Manchester City Council has had precisely no discussions about dipping into its financial reserves to deal with the Climate Emergency it declared in July 2019. A Freedom of Information Act (1) request made by Manchester Climate Monthly can reveal that although the council is sitting on significant reserves, and although no money has been set aside or sought for dealing with our climate emergency, there have been no discussions about accessing these reserves.
Here’s the relevant bits of the FOIA
The Council financial reserves are reported at the end of the financial year in the annual audited accounts. The position as at the 31 March 2019 for the year 2018/19 were as follows:
Reserve £000 General Unearmarked Reserves 22,045 Housing Revenue Account Un-earmarked Reserves 104,451 Earmarked Reserves* 496,074 Total Usable Reserves 600,525
* Earmarked reserves are set aside for specific capital and revenue purposes
Manchester City Council’s 2018/19 Annual Accounts can be found on the following link where you will find a full breakdown of reserve balances as at 31 March 2019. Please see Annual Accounts Note 44: Usable Reserves.
as for who decides, well –
Governance around the Council’s use of reserves is robustly detailed in Manchester City Council’s Constitution, under Part 5: Financial Regulations, Chapter 2: Accountancy, Maintenance of Reserves and Provisions (pages 21–38). This explains the approval process and the level of authorisation applied to Chief Officers and Heads of Service, the Deputy Chief Executive and City Treasurer, the Executive and Full Council. The Constitution is published on the Council’s website and available on the link below:
And crucially, we asked for “Copies of all discussions since 11 July 2018 initiated by and /or involving the Executive Member for the Environment about use of reserves for the climate emergency.”
Councillor Angeliki Stogia, Executive Member for Environment, Planning and Transport, has confirmed she does not hold any records of any discussions since 11 July 2018 initiated by and / or involving her office on use of reserves for climate change.
But hey, guess what – there’s no money for the climate emergency, but there are HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS for concrete bollards and CCTV. This screengrab below is from a report – Global Revenue Budget Monitoring Report to the end of August 2019 – to Executive in October 2019 (thanks to the officer replying, very comprehensively, to the FOIA!)
So, yes, you should not dip into ‘rainy-day’ funds unless it is a rainy day.
And yes, this appalling government has starved local authorities of funding (continuing a process going on since 1987). But if a climate emergency is not a rainy day, what is?
Watch this space.
(1) A Freedom of Information Act request can be made by anyone (you have to provide your name and address) to public bodies (councils, hospitals, universities). It is free to do so. The more specific you are in your request, the more likely (or “less unlikely”) you are to get an answer. As soon as Climate Emergency Manchester’s post about ‘how to write a FoIA is up, this paragraph will link to it!