The Executive of Manchester City Council is planning to use all £14.5 million of its recent windfall on what it chooses to call a “Clean and Green Spaces” initiative. As per the interview published yesterday on this site, there isn’t any very clear definition of what “green” means.
Today we publish an interview with the Executive Member for Neighbourhood Services, Cllr Bernard Priest. You can listen to it and/or read the transcript. A clearer exposition of the theory of the “sustainability fix” you could not wish to hear.
* By the way, the title of this post is a severe truncation of what Cllr Priest actually said.
The editor of MCFly thinks there is MASSIVE danger to the already “dodgy” name of environmentalism in this. If (when?) the money is spent as disastrously as the one million pounds of the Carbon Reduction Fund (2008-2009)- there will be a backlash against everything green, making the Alicia Keys debacle (£425,000 for a pop concert? Really?) look like a PR triumph. If you share my concerns, please sign the petition calling for a proper public consultation on the uses to which this money is put. And, after you’ve signed it, ransack your address book for other people to alert to the petition’s existence.
So the Clean and Green Places (sic!) Initiative – you were quoted in the Manchester Evening News yesterday as saying it’s important for both for residents’ pride and international visitors. How do you think a resident whose daycare centre has been closed, or their library has been closed – because of the ConDem cuts – would feel about street-cleaning and one-off investments in prettifying the city versus meeting their short-term needs. How would you sell it to them?
Well it’s mercifully not my job to sell it to them. But I would imagine someone who is suffering from the very sharp end of the government cuts is going to find it difficult to understand the city-wide agenda, for very clear and understandable reasons.
If it were me who was feeling that my elderly relatives were suffering, I think I would probably say “address this issue first”. But we have to take a longer-term and bigger vision of the city. Clearly we want to make sure that all of our citizens have the care and support, the facilities and access to sports facilities, libraries, parks and all the rest of it. Three hundred million pounds worth of cuts every year make it very difficult to do that. We have a little windfall here – it is a little windfall. And we’ve agonised about how best to invest it to the benefit of all Mancunians. We think that making the city notable for being an attractive and clean and green city will bring benefits to all of us and outweigh some of the devastating cuts from the government.
So it is about trying to do something that makes the city more successful . And I do appreciate that if you are someone who is in need of very specific care, you will be daunted by the future. But by making the city more successful, we believe that that will benefit everybody, including those who are more vulnerable.
Isn’t that “trickle down”?
I don’t know, because I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever been persuaded by what trickle down is. All I know is that if a company is saying “are we going to invest in putting our new headquarters in Manchester or in Berlin”, and they go to those two places, I want them to look at Manchester and say “this looks like a better place to be.” I want people who want to live in Manchester to feel that it’s a good place to live. We are not competing with London, we are competing with Berlin, with Barcelona, with Madrid. We have to be a city that attracts attention for tourism, investment, and people wanting to live here. That’s absolutely critical. If we don’t get that right, I think the ordinary Mancunian’s future is pretty bleak.
Final question: Councillor Wheale, Leader of the Opposition, was advocating a much broader public participation, consultation in the decisions on how this money should be spent. What’s your response to that?
That he’s misunderstood what we said. This is about all of Manchester getting together to look at how we spend this money. But that doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all and it’s a grab. This is not a jumble sale we’re running. What we’re asking the people of Manchester to do is to engage with us through the normal processes – through community groups, through ward co-ordination systems or emailing me. I mean, however they want to do it, to get involved. But ultimately the decisions have got to benefit Manchester in the long-term. We cannot see this as just a quick boost to clean the city up. We’ve got to change the way things happen in Manchester, for the long-term.
And my understanding is that decision has to go to full Council on Weds 9th October to be signed off. Can you comment on that?
It will be signed off.
At Full Council?
Thank you very much.
DISCLAIMER: MCFly’s editor Marc Hudson has worked with, and will work, with Jo Campbell of the “Ask the People of Manchester” campaign. Make of this what you will. This disclaimer will appear on all stories about the Clean and ‘Green’ Initiative published on MCFly.