Councillor Rosa Battle, Executive Member for Culture and Leisure, told elected members of the Council that hundreds of people had been consulted on the outsourced-for-£30,000 “Green and Blue Infrastructure” strategy. The actual number, once you take out council employees? Less fifty.
In December 2014 Manchester City Council presented its draft Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy, very long overdue. (1) The thorny question of who had been consulted came up spontaneously (Cough, cough; see this video for the gory details.)
Councillor Rosa Battle, who was presenting the report because the Executive Member for the Environment was then on maternity leave, said that if all the stakeholders consulted were invited to the March 2015 meeting of Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee (where the final strategy is to be presented), the meeting would need to last 24 hours and “this whole table [of over 20 people] would be full of people ten times over.”
You can see that for yourself here. (sorry, the embedding is not working.)
So, how does this statement of “over 200 people consulted” actually stack up?
An official document has been released (it’s attached here.)
The ACTUAL number is even less than fifty, because the list provided includes people who attended a “meeting/briefing with a specific agenda item on the GI Strategy”
and also seems to include attendees at a (University of Manchester) workshop that didn’t in fact take place until 2 months AFTER the claim of hundreds of consultees. And I’ve nothing against academics (cough, cough), but they’re not exactly ‘members of the public,’ now are they?
Will Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee take this forward?
Watch this space.
(2) MCFly sent Councillor Battle a series of questions in December. Some of the answers to those questions are provided in the document above. And the ignored questions are –
“Finally, since the last document and its consultation in early 2014, there doesn’t – to my clearly inadequate eye – seem to have been much consultation and engagement. To correct my misapprehension, could you please point me to
- any pages on the City Council website where people have been invited to leave a comment about the evolving GBI strategy
- any public events held by Manchester City Council at which the Green and Blue Infrastructure was the focus of discussion, including the dates and venues of these meetings, and the rough estimates of attendees.
- any use of social media (facebook, twitter, youtube) about the GBI by Manchester City Council
- The same questions as above for both the BDP, the contract winner, and the Manchester A Certain Future Steering Group Green and Blue Subgroup (fortunately, the same person will be able to provide answers for both organisations!)
- Indicative examples of where opinion has been sought via the communications (newsletters, magazines, e-bulletins) of partner organisations (e.g. Red Rose Forest, GM Ecology Unit). As I said in the meeting, no mention of the GBI strategy has, to my knowledge, been made in Friends of the Earth’s weekly digest.
- The dates and venues and attendees of any academic workshops held with experts at University of Manchester. [They did this in February 2015. Perhaps prompted by this very question?!]
- The numbers of official consultation documents sent out and the number of replies received.I know this seems like a long list, but you were very confident that a large amount of consultation had indeed been done, so this shouldn’t take too long to knock together.”