Manchester City Council is dishing out scarce money and payments-in-kind to cultural events, while making no binding commitments that the events acknowledge the “Manchester Climate Change Action Plan.”
A Freedom of Information Act request has revealed that the Council gave the organisers of the 2014 Manchester Jazz Festival £19,500 and “access to a range of free media and marketing collateral opportunities…. such as promotion on city centre digital screens” while making no specific carbon emissions or “low-carbon culture” demands in exchange.
Fortunately, Manchester Jazz Festival is a responsible organisation (see below), but the fact that there was no compulsion on the part of the Council is, frankly, shocking.
In November 2009, with a certain amount of fanfare, the City Council approved the Manchester Climate Change Action Plan. It was, as they never tired of saying, a plan for the whole city. It had two headline aims. Alongside the “41% carbon reduction” target sat a far more difficult, ambitious and important one, that is worth quoting in full
“To engage all individuals, neighbourhoods and organisations in Manchester in a process of cultural change that embeds ‘low carbon thinking’ into the lifestyles and operations of the city. To create a ‘low carbon culture’ we need to build a common understanding of the causes and implications of climate change, and to develop programmes of ‘carbon literacy’ and ‘carbon accounting’ so that new culture can become part of the daily lives of all individuals and organisations. Every one of the actions in our plan will contribute in some way to the development of ‘carbon literacy’ in the city. However, achieving a new low carbon culture – where thinking about counting carbon is embedded and routine – can only be delivered as a
result of all the actions together, in an overall co-ordinated manner. Enabling a low carbon culture in the city will be particularly important if the challenge of meeting even more demanding carbon reduction targets between 2020 and 2050 is to be met.”
And, half-way to the 2020 goal, is Manchester City Council doing ANYTHING to show leadership, to use its power?
Well, this answer to a FoIA by Manchester Climate Monthly tells you what you need to know –
“I can confirm that there are no copies of specific agreements or assessments/requests between MCC and mjf in relation to [environmental impacts of the festival, including recycling and reduction of carbon emissions] and [measures undertaken to minimise the “carbon footprint” of the Manchester Jazz Festival 2014 event. Including not only the direct carbon emissions from heating and lighting, but also the air and road travel of performers at the festival.]
So, basically, it is pure luck that the Jazz Festival took any steps at all.
This is NOT about bashing the hard-working people at Manchester Jazz Festival. They like jazz. They put on a festival. That’s great, more power to their trombones. What matters is that our local authority, that said it was going to “to engage all individuals, neighbourhoods and organisations in Manchester in a process of cultural change that embeds ‘low carbon thinking’ into the lifestyles and operations of the city” is yet again doing the easy things instead of the right things.
There are other cultural festivals coming up. Anybody like to learn how to use the FoIA?
Here’s the full text of the reply, with a list of the things that Manchester Jazz Festival did at the bottom.
Dear Mr Hudson
Thank you for your request for information – ref: CEX/9MBEDH – which was received by Manchester City Council on 24th July 2014 and has been considered under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“the 2000 Act”).
In response to your request, I have summarised the information against each question.
a) Details of any financial support given to Manchester Jazz Festival 2014 by Manchester City Council (http://www.manchesterjazz.com/)
Manchester City Council provided £19,500 of event funding to Manchester Jazz Festival 2014
b) Details of other forms of support given by the Council to Manchester Jazz Festival 2014 (for example – free or below-commercial rate use of venues or other non-financial support)
Manchester Jazz festival has the responsibility for all aspects of the development and the delivery of the event – however alongside the direct funding provided, the City Council also allow mjf to operate under the existing Premises Licence for the main outdoor performance area – Albert Square – and supports the multi-agency/safety advisory event planning process. The Council also provides in kind support with access to a range of free media and marketing collateral opportunities that are available to all event partners. This includes a mixture of digital channels, external communication channels and outdoor channels such as promotion on city centre digital screens.
c) A copy of any agreements between the City Council and the Manchester Jazz Festival 2014 organisers that pertain to environmental impacts of the festival, including recycling and reduction of carbon emissions.
d) A copy of any assessments/requests by Manchester City Council especially with regards to the measures undertaken to minimise the “carbon footprint” of the Manchester Jazz Festival 2014 event. Including not only the direct carbon emissions from heating and lighting, but also the air and road travel of performers at the festival.
