£14.5m for a “Clean and Green” #Manchester. Libraries and day care centres and stuff? Not so much

[UPDATE 11th September; there is now an online petition about having a public consultation on this £14.5 million.  You can see (and sign) it here on Manchester City Council’s website.]

Yeah, you read that right.  On Wednesday September 11th the Executive (top 8 councillors) of Manchester City Council will be discussing a report on the “Clean and Green Places Initiative” (scroll to the end of the article for the full report).

Thanks to Manchester Airports Group (35%-owned by the Council) snaffling Stansted, and a bigger than anticipated dividend, the Council has more money than it expected. But it’s only fourteen and a half million pounds, so there are Tough Decisions to be made.

Re-open libraries? Don’t be silly.  Daycare centres? Please don’t be silly.  Alleviate council tax burdens on the most vulnerable? Look, for the last time, don’t be silly.  A new and properly-implemented-this-time Carbon Reduction and Innovation Fund?  That’s crazy talk.

cleandgreenplacesManchester’s branding matters more. After all, we have it on good authority that “in a globalised world, we are what people think we are – reputation is the only thing that matters“.  According to the report – which will be discussed by Executive at around 11,15am-ish in Committee Room 11 of the Town Hall- and we’ve added emphasis;

“Perceptions of the City and how it is managed are very much informed by the cleanliness of the local environment and how it is managed. It is important that residents have pride in their city and the impression that good management of the physical environment leaves with visitors, particularly to the City Centre, District Centres, and other parts of the City, is vital to the aspirations for Manchester as a global city. Therefore there needs to be an emphasis on getting the basics right for effective neighbourhood management.”

What does this mean in practice (again, emphasis added)

There is a need to ensure flexibility in how the funding can be used but the investment could range from:
• one-off interventions and investment that improve street cleanliness,improve recycling and that improve the quality of the City’s public realm and parks
• one-off interventions to support more robust environmental enforcement
• local interventions to improve the physical environment and that support the drive for growth and make more neighbourhoods desirable for working families.
• implementing proposals for behaviour change and community ownership at neighbourhood level so that the improvements achieved are continued when the funding ends.

Fourteen million quid is, of course, quite a lot of money, so there will be the usual scrutiny –

“Recommendations for the use of the fund will be made at Executive Member level against the above criteria [of “visibility,” “speed of implementation,” “sustainability” and “community involvement.”] To ensure there is appropriate scrutiny it is recommended that sign off of the proposals for the use of the fund will be made by the City Treasurer in consultation with the Chief Executive and the Executive Member for Finance and Human Resources. Any decisions that are key decisions or will involve the commitment of capital expenditure will follow the appropriate process.”

I am sure all those people who are now even poorer than they were before the Coalition government started dismantling the welfare state will be happy that they can be destitute in a cleaner, “greener” and more visitor-friendly city.

Marc Hudson
mcmonthly@gmail.com

PS Here’s the report in full. It hasn’t, to my knowledge, been to any of the Council’s six scrutiny committees. Talk about Executive Decisions…

UPDATE 10.35 am, 9/9/13:  An extremely efficient and helpful Council officer* has explained  “The key decision on the setting up of the fund has to be taken by the full Council. All Councillors will be able to consider it and express their views on this proposal at the Council meeting.” [The next Council meeting is on Weds 9th October.]
* That’s not sarcasm!

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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 Democratic deficit, Manchester Airport, Manchester City Council. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to £14.5m for a “Clean and Green” #Manchester. Libraries and day care centres and stuff? Not so much

  1. normanc25 says:

    I wonder if the report will be subject to any formal ‘scrutiny’?
    But then perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised when a key environmental body is branded as
    “GM Ecology Unit – Economic Growth, Investment and Sustainability”

  2. Dave Bishop says:

    You should know by now, Marc, that appearance over substance is what our city (and our whole f***ing culture) is really all about. Never mind, though, it won’t be long before we all fall down on our gleaming, clean,”green” and sprightly arses!

  3. gille liath says:

    ‘Alleviate council tax burdens on the most vulnerable’? It’s called Council Tax Benefit, isn’t it? And anyway, what’s green about that – or libraries, for that matter?

    It looks as though what they’re thinking of is the physical condition of the city – litter, graffiti, dirt etc. It’s a pretty narrow concept of environmentalism, but you shouldn’t underestimate its importance as a quality-of-life issue, to ordinary folk as well as bigwigs.

  4. Gimboid says:

    Despite the aspirational policy language, this is basically about keeping the streets clean and tidy, which is a major problem in the city centre that a lot of people are bothered about. Is addressing this something that you oppose on principal? Or should MCC only spend money to address the needs and concerns of our most disadvantaged citizens?

