Manchester City Council has refused to answer basic questions about when councillors became aware that quarterly climate reports had been unilaterally abolished.
Two weeks after all councillors on the Neighbourhood and Environment Scrutiny Committee (NESC) were sent a short specific list of questions, the chair of the committee has replied – with a prepared statement from the politician her committee is supposed to scrutinise!
Quarterly climate reports had been agreed by the ‘scrutiny’ committee (at the urging of activists) in 2014 because a cycle of “annual promise but not much delivery” had been noted. The committee wanted to keep closer tabs on things, rather than let officers and Executive Members assure councillors that things would be on track soon at a single meeting every year.
The quarterly reports were unilaterally abolished earlier this year, by the Executive Member for the Environment. A series of questions were posed to the councillors about when they found out, what they thought about it. One councillor (a member of the opposition Liberal Democrats) replied immediately. All other (Labour) members of the NESC kept silent. On Wednesday, over a week after the questions were asked, a reply was promised. Late on Thursday night it was received. It was not worth the wait, containing a prepared statement from… the Executive Member that the committee is nominally there to scrutinise. Such sock-puppetry!
The reply (see bottom of this post) answered none of the questions. Manchester Climate Monthly now replies with this open letter:
Dear Councillor Igbon,
thank you so much for your response (but not reply) to a set of simple questions from almost two weeks ago. Those were simple questions to each councillor of the NESC.
You have provided a statement from … the Executive Member for the Environment. I have already been in contact with Councillor Stogia, as you will have known from a cursory reading of my letter two weeks ago.
Let me say this very simply. I. Was. Not. Asking. Her. Questions. I. Was. Asking. You (all NESC councillors). Questions.
Let me repeat these questions.
1. When did you become aware of the Executive Member for the Environment’s intention to abolish quarterly climate reports?
2. Do you think that Executive Members should be able to unilaterally decide what reports are and are not available to scrutiny committees?
3. Do you agree with her assessment that abolishing quarterly reports was the right decision and sends the right message about climate action urgency?
a. If so, what does that mean for the ability of the Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee to do its job on climate change policy throughout the year?
b. If you do NOT agree with her assessment, how have you expressed your disagreement to her, and what – if anything – do you intend to do about it?
Your statement – or rather, the one you got Councillor Stogia to write, after an almost two week delay – does NOT answer ANY these questions. But it actually reveals even more (unintentionally) about what “scrutiny” means in Manchester Labour. Even questions about how scrutiny will be conducted will be answered by the people at the centre who are being “scrutinised”. The North Koreans could learn a thing or two, I think.
It also reveals that until I asked (repeatedly), you, as Chair, had not even questioned the absence of quarterly climate reports.
I find all this quite extraordinary (as well as laughable and repugnant). Kafka and Orwell would be rolling in the aisles.
I cannot “contact her direct” because my questions are to YOU and your fellow councillors. I do not understand how this is so hard to understand.
I still expect answers to these questions. They are straightforward, and important.
Yours, in disbelief at how democratically elected councillors refuse to answer very very simple and straightforward questions.
This is the reply MCFly received late on Thursday night:
I have asked for information from the executive member for the reasoning for the decision , there is additional item for scrutiny on air pollution. The committee will continue to scrutinise and make recommendations that are of benefit to the residents. Enclosed is the statement from the executive member Cllr Angeliki Stogia.
“Our Council’s Climate Change Action Plan covers the period 2016-2020. The Plan contains 20 actions which set out how we will deliver a 41% reduction in our CO2 emissions by 2020 (based on a 2009/10 baseline). Until recently, quarterly reports have been produced by officers and published on the Council’s website. These reports comprise a quantitative report on the CO2 emissions data which is available on a quarterly basis and also a qualitative update on progress against the 20 actions in the plan. Having reviewed the effectiveness of these reports, it has become clear that the data is lagged meaning that the reports do not give an accurate picture of quarterly progress. It has also been increasingly difficult to provide meaningful quarterly updates against the actions in the Plan. The number of unique hits to these reports on the Council’s website average between 10 and 15 per quarter. ”
I hope this answers you question if you need further information it would be best to contact her direct.
Cllr Lee-Ann Igbon
Labour Member for Hulme Ward
Chair of Neighbourhoods & Envirnoment Scrutiny
0161 234 3235