Manchester City Council has paid for flights to Exeter, Southampton, Belfast, Southend and Edinburgh in the last year, while simultaneously telling everyone how seriously they take climate change.
In addition to these numerous domestic flights, there are a number to easily accessibly by other means destinations, such as Dublin, Brussels and Amsterdam. (Sure, it takes a little bit more time, but do we give an actual damn about leading by example or doesn’t it? Because – and this is the fun bit – the Council still doesn’t have any policy about favouring other forms of transport.
Quoting from correspondence –
Me: I would also for each of these flights, (and especially domestic and short-haul) were any alternative methods of travel (e.g. train) considered. If they were considered, why was air travel given priority? I note that two years ago you said “Generally when booking domestic and short haul flights the cost of air travel is compared with the cost by train. When booking air travel the Council considers the notice given to arrange travel, time taken to arrive at the destination, start time of the events and return to Manchester. In these instances air travel is the most cost effective.”
Council: I can confirm that this still applies.
This strongly implies that you’d rather pay for air travel than put someone up in a Travellodge. Has any thought been given, by anyone, to the emissions implications? If so, please supply the paperwork
There is no formal Council staff travel policy. However, the Council only uses air travel when it is the most viable option.
But it gets better still.
Me: … Two years ago you wrote ” There is no specific written guidance regarding reducing the amount of air travel, nor are there any plans to produce such guidance at present” Is that still the case?
Council: Yes. There is no specific written guidance regarding reducing the amount of air travel, nor are there any plans to produce such guidance at present” (emphasis added)
You have to weep for this city, for this ‘democracy’.
Tomorrow: Andy Burnham and his flights.
Doubtless the Council and its apologists will bleat about what a small proportion of their total carbon budget flying is (while cancelling quarterly climate reports, and refusing to ever release how many council buildings they’ve sold off, which contributes to the alleged ‘reduction’ in their carbon budget). But this doesn’t get to the crux of the issue – they fly people to EDINBURGH for Christsakes. They have NO POLICY about reducing their flying. And yet they happily produce these idiotic glossy reports, and people who ought to know better – who DO know better – play along with it.
By the way, all information comes not from a scrutiny committee: these are made up almost entirely of loyal Labour councillors. It does not come from the local media, which basically reprints the City Council’s press releases as front page ‘journalism’. It doesn’t come from ‘campaigning’ environmental groups that claim to be friendly with the earth. Nope, it comes rather from a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by an unpaid citizen.
Re “This strongly implies that you’d rather pay for air travel than put someone up in a Travellodge.”
While there might be some reluctance on the part of the council to pay for staff to spend a night in a budget hotel, I think there are other factors that might make train or car travel the day before plus a night in an an hotel unfeasible.
Some people have responsibilities that preclude them from being able to spend the night away from home for business purposes. People might have caring responsibilities for children, or disabled or elderly family members, or they might have pets that need feeding and can’t be left alone for a night. It’s often women who assume the bulk of caring responsibilities, so to put the onus on staff members to stay overnight away from home is to place additional practical and emotional demands on women in particular. And to expect that/place such demands on employees could have an adverse impact on women and their careers, if they are reluctant/unable to spend the night away from home, eg will they be overlooked for promotions in future if they haven’t been able to ‘successfully’ juggle such priorities? (Check your male privilege, Marc. 😉 )
Also, it’s not just about the overnight stay, but also practicalities around journey time and when the journey starts and finishes.
For a trip to Exeter, for example, the journey time by train is more than four hours. So travel time alone, there and back, is the equivalent of a more than a whole work day. Yes, it might be possible to do some work on the train, if there are plug sockets and a decent WiFi signal. But hang on, when are they catching this train? Do they travel the day before during work hours? In which case, a meeting results in two (or three) days out of the office? Or is the employee expected to put in a full day in the office then jump on a train, spend four hours travelling before spending a night in a budget hotel, all in their own time, which they might rather spend sitting on their sofa and watching Netflix or going to their weekly pottery class or whatever (aside from the fact that some might have caring responsibilities and be unable to do so, as mentioned previously)?
So the issue isn’t one easily solved by saying ‘Let them travel by train and stay overnight in a budget hotel’, it’s about whether those staff members are willing and able to do so, and being unwilling and/or unable to do so should not be held against them, as it will likely mainly be women who are unable to travel for business purposes.
And it’s also about lost productivity due to time lost while travelling, which might impact on service provision back at the office.
Btw, I was surprised you didn’t mention video conferencing, which used to take place in special video-conferencing suites, as an alternative, because nowadays the technology is more readily available.
my first reply seems to have gone walkabout, so here is a cut-down version of it.
a) thanks for the comment, and for flagging gender – it is v. important
b) I strongly suspect the people on these trips are at the upper end, and can afford cat-sitters etc
c) An organisation that took carbon reductions seriously WOULD be paying people for time off in lieu, ensuring they travelled with decent wifi so could still be productive. These are problems, but not insurmountable ones. There is ZERO evidence though, that these sorts of conversations have EVER happened inside Castle Grayskull.
For me, it comes down to are we going to take climate change seriously, or is it simply too inconvenient. We have chosen the second, and the age of consequences is upon us (and will hit women, the poor, the elderly, the disabled hardest and first, as you already know).