Oops – Manchester Climate Monthly gets it wrong – apology to Council, published in Evening News

Manchester Climate Monthly has published many a shocking scandal – based on replies to Freedom of Information Act requests.  The way it works (normally) is this.

a) Council makes a claim/promise
b) MCFly sighs/rolls eyes, and submits a Freedom of Information Act request

Then, 20 working days later
c) The Council admits it is either wrong in its claim or behind/WAY behind in keeping its promise
d) MCFLy writes a  blog and sends a letter to the Manchester Evening News, which often publishes

Then
e) nothing at all changes because this Council is beyond shaming.

That’s NORMALLY how it works, has worked, will work.  But on this occasion…. on this occasion I (Marc Hudson, editor of MCFly) screwed up.  Yes the FOIA went in.  Lots of good questions in there. But traffic lights are not street lights.  Thanks to Jayne on Facebook for pointing this out, and thanks to the Manchester Evening News for speedily printing my retraction/apology.  Lesson learned! #attentiontodetail

men thurs nov 28

Posted in Letters to the MEN, Manchester City Council | Leave a comment

Interview with the People & Planet occupiers! #Manchester #divestment

Earlier this week students at University of Manchester ended a week-long occupation of the Vice-Chancellor’s building. Their action had forced the University to bring forward a review of its investment in a number of fossil fuel companies. That’s a potential victory, what happens next will be crucial. Here the occupiers answer questions about the past, present and future of the campaign, and the help they are looking for in the coming weeks and months.

1. How long has the campaign for divestment been going on at University of Manchester? Before this, has the University promised to take action/do reviews? If so, what came of them?
peopleandplanetoccupationThe Fossil Free campaign is run by the People & Planet society and has been ongoing at the University of Manchester for eight years. In 2016, when the campaign was in its fifth year, the University reviewed its Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) policy. Members of the campaign at the time suspect that this review would have resulted in full divestment from fossil fuels had certain members of the board of governors not voted against this, due to personal involvement with fossil fuel companies (including Shell and BP.) Currently, none of the board of governors have any personal ties to anything in which the University invests, and the current committee think there is little chance of such an attempt being blocked again. Our hope is therefore that when the next review happens in January, divestment will occur as a result. This upcoming review was brought forward a year as a result of negotiations between Fossil Free and the University during our occupation.

2. What’s been happening in the campaign in the last year or so and what made you think that an occupation was the best/only way forward?
In the second half of the last academic year, we escalated our campaign using non-violent direct action tactics. We realised the need for direct action when a petition that collected over 1000 student and staff signatures was dismissed by the University and our lobbying efforts ignored. In February we interrupted a board of governors meeting and read out arguments for divestment to the governors. This gave us brief contact with one of the governors who offered us advice going forward, but who also told us many in the meeting dismissed our concerns. Following the public release of the arguments, we continued campaigning until the end of the semester. When we received no response from the University, we staged a one day occupation of the John Owens building, in the corridor outside Vice-Chancellor Nancy Rothwell’s office. This resulted in a brief conversation with Registrar Patrick Hackett, in which our concerns were once again dismissed.

Entering into this current academic year, we always considered another occupation to be the only way forward, as we knew we couldn’t continue to be ignored if we stayed long enough and brought significant disruption to the University. The People & Planet national day of action also happened to fall on the 19th November, which seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to try again. We targeted the same building but made sure we had toilet access as this is what made us have to leave after only 24 hours last time.

Before the occupation we had a recruitment period for new members, built connections to other societies and climate organisations, and released an open letter to the University warning them of action if they did not respond to our demands. We also hosted events and talks throughout the semester, to ensure people knew the science and reasons behind what we were asking for.

3. Tell us a bit about the occupation – was it longer than you expected? How did you keep up morale? What did the solidarity gathering on Monday mean for you?
The occupation was both longer and shorter than we expected. There was a period on Tuesday morning during which we were unsure if we were going to get in at all. Security were unexpectedly on the front door- we are still unsure whether this is because they caught wind of our plans, or because Nancy Rothwell was having a meeting at this time. Security presence meant we had to sneak in through the back (which we had prepared for but was much harder to execute.) Once we were inside, the relief was almost tangible. We set our bags down in the corridor next to the finance boardroom and begun hanging banners up. We got lucky when a group of people walked past and opened the door to the finance boardroom, letting it close behind them, allowing us to slip through the gap before the door fully closed. Security tried to stop us once they realised our intention to also move into the boardroom, but we edged our way in, and the staff inside were made to leave. Looking back, the stroke of luck that allowed us to occupy the finance boardroom was essential to the sustainability of our occupation, without it we wouldn’t have lasted half as long. The finance boardroom gave us a space to ourselves. More importantly, it had a soft carpet to sleep on.

