Businessman abt the “Stakeholder” “Conference” – “Help me tell industry this is not a giant waste of public money” #Manchester #climate

We just got this amazing comment from a local businessman, who has been involved in the “Manchester A Certain Future” process since last year. We at Manchester Climate Monthly have been asking questions about democracy and “process.” He is asking hard-headed questions about effectiveness.

“As something of an outsider, and having first been invited to attend the “refresh meetings” last summer, I wonder whether a fresh pair of eyes is worth anything? If they’re not, then don’t read on, but if anyone would like the view from the SME installer side of renewable energy and energy-efficiency technologies (insulation, building fabric measures, plus the usual PV bling) who comes to MACF as a novice of its history, then I’d say this: Last summer, at the first meeting I attended, the comments and facial expressions I received from those around the table when I said “I don’t know anyone in the industry in GM who has heard of MACF” were a signal that all was not well. The reaction was generally “But! everyone’s heard of MACF!” … er… No. Secondly, I was stunned to hear that this was in fact the third year and that this whole wave of “refresh” meetings was simply to update a plan that had been put in place some years previously, but which had achieved …. er .. what exactly? The discussions around the tables were punctuated by the facilitator asking for any evidence at all of any activity, however tangential, that might be attributed to the efforts of MACF. It was clear that nothing could actually be attributed to MACF. So I asked why. The answer I was given by one of the people organising the event: “We forgot to assign responsibilities after the first plan was put together, so nothing has actually been achieved.” Now, she might have got that wrong. Her view might have been poisoned by some personal experience, but since that first couple of meetings last summer I have tried to find evidence of real results that can be attributed to MACF. I haven’t given up searching yet, but other things have happened that make me wonder.

“The steering group asked last autumn for nominations to head up sub-groups. Telephone interviews were held, emails apologising for the delays were sent out and then ….. nothing.

“Whether one agrees with the style of this most recent “workshop” with the plasticene, and the expensively produced brochures etc. is open to debate and taste, but the more important questions are about its content. Why is it, I ask myself, that in the 4th year of MACF, the facilitators at the tables are asking us what we think should be done. I thought the idea of planning was to pave the way for action rather than more planning. None of the “objectives” that I have seen in the first plan for MACF nor in the refresh, are SMART. They are all aspirational, of course. Nothing wrong with aspirations, but shouldn’t we by now be arriving at Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timed objectives? Shouldn’t we be able to point to a level of success, or is this all about telling ourselves that we are doing a great job of it?

“This may not be important to most people. Most people are more patient than me, but it is important to me and to others in the industry. Why? Because from the industry’s side of the fence we’re getting a bit fed up of the prowess shown by the “powers that be” in planning and strategising. Three years ago, there was a lot of noise made about Manchester being named as the first “Low Carbon Economic Area for the Built Environment”. Flags out, trumpets blown, back patted. Meanwhile Bristol, Leeds and London were busy doing it. Now the LCEA has been superseded by the “Low Carbon Hub”, so presumably we will now need to set about another three years of strategising and planning. Yes, the landscape has changed, but it will change again in another three years, so the value of the plan that is being re-written, is … exactly what if it is never put into action? I can’t fault the planning and the strategising and the formulation of policy. Ten out of Ten for that. But what exactly have we done compared to ReFIT?

“I’m not determined to have a go at the MACF forum, but I really don’t see what the benefit is. Help me to explain to the industry that this is not a giant waste of public money. Tell me, please, that I have misunderstood and that there really is some tangible result to point to.”

MCFly says: We’ve checked this gentleman’s bona fides as best we could.  Normal journalistic practice would be to try to get a react quote.  Well, if we contacted the City Council’s Green City Team, they would probably refer us to the Press Office. The Press Office would then certainly say “The City Council doesn’t control the Steering Group and cannot issue statements on their behalf.”  So why not go straight to the Steering Group? Well, the current (but outgoing) chair has recently stated he will never engage with us ever again.  MCFly readers can either contact them as citizens (it’s still a free country) and stakeholders. Or they can wait for the new chair to be announced (famously, no elections were held at the last Stakeholder Conference) and ask them.

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Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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11 Responses to Businessman abt the “Stakeholder” “Conference” – “Help me tell industry this is not a giant waste of public money” #Manchester #climate

  1. gille liath says:

    In a way it doesn’t matter who he is – he’s right to lay the stress on *what is being done* – and by that I mean done to cut carbon emissions, not to publicise initiatives or involve communitites, etc. The rest is only important in so far as it is a means to that end.

