EMERGENCY ACTION: Please protect #climate #democracy in #Manchester today. (Elections cancelled, questions unanswered.)

If you want climate change action in Manchester to become even more undemocratic, even more ineffectual, simply stop reading now and move on.
If you want the people of Manchester to have the transparent and democratic institutions they deserve and need in order to meet the challenges that lie ahead, keep reading, then act.

macfpostThis is the most important of the 630 or so blog posts that have appeared on this site. And it’s one I* really hoped not to have to write. But straightforward questions about cancelled elections are being dismissed as “ranting”. When the chair of the “Steering Group” (itself unelected) declares that to answer questions about transparency and decision-making would be to “waste my time”, MCFly readers have to decide if they will take action or do nothing.

Because if elections can be cancelled without so much as an acknowledgement that they were even promised, then only trouble lies ahead.
If groups that claim to deserve a leadership role can hide behind closed doors, and can arbitrarily exclude people who ask awkward questions, then there is certainly no future for official climate action in Manchester. It will descend into ever more farcical and self-serving nonsense. If you are happy with that, stop reading now.

I have put together a suggested letter, but obviously we are not telling you what to write.

UPDATE 22/2/13: A MCFly reader has suggested the following – ‘I am very concerned that MCC does not appear to be living up to its professions on climate change; that the planned elections have not yet taken place; and that meetings of the unelected Steering Group are taking place behind closed doors, without any definite commitment to letting the elected committee take over. I do not agree with the exclusion of the editors of McFly, or any other members of the public, without good reason being shown. The council rapidly needs to regain its focus and take action if it is to carry out its responsibilities in this area.’

Please take the time to write to the following people about this.

PROPOSED LETTER

Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing to you because I am gravely concerned about democracy and climate change, here in Manchester. I am writing to you in the hope you will reply to my concerns.

While I was delighted to see that Professor Kevin Anderson addressed full Council recently on the subject of climate change, I am dismayed to find out just how little has been happening “on the ground.” And I am especially dismayed that the unelected Steering Group has cancelled elections, creating a credibility deficit that the city can ill-afford now, let alone in the future.

Democracy
The original Terms of Reference for the Stakeholder Steering Group stated that “The Steering Group will have 12 members: 3 will be nominated by the Manchester Board, 3 will be nominated by Manchester City Council, 3 will be elected annually by the Annual Conference and 3 to be co-opted annually by the Steering Group.”

At the 2012 Stakeholder Conference the current chair told attendees that the group was “exploring election mechanisms” so that members could be elected at next year’s conference. He added that they were looking at a co-operative model and details would be finalised by November 2012. There has been absolutely no mention of these elections since then, so presumably they have been cancelled.

Cancelled elections happen in North Korea, or Stalinist Russia. They should not happen in Manchester, ever. This is intolerable.

Effectiveness
The Stakeholder Steering Group contains roughly thirty people. For the privilege of being part of it, they could at least be communicating what they are doing. One of the goals of the “key early actions” of the Action Plan ws to “create visible public promotions so people can follow progress on carbon reduction.”  The official manchesterclimate.com website has had, in the last two years,  13 blog posts. This is unacceptable. This sends a message of lack of seriousness and failure about the most important long-term issue facing us.

The Stakeholder Conferences have been getting shorter and shorter, with less and less notice for each one. The latest one, for which people have only now received confirmation of attendance, three weeks before it happens, is a mere 3 and a half hours long. Within this three and a half hours, time is being devoted to presentations about Leeds and Liverpool. I think the Stakeholder Conference should be focussed on what is and is not happening in Manchester, and how we make sure that the pace of activity radically increases. I hope you agree.

Transparency
It also dismays and alarms me that the Stakeholder Steering Group is meeting in private, and not releasing its minutes. It has been asked to do so repeatedly, and the chair, in both June and July 2012 undertook to post minutes online. This has still not happened. It is worth noting that the Terms of Reference of the group state – “Agendas and minutes will be publicly available and circulated to an emailing list. Reports to the Group will similarly be made public unless a specific request for confidentiality is made and agreed by the Group.”

No explanation has ever been given as to why the Stakeholder Group should meet in private like this, or fail to publish its minutes for 2012.

Finally, no explanation has been given as to why the two editors of Manchester Climate Monthly have been excluded from this conference. The decision was NOT taken by the full Steering Group. If small unelected groups within larger unelected groups can exclude their critics like this, I fear very much that we will end up with nothing more than a mutually back-slapping echo-chamber. That is not fit-for-purpose for Manchester in the 21st century.

The Steering Group needs democratic legitimacy. It needs to be transparent and effective, and its decisions to exclude stakeholders need to be explained.

I await your reply.

xxx

* This post was drafted by MCFly co-editor Marc Hudson.

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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 Climate Change Action Plan, Democratic deficit and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to EMERGENCY ACTION: Please protect #climate #democracy in #Manchester today. (Elections cancelled, questions unanswered.)

  1. helene57 says:

    Your letter is a rant. I won’t send it.

    Helen Enevoldson
    Sent from my BlackBerry smartphone from Virgin Media

    • Well, fair enough, Helen.

      When you call it a rant, I’d like to know what facts in it are wrong.

      If there aren’t facts wrong, then perhaps it’s simply that you think the status quo is acceptable? can I ask if you are happy with the status quo? And if you are not, what could be done to change it?

      Best wishes

      Marc Hudson

  2. rogerbysouth says:

    Hi Marc and Arwa can I ask – in a nutshell, why this call out now? I am drafting something and will send it and copy you in. My impression is for you, now, it’s a case of the straw that broke the camel’s back. That and the rapidly approaching stakeholder conference and the prospect of another annual cycle of not much happening… while Rome burns etc…… is that it? That’s fine if it is by the way, sounds like a good reason to go for it. I just don’t want to miss the redeveloped wood for the felled trees. all the best Roger

    • To clarify, the letter was drafted by me (Marc).

      Why now? Because there is, in my view, a very very small window of opportunity to salvage the credibility of the Steering Group before the Monday March 4th conference. If they can get away with cancelling elections, refusing to publish minutes etc etc now, then a very ugly precedent is established. After many other ugly precedents already gone through.

      I hope this helps?

      Marc Hudson

  3. Gille Liath says:

    Meetings – the easy alternative to work, eh?
    I sympathise with your frustration, I really do, but it is a *little* bit ranty – it’s possible for a piece to be accurate, but still be a rant. The danger with that is that the target of it just stops listening, which appears to be what has happened.

    It sounds as though the council have fallen into the usual local authority error of mistaking setting up a group, or having an enquiry into a committee, for taking action. I’d be interested to know: specifically, what actions do you think they should be taking?

    • fair enough! If you’ve time to do an edit/rewrite, I’d be interested and grateful. If not, fine.

      The problem is, we have been trying for over a year to engage with them. See this post, for example, from January 2012, with a series of concrete suggestions.
      https://manchesterclimatemonthly.net/2012/01/24/open-letter-to-steering-group-2-0/

      And we have been ignored. The one time they did invite us to attend an SG meeting they then withdrew the invite when we asked them to clarify why they were meeting in private.

      They have made *REPEATED* (that’s me ranting again!) promises about elections, transparency etc, and they have broken every single one of those promises.

      On the subject of what could be done differently – I suppose I will just have to collate all the different suggestions and put them in one post. But they don’t, imho, have the spine or the brains or the hands for the job, so the list that is produced is one that “civil society” will have to decide to do or not. We really cannot wait around for the Council or the Steering Group any more

  4. rogerbysouth says:

    Hello Marc may be of interest if you haven’t seen already… All the best

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