The attention we were getting on social media helped us keep up morale a lot as we were able to see all of the support that the occupation had. During the day the boardroom would be silent save for the sound of typing as everyone was busy doing coursework (two members even had dissertations to write) but during the evenings we would play music, and towards the end of the week we started having group meals sat around the floor. We also played boardgames that we’d brought with us, did yoga out in the corridor, and attempted acrobatics when things got a little dull.

This isn’t to say the act of occupying wasn’t extremely stressful, because it definitely was. We all needed time out occasionally (which we managed by taking shifts sitting in the corridor guarding the door to the boardroom and toilet.) The hardest part was not being able to properly retreat from what was happening- you couldn’t go outside to get some fresh air or walk to another part of the building to stretch your legs. It was very confining. Having a good support network amongst ourselves, looking out for each other, and seeing all the support we were receiving online definitely played a major role in boosting morale.

Out of all the support we received over the week, the UCU solidarity gathering on Monday was definitely the biggest. There were hundreds of striking staff members in the Old Quad outside John Owens, having come down to support us after their march around the pickets. Myself and a few others were moved to tears. A number of us were able to spot some of our own lecturers within the crowd, which made the experience all the more emotional.

Throughout the week we also received visits from Lillia, the ten year old Fridays for Future activist, Zamzam Ibrahim, president of the NUS, and Afzal Khan, the Labour MP for Manchester Gorton.

4. Crucially, what next? What is it that you are hoping to achieve in the coming weeks and months – what skills and knowledge would the group like to have at a higher level/more broadly shared? How can people – whether undergrads, post-grads, alumni, staff or ‘ordinary people of Manchester’ – support you/get involved?
We recently had an occupation debrief to discuss how we were feeling after the action and what the next steps of the campaign will be. We’ve discussed three key aims that we hope to achieve over the next few months. First of all we feel it is important to communicate our aims and promote the campaign across the student and staff body, as there have been so many new developments since the start of the semester. We hope to do this by hosting more public events and launching a rally for our campaign at the beginning of next semester, which will track the campaign progress so far and help people get involved. Secondly, we feel it is important to maintain pressure on the University so they know we will be holding them to account over what was agreed in our negotiations. We will continue to lobby and protest outside finance meetings, as well as continuing to have a presence at University events. Finally, we aim to connect with other divestment campaigns to strengthen our networks, and put forward a combined divestment strategy ahead of the SRI policy review.

In the immediate future, a few of us are going to the People & Planet regional gathering to connect with other Fossil Free university campaigns and participate in skill-shares across the North-west region. We also have plans to put on a series of workshops for new members who are interested in joining, linking the divestment movement to the wider goal of climate justice.

For anyone wanting to get involved with or support our campaign, follow us on social media or shoot us an e-mail! We have weekly meetings every Wednesday at 2pm, in LG3 of the University of Manchester Student’s Union, but you don’t have to attend meetings to get involved or support the campaign. Look out for details about our rally, likely to be early February!

Facebook: Fossil Free University of Manchester
Twitter: @PeopleUom
Instagram: @peopleandplanetuom
E-mail: peopleandplanetmcr@gmail.com

5. Anything else you would like to say.
We’d like to give our deepest thanks to anyone who supported our occupation over the last week. As mentioned, it wasn’t easy, but knowing the amount of support behind us enabled us to keep going. Thank you if you have supported this occupation in any way, whether anonymously or openly, in person or online, as an individual or as a collective.

Posted in Campaign Update, Divestment, University of Manchester | Leave a comment

Manchester City Council’s Weds 27 November meeting & #climate change: 4 scenes from a circus, 6 footnotes

An excruciatingly long meeting of Full Council (1) happened yesterday. Marc Hudson, editor of Manchester Climate Monthly, sat through it so you don’t have to. Climate change came up repeatedly, and there are four (2) key points to be briefly (sic) covered.