    • Let’s remember that the second goal of the action plan is to create a low carbon culture. That is going to need to involve communities! And beyond this, I think we need to be looking at increasing individual and community resourcefulness (not resilience!) – and that can’t be done from the top down!
      Marc Hudson
      (PS the word “community” covers a multitude of sins, I am aware)

      • gille liath says:

        Yes, but the danger is you get all plans and no implementation. Looks as though MCC needs fewer of the first and more of the second.
        And if ‘increasing resourcefulness’ (not sure exactly what that means, but I presume it’s something to do with people finding ways to decrease their carbon footprint) can’t be done from the top down, why look to the council to do it?

      • Increasing resourcefulness, for me, is about (and I hate this phrase, but it sort of covers it) “capacity building”. Getting people more confident, more skilled, more networked. The council can set the tone for that by regular honest communication, by using its status as a very big beast to “leverage” the existing social capital, and help people spread it around. These are things that wouldn’t cost a lot of money, but WOULD need a culture change from command and control to collaborate and co-ordinate. Unfortunately the council seems frozen with fear because of all the cuts, and the campaigning community is either ignorant of the council or stuck in “well, they are the council, THEY should sort it out” mode. I have been guilty of that myself in the (distant) past. I am not explaining this very well, I know! Time to bust out the video making skills, I think…

  2. Reblogged this on patricktsudlow and commented:
    Many of us knew from the out-set, that Manchester – A Certain Future, was nothing but utter ‘Greenwash’, purely wasting tax-payers money. Those of us, who have said as much, have been described as the ‘usual greens’, who cannot see that the council is doing something. The author of this article, as a ‘fresh set of eyes’, puts quite nicely. He did forget to mention, Nottingham and the East Midlands have been doing it since 2000. Whilst Woking since the 1990s, and as was mentioned last week at the launch of Greater Manchester’s Hydrogen Hub, cut the energy consumption by 70%. Where is Manchester City Council’s proof, that they have saved any energy, other than through shutting down front-line services, severely impacting those in need.

  3. Laurence Menhinick says:

    The urgency to bring businesses on board was mentioned several times at the conference if I remember well. Still it is fair to comment on the need to provide tangible records of progress at city level, with figures, polls etc.

  4. anne power : manchester green party says:

    I’m beginning to feel very sick at becoming a Manchester ratepayer soon.
    Struggling to make an eco home to inspire others and finding no support in this “Business” obsessed city council. Wasn’t Socialism about the working classes, the underdogs, the disenfranchised, equality and health and motivation and inclusivity.

    • gille liath says:

      Do you mean you should be getting some kind of grant or subsidy to build your house? Isn’t it true that new ‘eco homes’ are actually a poor use of resources – better to improve the energy efficiency of the exisitng ones?

      • anne power : manchester green party says:

        I am doing a retro fit of a Victorian house in Chorlton but in moving there I will be within Manchester City boundary and they seem like the worst council in the country.
        The individual planning officer and building inspector couldn’t be nicer people, but the “Labour”
        council is more Tory in its behaviour than socialist and as for green !!!!.
        Previous comment was just a rant.

  5. Stephen R says:

    I think she means retrofitting the house to make it greener rather than start from scratch? The council are very, very good at appeasing folk, ticking boxes then simply paying the good ‘ol lip service to anything that isn’t their idea as they are under no obligation to do anything otherwise. Don’t forget carbon emission reductions were imposed upon them by government and the “Manchester a certain future” report/plan/strategy is just another example of a pen pusher justifying his/her role – and is really another inconvenience to them. The desire to change to this better, fairer, sustainable model just isnt there, they dont understand it, they possibly fear it, it also interferes with big business wanting to profit, so the design, build and maintainance tends to be at lowest possible cost which always tends to run as a theme over practicality, future maintenance, sustainability etc. More than that, its just sloppy when the council planning department could actually pay green consultants (which for once would be better use of public dosh) to specify that certain important criteria should be incorporated to allow for less waste, energy efficiency, environmental impact, aesthetics even etc, but this is what happens when you put forward candidates who are chosen for who they know rather than what they know – do i think they give a crap about the conditions of all classes living here in this great city able to maximise its green potential? No not really, chopping down trees, carving up parkland, selling off fields held in trust, seeing any spare green plot as a burden and potential building plot over growing plots are just a few examples of why we need a good strong green party presence here in Manchester to rival the likes of Bristol, Brighton, Newcastle, Edinburgh etc maybe they need to swot up here on what makes a city truly greener? http://www.theecologist.org/green_green_living/home/807176/top_10_greenest_uk_cities.html

  6. anne power : manchester green party says:

    Patrick says it clearly. Where’s the carbon emission reduction across the city? What are the figures? Count in promotion of airport and purchase of Stanstead.

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