How many leaf-blowers does #Manchester Council have? #answerisblowinginthewind

[Update 22nd September 2014. We have answers.]

Dear Councillor Battle,

this morning while walking around Alexandra Park I noticed a workman with a loud leafblower, clearing leaves away from the tennis courts’ fence. Presumably this is in preparation for the weekend’s launch events, which I look forward to as much as you.

The roar of the blower got me to thinking, as so many things do, about “what is a low carbon culture”, and is Manchester engaging “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.”

But those are big questions.  I have some more specific ones;

a) How many leaf blowers does Manchester City Council own and operate, as of August 29th 2014?

b) How many leaf blowers did Manchester City Council own and operate as of August 29th 2013?

c) Has any audit been done on the carbon emissions impact of using leaf blowers as opposed to some people using good old-fashioned rakes?  (if there has been, I would like a copy)

I know that there is a 10% “sustainability” criterion for council contracts (and congratulations – that’s a very good thing).

d) Is there any provision in contracts issued for parks maintenance to encourage contractors not to use leaf-blowers?

I would have preferred to avoid the delay associated with going through formal processes, but since my previous attempts to get information have met with considerable silence, please consider this a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Marc Hudson

I sent this to Councillor Battle ( on Friday 29th August, and included

Councillor Battle has kindly replied to acknowledge receipt. Information Compliance will doubtless soon be sending me a reference number.  Watch this space in about 20 working days (i.e. end of September).

Standard response to FoIA request, received on 1st Sept:

Dear Marc Hudson

Re: Request for Information – Reference No: GAN/9NKGCG

Thank you for your request for information received by Manchester City
Council on 29th August 2014.

Please note that it may take up to 20 working days (approximately 4 weeks)
for the Council to consider your request and to provide a formal response.

If this timescale needs to be extended to consider an exemption you will be
notified and kept informed.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely

[Information Compliance Officer]


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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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12 Responses to How many leaf-blowers does #Manchester Council have? #answerisblowinginthewind

  1. Dave Bishop says:

    Apart from their carbon emissions I am of the strong opinion that the main purpose of leaf blowers is to shatter the peace of those rare days when the sun is shining and it’s not raining! In front of my house there’s a primary school and behind it some blocks of flats. On fine summer days men arrive in the playgrounds of the former and the landscaped surroundings of the latter – and noisily – and pointlessly – blow leaves around. I gloomily predict that one day I will have to go to prison for trying to force a contractor to eat a leaf blower … I wonder what prison food is like … ?

  2. Royce Naylor says:

    Further to your leaf-blower article, leaf blowers are prevalent in Didsbury with the ensuing extreme noise and air pollution, and it’s not even Autumn yet. The contractors who maintain St Emmanuel church, 50 metres away are a regular very noisy offender.

    • Sorry to hear it. Have you spoken/written to the St Emmanuel people? Is it CoE or RC? In either case, there should be some sort of environmental management policy, and it might be worth pointing it out to them? Let me know how you get on if you do!

      Best wishes

      Marc Hudson

  3. rogerbysouth says:

    I think it’s largely about minimising risk of people slipping & falling, for its own sake no doubt, but also due to the ensuing suing that local authorities and other bodies corporate fear.
    I think the deck-chair re-arranging franchise on the Titanic had a similar standing order (sic).
    By the way I don’t think Emanuel is a Saint. No offence obviously.

    • The leaves that this chap was re-arranging were right next to the tennis courts fence, not on any path. I think it was all about aesthetic (mis)judgement. But yes, fear of being sued is a huge thing…

      I am hopeless on my Saints and otherwise, despite getting an A in Divinity at the minor prep school I went to near New Milton, in 1978. It became a family joke for many years…
      If you want to see where I get my local authority OCD, check out my dad’s website – Leave a comment if you like!

  4. ianbodgerbrown says:

    Dave Bishop’s comment is perfect and I would add that leaf blowers are the most pointless devices ever invented; leaves are blown from one place to another to be blown back again either by the wind or another blower, which is a complete waste of time. My policy is to wait till all the leaves have fallen and then gather all those which fall on a hard surface by sweeping them up with a besom and depositing them (in my case) in the green bin for composting. Leaves which fall on soft surfaces can be left to decompose naturally. But then councils like wasting time and money.

    • rogerbysouth says:

      Spotted at approx 09.34 today, Wednesday 17th a.m: leaf blowing on grass around tee on golf course just south of the Mersey and east of the new tram crossing it at Jackson’s Boat.
      Magnificent? Surreal? Zen?
      None of the above?

      • Royce Naylor says:

        Leafblower alert! All day again in the grounds of St James and Emmanuel Church of Didsbury employing non-English speaking “gardeners” using howling machines to no purpose apparent to mere atheists but to annoy and pollute.

      • rogerbysouth says:

        And was it not written that he came to the garden centre of gethsemane and threw out the leaf blowers, saying “Yea, though I walk on water I don’t think a few leaves are going to be a problem and for dad’s sake get a bit of perspective on your curious obsession with blowing them around.”
        And did not saint bob of dylan, the psalmist, sing “…And how many leaves can a leaf blower blow? The answer my friend is blowing in the wind, i.e. it varies quite a bit”.

      • Laugh out loud. You want to do next year’s April Fool Story? It’s on the Council announcing that it is going to make Executive Members’ pay contingent upon hitting a whole raft of climate targets…

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