One function of council is for a morale boost/spin-stiffen to backbench councillors. So, a presentation is organised about an issue du jour (I once sat through an HS2 advert. That was fun). Yesterday Pete Bradshaw, the sustainabilty bod at Manchester City Football Club was along, to give an interesting talk about the impressive things (and I am NOT being sarky) the club has been doing on, for example, single use plastics, and PET plastics, and its lighting (switching to LEDs) (see update below). Bradshaw was careful not to make sweeping claims, and talked a lot less (i.e. not at all) about the club’s carbon dioxide emissions from flights and those of its supporters. He spoke not at all, for example, about how the club flew players to Brighton and back in a night this May,

plane sailing for citys champions.png

 

and no councillor had the temerity (or knowledge?) to mention it.  (And to head of any fans who may feel aggrieved – I am sure the Reds are worse, and we’re ALL of us hypocrites).

In the Q and A to him there was a prepared question from the Executive Member for the Environment inviting Bradshaw to talk about good businesses (making pledges, taking part in the ‘Manchester Climate Change Board’ (3)). This is clearly part of a narrative that the the “leadership” of the  Council is trying to build – “we the council are doing our bit. Blame business if it isn’t.” The problem with this is that a)  as a whole business in Manchester has never been interested in climate change and the environment, going back to the mid-90s and Local Agenda 21 and b) Manchester City Council has not, over the last ten years,  used its muscle to get them interested (4).  Generally business only gets involved in the horrorshow messiness of environment policymaking (as opposed to staff-tree-planting etc) if one of two conditions apply

a) the government is about to wave a big regulatory stick

b) there’s loads of grants (taxpayers’ money) that can be hoovered up and called research and development.

Neither of those conditions have ever really applied in Manchester (4 again).

That presentation/Q and A was followed by a VERY interesting short presentation by a senior officer on the council’s work on added social value. More on that another time.

The one almost-saving grace of full Council is the questions to the Executive. These can come from friendlies (i.e. Labour backbenchers) and are known in the civilised parts of the world as ‘Dorothy Dixers.’ A classic Dorothy Dixer yesterday came from Chorlton Park councillor Eve Holt (who had seconded July’s climate emergency declaration, which was in itself based on an earlier effort by her to get a declaration up. This was before other core cities had declared climate emergencies, and when Manchester’s bosses were still determined to block. Ah, fun times)

At 1 hour 39 minutes(here’s the video) she asked Exec Member Gavin Bridges (Children’s Services – schools, etc) what his department was up to. The (unashamedly scripted) answer did have a certain about entirely predictable wilful blindness about Manchester Labour’s failure these last ten years, (and entirely justified blaming of austerity and the Coalition/Conservative governments since 2010. )

There were various useful nuggets – a follow-up youth climate conference is happening, after July’s effort (btw, in the 2009 Climate Action Plan, there were supposed to be regular youth conferences. Those never happened) Okay, so this wasn’t the cut and thrust of parliamentary debate, but at least, for once, useful info was released (and information on climate change by Manchester City Council has often tightly controlled and bottlenecked, which is a sign of stupidity and panic. But I digress)

Useful info was NOT on display in our last two examples. Skipping out of chronological order –

the leader of the Liberal Democrats, John Leech (Didsbury West) asked Richard Leese (leader of the council since 1996) about the practice of fuel-tankering – airlines carrying extra fuel to save money when flying to airports where fuel is more expensive, but with a cost of extra carbon dioxide emissions because fuel weighs a lot. Leech wanted to know whether Leese had raised the issue with the top bods at Manchester Airport Group (fun fact – Manchester City Council own 35.5 percent of MAG, and gets 45 million quid a year in dividend, which goes someway to plugging the enormous budget holes created by Coalition/Conservative governments).

Leese could have gone “yeah, I saw that report too and it sucks, so I got on the dog and bone right away.”

But nope, that would be too sensible, not partisan enough. Instead there was the usual ‘yeah but no but, well what have YOU been doing?” stuff that fills voters, if they’re watching (and tbh they aren’t) with anger and exasperation (5)

This came after though, one of the most contemptible things I have seen in full Council, or any other meeting of Manchester City Council over the last ten years (and that is saying something).

If you’ve eaten recently, don’t watch from 1 hour 49 minutes and 10 seconds, where Councillor Richard Kilpatrick (Liberal Democrat, Didsbury West) asks the Executive Member for the Environment a very straightforward question (one he’s asked, at greater length, before).

The question was this

“After the climate change emergency motion was passed by full council [in July], on what date did the Executive Member for the Environment commission the work by the Tyndall Centre on the viability of moving the target date for zero carbon target to 2030?”

Rather than give the kind of simple factual answer that Bridges had given, or the Executive Member for Finance (Carl Olerhead) had given earlier, Angeliki Stogia (Labour, Whalley Range) just ineptly and incoherently slagged off the Liberal Democrats and said ‘Labour is great’ to the horror and disbelief – if body language is anything to go by – of a sizeable number of Labour councillors.