    • Hello gimboid,
      thanks for commenting!

      I clearly do not oppose things being “clean and green” in principle! I think it is a little curious that you would put that forward as a question.

      First things first though – for me this is about the people who control the money taking the time to ask the people who own the money (the citizens of Manchester!) what THEIR priorities are. This is a HUGE sum of money, and prettifying the city for international visitors is a very very curious way of spending the whole lot!! I strongly suspect that people whose lives are being turned upside down, by, say, the closure of day care centres, would have something to say (I was at Finance Scrutiny Committee last Thursday, and heard the eloquent speech by a someone directly affected).

      Second, if it’s about “Green”, how come there isn’t a word about carbon emissions or biodiversity in the document. How come the Manchester Climate Change Action Plan is not referred to in the “Background Documents”. Doubtless there will be “green” benefits to this money being spent in this way, but – and I do not say this lightly – the use of the word “Green” in the title of this document strikes me as a little bit, well, PR.

      Best wishes!!

      Marc Hudson

      • Gimboid says:

        Hi Marc, thanks for replying.
        In my view the council are actually responding to an serious issue that concerns a lot of residents. Characterising responding to this concern as ‘prettifying the city for international visitors’ is unreasonable. I’m not sure why you would see attempting to attract more tourists and businesses into Manchester as something the council shouldn’t do.

        I don’t disagree with you about the greenwash PR aspect, but I think it’s really beside the point.

      • Hi again!
        There are lots of issues that concern a lot of residents. The cleanliness of the city is one of them, and v. legitimate. Personally I’d like to see us trying to stop the problems “at source” a bit more (licensing of bars etc – to be fair, that’s not always in the council’s power!) etc.

        I am not sure my characterisation is unreasonable – my quotes were from the report itself, and if you’ve seen today’s MEN, Councillor Bernard Priest says the following – “Having a city we can all be proud of makes a huge difference in terms of residents’ perceptions and helping us to achieve our ambitions as a world city, attracting visitors, jobs and investment.”

        How would you characterise the report?

        And given that there *are* many competing interests that concern a lot of residents, wouldn’t it be better to hold a public consultation about how this £14.5million should be spent, before starting to talk of electronic bins that tell street cleaners when they are full? (Pat Karney, quoted in the same MEN article)? Really interesting ideas are bound to come out of that, and there’ll be more public involvement and ‘ownership’ of the projects that do get funded (and some of the money might even go to keeping daycentres open. I speak as someone who has no children, but attended the Finance Scrutiny Committee meeting last week. And as someone who agrees with the Labour analysis that Manchester is getting particularly hardly punished in these cuts.)

        All best wishes!

        Pint (or soft drink) sometime?

        Marc Hudson

        PS On the Greenwash – well, the Council chose to call it clean and ‘green’, but there’s nowt at all about carbon emissions, a low carbon culture (goals one and two of the Manchester Climate Change Action Plan), nor about biodiversity.

  5. gille liath says:

    Apologies btw – it’s not directly relevant to ‘clean and green’ either way, but I didn’t realise that council tax benefit has in fact been abolished, and people can no longer get 100% of their bill paid. Considering the furore over Poll Tax twenty years ago, I don’t know how they managed to sneak that one through so quietly!

  6. cllrcpaul says:

    The point of this proposal is to do something about the “Graph of Doom”.

    https://www.google.co.uk/#q=graph+of+doom+lga

    This is the projection – sometimes previously called the Barnet Graph of Doom – by the Local Government Association (an all party organisation) that in the fairly near future councils as a whole will only have the money to provide essential statutory services – including Adult and Children’s service like Day Centres, including basic waste and recycling, including levies and precepts for emergency services, and including some basic transport infrastructure – and nothing whatsoever for anything else.

    The “fairly near future” is of course brought forward when the Lib-Dem/Tory coalition vote over and over again to reduce local government budgets and in a way which is particularly detrimental to poorer London boroughs and the core cities.

    There could be nothing for street cleaning, or culture, or parks, or gardens, or leisure centres and sports grounds, or libraries, or mending carriageways, or mending footways, or sweeping leaves, or for anything at all we are not required by law to provide.

    The concept here is to use money to reduce annual revenue spend this year, next year and every year. The way that concept is compared with various ways of spending the money on revenue items in the short term – with no legacy of more effective future services – is a bit depressing.

    We have to change public behaviour e.g. to reduce or stop littering and we have to change the way we do things so it costs far less than at present. Otherwise the Graph of Doom will not be averted.

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