Draft Terms of Reference for Environmental Scrutiny Committee

Manchester Environmental Scrutiny Committee

Draft Terms of Reference

v1.0 1st February 2014 Marc Hudson

Pre-amble: The current performance of Manchester organisations towards the two headline goals of the Manchester Climate Change Action Plan 2009, is – to put it mildly – not as good as it needs to be. There are various reasons for this, not least the austerity agenda of central Government. This is unlikely to change significantly, even if the Coalition Government is defeated in May 2015.

If we want to ensure Manchester is doing its bit towards reducing the speed and scope of climate change, and is becoming ready for the inevitable changes and challenges it will bring, we need to improve our performance. An Environmental Scrutiny Committee is one important part of this.

Remit 2014-5 (to be reviewed in 2015)

  • Monitor progress on the implementation (not just of the Council) towards the two headline goals
  • Bring in new thinking from other organisations, looking at best practice from other local authorities in the UK and beyond.
  • Quarterly reports on the City Council’s internal progress towards its 2014-7 targets
  • Quarterly reports on progress towards the 9 actions listed in the January 2014 Open Letter to the Council.
  • Rolling programme of all members of the Executive, and chairs of all committees giving oral/written reports to the committee on what progress is being made towards the Climate goals, and – crucially – what is not going to plan, what the obstacles are, what help is needed.
  • Commission other reports/invite expert witnesses as requested by members of the Committee and relevant other groups.
  • Ensure that meetings and reports are in formats that are useful for the average time-poor resident of Manchester.
  • Produce recommendations that go to Executive


Up to 9 councillors
Up to 9 seconded members of relevant civil society/academic organisations
Suggested organisations –
Faith Network for Manchester
Manchester Youth Council
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research
Steering Group Member (once it has explained how its membership will begin to be elected. If the plan is not enacted, the post on the Env Scrutiny Committee will be withdrawn.)
Representative from a Housing Association

Expectations/requirements of members
To have successfully completed carbon literacy training
To actively support all nine of the actions listed in the open letter
To watch a production of “An Enemy of the People” by Henrik Ibsen and write a statement on how and why the health spa in that play is in no way analogous to Manchester Airport.
To attend at least three quarters of the Environmental Scrutiny Committee meetings in any given year
To publicise their membership of the Environmental Scrutiny Committee, and its upcoming meetings, and the outcomes of the meetings via social media, face-to-face etc.
To undertake at least 6 public speaking engagements per year at various events around the city, and to report back to the Scrutiny Committee in a brief written report what went well/badly on each of those occasions.
To consciously improve their knowledge around climate issues (the Tyndall Centre might be willing to hold the odd teach-in, if asked nicely.)
To consciously improve their public speaking/presentation/facilitation skills

Ideally these will be held outside of working hours, and in a mix of locations around the city
Meetings will be filmed and audio recorded, with the unedited footage uploaded onto a website (ideally both council and a stand-alone site)
Minutes of meetings written in English, rather than Councilese.
Strenuous efforts made to publicise the meetings (if you ask Manchester Climate Monthly nicely, they may do a bit of the leg work)
Use of information technology (twitter, skype etc.) to break down barriers to participation

Format of meetings
The standard model of everyone sat round a big table, one person talking at a time, will not help us meet our goals. It will lobotomise and demotivate both members of the committee and members of the public.
There will be times this is indicated (e.g. monitoring progress), and times where other formats –
working in pairs, small group work, “open ended questions”, pecha kucha presentations etc. – will be more appropriate. It will be the responsibility of all members, not just the chairs, to ensure that the right tools are used at the right times.

There will be two chairs, one from the council and one from the civil society organisations. Each group will be responsible for nominating its own candidate and vice-chair.
They will either alternate responsibility for chairing or co-chair as they see fit.

Before meetings
They will be publicised extensively by members, making it clear that members of the public are welcome, and can also be involved without schlepping to whatever venue happens to be honoured with the Committee’s presence.

During meetings
Filming, audio and tweeting/blogging are actively encouraged

Members of the public do not have the right to speak, have to ask the chairs yadder yadder yadder, presumption is that you will be able to, within a time limit.

After meetings
The minutes of the meeting will be posted in plain text (not as a wretched pdf). Comments will be invited (and moderated).

A blog/short video film will be co-produced by/for/with the co-chairs of the committee, and any other member who is so minded.
Social media tools such as Storify will be used to aggregate the various forms of content that were generated.
A press release will be generated per meeting.
Where appropriate, letters to the MEN/guest columns will be created

Publicity/explaining the committee
A basic video explaining the remit, role and function of the committee will be produced. It will be updated as appropriate. The video will be hosted on the City Council’s website and also on youtube. Environmental organisations will be encouraged to share the video on their websites.

Reports to Committee must be concise, written in plain English.
Summaries must accurately reflect the actual content of the report.
All reports are to contain sections entitled
“What is behind schedule”
“Specific lessons learnt”
“Help that should be requested from other bodies in the City”

Forward plan
The forward plan will be constantly updated. It will not be buried as a pdf in the hardest possible place to find.

Possible early topics
Adaptation – what has happened?
What is wrong with “resilience” as a concept?
How can Manchester communities be supported to create and implement their own disaster preparedness plans? What can we do to ensure that the devil doesn’t take the hind-most.
What is a low carbon culture?
In what ways can information technology and social media help us achieve our goals?
Update on the Biodiversity Action Plan
Update on the long-promised and still-not-delivered Green and Blue Infrastructure Plan
Where are the large public sector bodies on climate (Universities, Hospitals, Police, Fire, Ambulance etc.)
How can the Council and the Steering Group act as a force multiplier?
Why is the Low Carbon Hub continuing to meet in private?
Can we meet our Climate Goals with a growth economy?

Suggested guests
Tyndall Centre folks
People from Madlab
National “Sustainable NHS” folks
Local Authorities bods from other cities (Bristol springs to mind.)
The list is endless.

Possible venues
Hulme Community Garden Centre
Moss Side Community Allotment (we’ll get a gazebo)
Birch Community Centre in Fallowfield
Somewhere in Crumpsall?
Somewhere in Gorton?
Somewhere in Burnage
Wythenshawe Forum

Clearly extremely limited.
Some reports can only be generated by the Council bureaucracy.
Other reports can be produced by guest speakers/members of the Committee
Oral reports can be filmed and transcribed, and given back to the speaker for them to make additions/clarifications (but not to re-write history! They said what they said.)
Experiment with voice-recognition software to get the transcription right.
Or CROWD SOURCE IT (e.g. have 5 volunteers doing bits of a meeting, then bob is your uncle).


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