The Council and its collaborative working: A steaming ‘eap of you-know-what

MCFly co-editor Marc Hudson looks at a recent (broken) promise by Manchester City Council to improve the way it works on environmental issues.

Manchester City Council is forever banging on about collaboration and working “in partnership.”  They talk a very good game indeed. But in March this year they promised to act on a suggestion for improvements “before Easter”.  Since then, nothing…

In 2009 it set up (after a nudge from the current author), the “Environmental Advisory Panel,” (EAP) made up of concerned citizens.  The group was supposed to meet regularly and provide the council with the perspective of a “critical friend.” It was to be a sounding board for ideas and also supposed to provide oversight of an internal Council group “The Environmental Strategy Programme Board.”

The EAP did a little bit of good work, especially in its first year, when the Climate Change Action Plan was being written. Since 2010 though, meetings (always called by the Council) have been less frequent and ever more sparsely attended. It was in need of a re-boot, as even the Leader of the Council, Sir Richard Leese admitted in an interview with MCFly;

“I’m not a great fan of navel-gazing, but it is probably about time that the Environmental Advisory Panel – and partners, ought to do a little bit of navel-gazing around ‘right, what’s the agenda for the next few years?’ Not spend too long on that… It’s very easy for institutional arrangements to get fixed without being quite clear what they exist for and I think any organisation needs to revisit what it’s doing on a relatively regular basis. The EAP hasn’t done that since it came into being, and it’s probably about due for looking at its relationship with the certain future Steering Group and other parts of what’s going on, and even looking at ‘do we have the right people sitting around the table anymore?’”

Often EAP meetings were called and/or cancelled at very short notice. For example, the last one was announced on 15th March 2012, to take place on the 21st March.
On March 18th I sent an email [you can read it here] to the Executive Member for the Environment, Cllr Nigel Murphy, with a series of proposals about how the EAP could be refreshed, including the idea that past and present members of the EAP were be asked how the Panel could become more useful to everyone.  I received an acknowledgement of receipt the following day.

On the 20th of March the following email was sent to all members of the EAP(emphasis added).

Dear all,

Thank you to those who let us know, but it is clear that a large majority of people are unavailable tomorrow night, so we have decided not to go ahead with Wednesday’s meeting. There has been some informal discussion about the future role of EAP and, following discussions between Councillor Nigel Murphy and Marc Hudson, we propose to conduct a survey/questionnaire of EAP members ahead of a discussion at the next meeting – likely to be held in early May. We will be working with Marc on the content of the survey/ questionnaire and intend to get that out to you before Easter.

Best wishes,

Since then…. nothing.   No contact from the relevant officers. No ‘holding email’ to everyone else about any reason for delay.  On April 17th MCFly was told informally that the delay was because of the “purdah” period around local elections, although the elections had been known about before the promise above had been made. The elections were indeed held on Thursday 3rd May, over three weeks ago.  Since then… nothing.

It’s almost as if the council bureaucracy would be happier if they didn’t have to work with people from outside their charmed circle.

What they could do to show they are serious (over and above the suggestions in the original email)
a) Don’t announce that you “intend” to do something and then fail to contact anyone when that intention is not turned into action. The impression it gives is that you just aren’t bothered about people’s assessment of your credibility.

b) Make sure that there is more than one person around the table who is willing to speak out without fear of reprisal. When I attend EAP meetings I look around the room to see if there is anyone else whose organisation is not dependent on either the finances or the good-will (or both) of the City Council.  I don’t see those people.  If the Council wants any amount of robust truth-speaking, then they need an Awkward Squad, not an awkward individual. I have a list.

c) Publish the minutes of the meeting for all to see.


About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
This entry was posted in Democratic deficit, Manchester City Council and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Council and its collaborative working: A steaming ‘eap of you-know-what

  1. Dave Bishop says:

    I’m afraid that the Council consistently gives the impression that it just isn’t bothered about voters’ and council tax payers’ assessments of its credibility. I wonder if it gives a different impression to ‘business leaders’? Just asking!

  2. Just like the Manchester Metropolitan University, who worked very closely with members of Manchester City Council which both claimed they had engaged with the local residents of Hulme about the proposed Birley Fields Campus. We know they had made the decision before any resident was informed of the plans. Basically the plans were in place, their questionnaires (referred to as consultation) was done purely to ‘rubber-stamp’ a decision already taken. The Manchester City Council has no intention of being accountable to the local residents, they have their ‘cunning plan’ and we all know how that turned out for Boldrick.

  3. Russell Watsons larynx says:

    The Council like to “give impressions” that they are listening, consulting, visionaries, doing great things, when in fact if it suits them to do something they will, otherwise they wont, they have become so arrogant that their visions for how they want to run this city (totalitarian) seem to be materialising, but fear not, people from much higher up are onto them, so they neednt be so smug when the city is falling apart around their very ears (for so many), it just further highlights their ineptitude at running the show (a big Labour trait judging from the national mess we have been left with), so now is not the time for smug complacency from Herr Leese or Herr Bernstein either, time they started listening properly to us people, especially now they need us more than ever actually, not that they’d ever admit it. They think they can slowly turn everyone in this city into a “red” or Labour party member even! and is absolutely deluded (well we know they are both slightly crackers too) if they think this is the way forward, zero opposition?? Im surprised they dont dye the water red! The Worrying thing (for them) is that they can find out who you vote for and who your allegiances are with and will slowly erode your funding if you go against the grain and/or discredit your community group/party etc, threaten you in front of others (lovely folk i know!) so environmental concerns are a box tick nothing more and nothing less, bin collections they can’t even get that right and that is leading to a vermin infested litter strewn city that none of us are proud to be in at present. Manchester Metropolitan Uni et al will have been buttered up and made aware that it’d be in their favour if they got more involved with town hall politics, just like any other, then slowly brainwashed. All Labour is in this city is exactly that, a brainwashing cult. All groups need to just carry on carrying on, they need good people doing good things and two fingers to this corrupt lot. They are mere adminstrators when you think about it with too much power. Your fault for voting for them. They, however, are like pigs wallowing in shit whilst eating from the same plentiful trough, how nice. Time to put the pressure on we thinks………….

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