Victory? #Manchester Health Scrutiny Committee to (maybe) look at #climate impacts

The Health Scrutiny Committee of Manchester City Council may look at the health consequences of climate change on Manchester’s people. This comes (only) after an open letter from Manchester Climate Monthly to the chair of that committee, Councillor Bev Craig (Burnage).

The letter was written and sent at the end of March because newly formed UK Health Alliance on Climate Change warned that more frequent extreme weather events like flooding and heat-waves pose direct risks to health and systemic threats to hospitals and health services. (Between the open letter and the reply Obama’s White House released a report stating that “climate change is a significant threat to the health of Americans, creating unprecedented health problems in areas where they might not have previously occurred.”)

In her reply, Councillor Craig has committed to pushing for increased carbon literacy among councillors, and also stated that she is  “happy to suggest to the committee this be considered in our work programme either as a standalone, or joint committee piece of work.”.  The full letter is below, and is followed by further analysis.

For now, the take home is this – at the first meeting of the Health Scrutiny Committee after the May elections, the work programme for the following year is worked out.  Councillor Craig, who is up for re-election in her ward, and also up for re-election as chair of the HSC – will, according to the letter, ask her fellow committee members to add a climate report to the work they request from bureaucrats.  Watch this space.

Here is the full text of the reply from Councillor Craig The numbers in square brackets refer to MCFly’s comments, listed below.

Dear Marc

Thank you for your open letter, I wanted to give you a substantial response to your letter which undoubtedly raises important issues.

The impact of climate change can’t be overstated, and it will be the most disadvantaged that suffer most. Manchester as a growing and truly global city, has demonstrated its commitment to becoming a leading low carbon city. [1]

I care deeply about climate change, as do a great number of my colleagues in the city [2], and it is important that we use this leadership in our local communities to engage partners and the citizens. As you highlighted, I have completed the face to face training, and have received my carbon literacy training certificate. The issue with completing the online component will be rectified imminently.[3]

I will be raising the issue of what can be done to ensure all councillors have completed both components with the Executive Member Kate Chappell. One of your suggestions is having face to face training after health scrutiny committee; this could be an option however as the committee can last from 1.30 to 4.30, it may not be the best time – however I do note your broad point.

In terms of the substantive issue, that of looking at how the City understands the impact of climate change on health and takes action to best mitigate this; this is undoubtedly a key area and one with growing academic evidence.

The Health Scrutiny Committee remit covers adult social care, public health and reducing health inequalities, in addition to scrutinising wider NHS changes and developments. Over the last year we can covered a breadth of issues around public health, drugs and alcohol, adult social care, health and social care devolution, GP access, A&E performance and a detailed exploration of improving mental health services in the city. [4]

Manchester experiences extreme health inequalities, and I believe that a key component of some of these health outcomes is linked to both the drivers and impacts of climate change. It’s no surprise that improving healthy lifestyles in terms of diet and activity levels benefit individual health outcomes, alongside featuring in a low-carbon city.

In general terms issues relating to climate change have been closely monitored [5] in the scrutiny process through both the Neighbourhoods and Economy Committees (such as the MACF and supplementary annual plans). [6]  As Chair of Health, I am happy to suggest to the committee this be considered in our work programme either as a standalone, or joint committee piece of work to look at the specific challenge facing Manchester to ensure that we are doing our best to mitigate it.

If you have any specific suggestions around health related issues and climate change, I’d welcome your feedback

Best Wishes,
Cllr Bev Craig
Labour Councillor for Burnage
Chair, Health Scrutiny Committee

Responses from MCFly

[1] “Manchester has demonstrated its commitment to becoming a leading low carbon city.”  Eh?  Really?  I must have missed the bit where they kept even a few of their promises.  I am old enough to remember the promises from 2007 to about 2009 that Manchester would be the ‘greenest city in the UK by 2010’.  I remember all the promises about elections to the Steering Group for the Climate Change Action Plan, and how 60 councillors would be carbon literate by the end of 2014 [actual number was 23], about how Kate Chappell would start a blog. Etc etc.

[2] Lots of people in this city care, but the claim that lots of your colleagues (presumably you mean councillors?) care is harder to sustain.  At last (perhaps inaccurate?) count, only 25 councillors had completed their carbon literacy training.  I never see, from councillors, specific and sustained challenges to the Executive and the Senior Management Team about inaction on climate change from backbench councillors.

[3] So, I had to not only FoIA but also go to the Information Commissioner to get information about which councillors were carbon literate.  And it now seems that the  information finally released is not reliable.  What an omnishambles – the Council can’t even keep records about which of 96 people have received a specific bit of training?!

[4] “detailed exploration of improving mental health services in the city.”  This must be some new meaning of the word ‘improving’ that I am not familiar with.  As someone said two weeks ago “It’s extremely disappointing to see valuable support services for vulnerable people are still being cut, especially at a time when remaining mental health services are over-subscribed and under strain. The priority should undoubtedly be supporting the people using these services to make sure no one suffers as a result.” [you recognise that quote, yes?  It’s you, after all]

[5]  Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee basically rubber-stamps whatever nonsense they are told once a year.  The promised quarterly reports are usually late, and largely content free.  Economy Scrutiny has punted the issue ever since the laughable ‘Environmental Sustainability Subgroup’ made its recommendations (largely ignored – for example, where are the ‘environmental factors’ observations that are supposed to be on all reports going to Executive. That’s an idea first proposed four years ago. Still waiting.

[6]  Ah yes. The MACF. Recipient of about £75k in cash, plus paid staff.  The same MACF which holds meetings in secret, cancelled elections, cancelled the annual conference, didn’t produce promised newsletters, held a meeting with two people present and eight apologies etc etc.  That  MACF…

 And now to be churlish about getting (perhaps!) the very thing we’ve campaigned for #howtoalienateeveryone

Ultimately, this;  activists have had previous experience of lobbying the Council Scrutiny Committees in order to get them to produce reports.  The reports, when they do eventually appear, are often complete rubbish.  The Steady-State Manchester group was in fact borne out of the total uselessness of one such report  [see also here].

So, even if Councillor Craig is re-elected, and if she is is still chair of the HSC, and if she puts forward a call for a report/reports, and if this is agreed by her fellow committee members, and  if the report then gets written [items get kicked into the long grass all the time], then it will very likely be not very good (to put it mildly).

What is needed in its stead, is for civil society to co-ordinate its own independent report on the health impacts of climate change, collaboratively, and present it to the HSC members and other interested parties.  This is not actually that difficult, and if MCFly would be very happy to help put folks who wanted to do this in touch with each other, and suggest some useful short-cuts to the production of a civil society report. if you’re interested.


About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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