportive Greenwash. If the corporates can have their TLAs (3), so can the great unwashed.

(2) The panspectral state is not gonna go full Orwell on its own, ya know.

(3) TLA- Three Letter Acronym

Posted in Extinction Rebellion | Tagged | 1 Comment

Job Alert: Environmental Sustainability Manager for #Manchester International Festival

All details here.

Manchester International Festival (MIF) is the world’s first festival of original, new work and special events, staged every two years. From 2021, as well as producing a biennial festival, we will also run The Factory, a new state of the art building and producing organisation in the heart of Manchester.

This is a new role within the organisation to help us drive forward our ambitions around becoming a world-leader in sustainable environmental management, ensuring our sustainable aims sit at the heart of everything we do.  We are committed to supporting an ambitious step-change around sustainability within our own productions and practices as well as within the wider cultural sector, acting as ambassadors for change.

This role will lead on development and delivery of a holistic strategy that embeds best practice in environmental sustainability as a core principle for MIF/The Factory.

Environmental Sustainability Manager – Recruitment Pack 2020

Closing date 28 February 2020

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Upcoming Event: “The Big Fix” Sat Feb 15th #Manchester



Embargoed until 2nd January 2020

Manchester groups collaborate for Britain’s Biggest Repair Cafe!

Don’t ditch that broken hi-fi – get help fixing it for FREE at Manchester’s biggest ever repair event, the BIG FIX 2020.

Repair Cafes are free events open to the whole community, where you can get free help fixing a variety of broken household items including bikes, computers, clothing and electricals. Run by skilled volunteers, the aim of the events is to reduce waste but also to pass on important skills and provide a space for people to get to know their neighbours. There are tools and advice on hand, as well as hot drinks (and often cake!). The Repair Cafe movement began in the Netherlands in 2009 and there are now 2,000 Repair Cafes worldwide, nearly 100 across the UK and five in Greater Manchester – with more on the way!

The BIG FIX 2020 aims to be Britain’s biggest Repair Cafe. On Saturday 15th February, hundreds of volunteers at Repair Cafes across the country are participating in a nationwide day of repair events. The BIG FIX 2020 is coordinated by Recycle Devon and Devon County Council in partnership with all participating Repair Cafes.

In Manchester, Chorlton Repair Cafe are collaborating with Boothstown and Levenshulme Repair Cafes from Greater Manchester to break the region’s record for most items fixed in one day. The event will be held on Saturday 15th February 10am-12pm at Wilbraham St Ninian’s Church, Egerton Rd South, Chorlton, Manchester M21 0XJ.  It is open to anyone and completely free to attend, though donations to cover costs are always welcome.

Bryony Moore from Chorlton Repair Cafe says: “If you’ve never been to a Repair Cafe before, this is a great opportunity to find out what it’s all about. At our events around 70% of items get fixed on the day. We want to challenge our throw-away culture by offering an alternative that is free and accessible but also loads of fun.”

Alfred Chow, a repair expert who has been volunteering his skills at Repair Cafes across Greater Manchester since 2016, says: “People enjoy learning as much as I enjoy sharing my skills. It’s great to see people gaining the confidence to see broken things as repairable in the first instance and to realise that many items are not as scary or difficult to repair as they might have thought. I believe that this confidence and knowledge helps people to consider what they buy in the future, and their role in helping to reduce the waste created by short life consumer goods.”

You can find more details about Manchester’s BIG FIX event on Facebook or on the Stitched Up website, and via the hashtag #TheBigFix2020 on social media. For any further queries contact Stitched Up on 0161 881 7141 or hello@stitchedup.coop.

Posted in Upcoming Events | Leave a comment

Siemens action in #Manchester – account and video by @XR_MCR activist Claire Stocks




3 DATES TO SAVE – (fuller details to follow)
Thurs Jan 23rd, 2pm – Climate Subgroup Weds
Feb 5th, 2pm City Climate “plan” scrutinised
Thurs Feb 13th, 2pm Airport car park decided #Manchester City Council and the #climateemergency – deeds or more words….?


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Upcoming: Whalley Range #Climate Action group Saturday 18 January. #Manchester

The Whalley Range Climate Action group works to support local people and organisations to take individual and/or collective action in Whalley Range on the climate emergency and to campaign for the Government and the council to act urgently.

Everyone is welcome at our monthly meetings, informal get togethers where everyone has the opportunity to share information, discuss issues and ideas and plan new activities.

We also have action groups working outside the meetings on healthy streets and clean air, trees
, climate stalls at local events, film nights, local traders
, and a climate justice project supporting reforestation in Zambia. You can join an action group or start a new one.

We will meet on the third Saturday of every month in 2020 – 11 – 1 followed by a bring and share veggie/vegan lunch at JNR8 Youth and Community Centre, 82 Cromwell Avenue, Whalley Range, M16 0BG.

The first two meetings are on January 18 and February 15. All welcome.

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