[UPDATE – The minutes of the Steering Group’s meetings have been found. And they reveal that for the meeting on 18th February 2016 there were 8 apologies, and only 2 people present. The meeting went ahead anyway.]
Manchester City Council is throwing another 27 thousand pound at a hopeless and undemocratic climate group. This is on top of a previous 70 thousand that the council has already wasted on the “Manchester A Certain Future” group. As for what specifically the council expects to get, well, vague (non) answers abound.
The MACF Group was set up in 2010 to be a critical friend to the Council and to mobilise Manchester’s citizenry in pursuit of emissions reductions and a ‘low carbon culture’. It was supposed to be a democratically elected body, but this idea was disposed of after a couple of years. It has not been able to organise its own website, submit grant applications and will not allow councillors attend its meetings. Despite generous funding from the Council, it seems not to have held any public meetings since last June.
In response to a Freedom of Information request by Manchester Climate Monthly that asked what support the group was getting, this reply was received.
Manchester City Council will be providing dedicated resources to support Manchester A Certain Future priorities during 2016/17. This includes 2 staff (representing 1.8 full time equivalents) seconded to the Community Interest Company (CIC). The cost of secretariat support, £20k, will continue to be covered during 2016/17. A budget of up to £7k has been set aside within Manchester City Council that the seconded staff can draw on for day to day costs such as meeting venues, communications material and travel and subsistence costs. This will be spent within normal Manchester City Council financial regulations.
In response to a very specific question – “what ‘service level agreements’ etc there are for this money. i.e. what is the Council expecting to get in return,” a typically vague reply was given.
The intention is that the combined resource supports the MACF priority to become priority to become established as a self-sustaining organisation that progress MACF objectives. The CIC and seconded staff report to the CIC directors and undertake work consistent with the CIC articles of association. Details of the CIC’s work are available in the CIC Board of Directors’ meeting minutes available from http://www.manchesterclimate.com.
So, let’s have a look at the latest events on the MACF groups website under the tab “Events Happenings and Conferences.”
Oh dear, it’s from June of last year. Not so busy, then?
And those minutes that we are supposed to be able to find? Here’s a screenshot of the relevant page, taken just now.
If you click on the bold link “here” for 14th December, you get this.
So, the last minutes you can access are from November last year. And the person who sent the reply to the FoIA clearly didn’t check what they were talking about. [See below for update, 12 April, 12pm] When is the next meeting of the Steering Group? Has it in fact already passed? Of course, members of the public are not able to attend these meetings. And when the chair of the Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee, a democratically elected politician who leads the group that is supposed to keep tabs on what is being done with Council resources around environmental issues asked if HE could attend, he got no meaningful answer (which is basically a ‘please don’t embarrass us by forcing us to say ‘no’ out loud’.)
So, the Council has wasted well over 100 thousand pounds of our money on a group that was supposed to hold elections – never did – was supposed to hold annual stakeholder conferences- but couldn’t get its act together- and seems not to have held a public event (or at least, been able to blog about it) since last June.
And will a single councillor hold the Executive Member for the Environment (Kate Chappell) to account for this pathetic decision? Of course not.
[Update: 12 April 2016, 12pm: An eagle-eyed eagle scout of a MCFly reader has found the minutes elsewhere on the site. ]