I can confirm that there are no copies of specific agreements or assessments/requests between MCC and mjf in relation to your questions c) and d) – however mjf promote to MCC that they:support Manchester’s Climate Change Action Plan and reference Manchester’s Green Event Guide and Event Management System ISO 20121 where relevant. Manchester Jazz Festival is a small charity run on very limited resources but takes its sustainability responsibilities very seriously. Mjf has in place an Environmental Sustainability Policy and Action Plan, signed off by their Board of Trustees and monitored annually against the targets set within it, as required of all Arts Council England NPOs (National Portfolio Organisations). These documents are bespoke to each organisation and were developed with the guidance of Julie’s Bicycle, the independent organisation primed with assisting NPOs to develop ambitious but achievable policies. Mjf’s policy contains various targets pertaining to the delivery of the festival itself and their year-round office-based activities, and its formulation was in fact championed by Julie’s Bicycle as a model of good practice during its development period. Mjf also reports its Environmental Sustainability achievements annually using Julie’s Bicycle Creative IG tools.
In addition, mjf promote to MCC that:
- All venues used are within easy walking distance of each other
- All event venues are easily accessible by public transport/on foot, with access routes clearly mapped in festival print and on-line
- The majority of the programme features artists based in Greater Manchester, thereby reducing the carbon footprint made by car/plane journeys; car-sharing is encouraged where possible
- All staff, contractors and volunteers are local to Manchester, thereby keeping travel requirements down to a minimum
- mjf is gradually moving to produce more on-line marketing as opposed to print, thereby reducing waste of material resources; double-sided print is used where possible and any surplus recycled accordingly
- The mjf database of attenders is increasingly being contacted via e-mail in preference to postal deliveries
- Recycled products are used where possible at the event; paper, plastic and glass recycling is used in the mjf office
- mjf hire water coolers and use large re-useable water bottles throughout the festival, each member of staff, volunteers & musician is encouraged to use one bottle supplied by mjf for the duration of their time at the festival.
- All lights fitted in the festival theatre, festival bar, festival box office and festival lounge are LED and the lights in the back stage offices are all fluorescent thus reducing their carbon footprint.
- Artist accommodation, if required, is always within walking distance of the venue
- Fairly-traded, locally-sourced, seasonal and organic food and drink is provided at festival outlets wherever possible, along with non-plastic crockery and cutlery
- Equipment and materials are hired rather than purchased, wherever possible
- All event banners and signage are re-usable year on year
I hope that the responses to the points above address the detail of your request.
If you are not satisfied with this response you may ask for an internal review. If you wish an internal review to be undertaken you should contact the Information Compliance Team whose address is Democratic and Statutory Services, Town Hall, Albert Square, Manchester, M60 2LA and email firstname.lastname@example.org . A copy of the Council’s access to information complaints procedure can be downloaded from: http://www.manchester.gov.uk/downloads/download/2063/access_to_information_complaint_procedure. If you do not have internet access and require a paper copy, please let me know.
If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review process, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision.
The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:
Information Commissioner’s Office
This is so interesting. It demonstrates the problem with a democratic process whereby the people elected to represent residents, and thus empowered to monitor, if not improve upon, the policies put in place by civil servants to protect residents and their living spaces, disappear into a vacuum. MCM must have spent some time in scrutinizing just this one instance of lapsed monitoring. How many hundreds of other lapses and neglect there must be. And how shall the accounters be held to account?
These are exactly the right questions. And the trick of it, I think, is to get people confident and skilled in submitting Freedom of Information Act requests and other sorts of enquiries. Specific questions that require specific answers, followed by blogging/publicising etc.
That’s the thinking behind the skills in People’s Environmental Scrutiny Committee – such as blogging, researching, public speaking, social media, report-writing…
I know you can’t make tonight, but please do try to get to the next one (Mon 22nd September, 7pm, Moss Side Community Allotment, cnr Bowes St and Claythorpe St), and there is a jobs list with heaps of different sized jobs that need doing.