UPDATE: Oh my goodness!! The Green Infrastructure Plan is… published?! I had just completed the post below when I went to get the link to the agenda the scrutiny committee meeting on Tuesday. And there, suddenly and new, is the long-awaited “Green Infrastructure Plan”. Sometime on Thursday or Friday it was quietly added to the agenda, presumably in response to the letter at the foot of this post. And who says people power doesn’t work? [Er, you? Ed]
Manchester City Council has 6 “scrutiny” committees. These committees, made up of ‘back-bench’ councillors, who receive £16k per year to perform all their duties, are supposed to keep tabs on both the Executive members (£30k and upwards) and the officers who help to devise and carry out the policies of the Council.
These six committees – Young People & Children, Neighbourhoods,Economy, Communities, Finance, and Health – meet 10 or more times a year, almost always in the Town Hall. The meetings are open to the public, and the agendas and papers go up about a week in advance. As a member of the public you don’t have a right to speak/ask questions, but I’ve yet to encounter, or hear of, a situation where the chair of a meeting did not allow at least some public input.
So all is right in the world?
Er, no. The list of what isn’t right, what must – urgently – be improved is long. That’s for another post, soon, I promise. For now, this;
At the Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee meeting in February 2014 the latest climate plan was discussed (in the absence of a proper Environment Scrutiny Committee, climate/biodiversity/environment issues fall under its remit). At the end of a mildly fraught discussion, one councillor requested that the promised-and-deferred-and-promised-and-deferred “Green and Blue Infrastructure Plan” be brought to Neighbourhoods in March (“Green and Blue Infrastructure” is bureaucrat-speak for “parks and rivers and lakes”).
The recommendation was accepted.
At the VERY least it should have appeared in the minutes of the meeting, even if the recommendation could not actually be followed through because the report was (still) not written.
Instead, the draft minutes do not even reflect the existence of the recommendation. It appears to have been memory-holed. And the agenda for the March meeting does not include discussion of the Green and Blue Infrastructure Plan.
This is not the first time that recommendations have mysteriously gone AWOL. FWIW, I don’t mind particularly that the minutes don’t really reflect my questions or the ‘answers’ given. I am not, after all, an elected member of the Council.
I don’t mind particularly that the Environment Team never got in touch to answer the other questions. As Tom Jones sings, “it’s not unusual.”
I DO mind that an elected representative of this city made a recommendation and that this recommendation accepted – did not appear in the minutes.
This seems to me to undermine the very essence of scrutiny. If the appearance in the minutes of recommendations made by the committee is not sacrosanct, then what is the point of Scrutiny? Why not just give the Executive and their top officials a blank cheque and say “have a nice day.”?
On Wednesday night I sent the following email to the Chair of the Scrutiny Committee and several other people.
Dear Councillor Curley,
I am writing to you in your capacity as chair of Neighbourhoods Scrutiny.
as you may remember, I was at the Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee meeting in early February.
At the end of the discussion of the Climate Change “Action” “Plan” I distinctly heard Councillor Kevin Peel request that the long-delayed Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy be submitted to the March Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee.
I also distinctly heard this recommendation be accepted.
I am therefore confused and alarmed that
a)the minutes do not reflect this, and that
b) the item is not scheduled for discussion.
I await your response.
Nowt yet, but we live in hope. [See update at top of this post!]