The Lord Mayor asked Kilpatrick if he has a supplementary. So he (sensibly enough) asked exactly the same question. Stogia then slagged off the Didsbury West ward plan (8) while Still. Not. Answering. A. Very. Very. Straightforward. Question.

All this was so tawdry and indeed pitiful that you felt unclean just watching it, let alone enraged. Not even the most hardened partisan Labour hack could watch it without wincing: if Boris Johnson had done put in such a transparently shoddy and infantile performance, even he might have blushed. I am not exaggerating.

This, this is the leadership displayed on climate change? What damage is being done to the Council’s credibility? What ruins will be left when – sooner or later – some other councillor has to take over the Environment portfolio?

Footnotes

(1) Manchester City Council is made up of 96 councillors. 93 of them are Labour 3 of them Liberal Democrats. This meas nothing ever comes close to not being nodded through at full council, which meets 6 or so times a year and is largely for show. The only one where it’s a bit tense is after the elections, in late May/early June. That’s when the various posts (chair of this, exec for that) are up for grabs. Decisions get made by the 10 member executive, which meets more frequently. But more of this another time.

(2) In the failed second amendment (see here), climate was mentioned in both the “proposer” and “seconder” speeches, which presumably had been written and agreed by a committee (small c). So, Labour at least realises the current electoral salience of the end of civilisation. That’s “progress”, isn’t it?

(3) Another opaque and unaccountable stab-vest/quango. Nobody now mentions it, but the stakeholder steering group for climate action was supposed to have some members elected at the annual day-long stakeholder conference. Elections were never held, and the day-long conference was abolished in 2014. This is Manchester, we do things the same as any other scared and unaccountable council here.

(4) Since the “economic growth/inward investment at all cost” mob defeated the Labour greenies in 1995, there has been no credible stick-waving. And there’s no money. So, various people try to set up talk-fests (100 Months club), and the Council has its various Environmental Business Pledges, but they die fairly quickly. The Council said it was going to get 1000 organisations (inc businesses) to both endorse the 2009 Climate Action Plan (aka Manchester a Cretin Future), but only got 220 or so, and clearly didn’t care and didn’t have the stomach to use its power and influence to more strongly encourage business. Softly softly all the way. So, it’s a bit rich for them now to complain business isn’t involved, when the council never used its leadership position when it mattered. Have I digressed?

(5) All the hand-wringing by our Lords and Masters about low voter turnout, distrust and ‘apathy’, but they never take a look in the mirror, or hold their mates to account for pathetic partisan thuggery.

(6) Oh, let’s not even TALK about Whalley Range, the ward the editor of MCFly lives in. I will dig out the FOIA reply from July, I think….

Update – from facebook soon after posting this –  “I have a friend who lives near the stadium. She is delighted with all the investment MCFC have put into the area and she says most of her neighbours are too.”

Posted in Manchester City Council | Leave a comment

Not #climate: of Santa Claus, #Manchester City Council and tawdry rake-stepping

Manchester City Council’s full council meetings, which happen about 6 times a year, or so (1) are generally a circus, and a second-rate one (2).  Maybe it was ever thus, but the recent total dominance of the council by the Labour Party (3)  has not helped it become a beacon of reasoned debate.  Today was no exception.

There was the usual opening plea for reasoned and dignified debate. This was literally nodded through.  And – in the time allotted to a presentation by Manchester City football club about its sustainability actions – then forgotten.

Because then, when it came time for the sole motion….

Let’s back up a moment.  If one party dominates so entirely, then what is full Council for?  Well, obvs they have a legal obligation to meet, even if it’s show business. But what it has meant is that Council comes to serve three purposes

  • propagandising and stiffening the spines of councillors who may be wondering if things are on track. That’s what today’s aforementioned Manchester City presentation was about.  Councillors can now say to worried residents “I sw a very useful and inspiring presentation about sustainability. The COuncil and its allies are doing a good job’. It’s akin to glossy  in-house magazines in corporate world. Not there to inform, but to soothe.
  • public speaking practice for councillors new and old (and some of the new ones are old-hands, while some of the old ones are… well, moving swiftly on
  • the passing of headline-grabbing and patronage/pandering motions, which usually have an  “also, Liberal Democrats are awful human beings” amendment or some such.

Which brings us back to the sole motion today .

It started life as a simple “20 years of the Christmas Markets: how cool is that? How cool are we?”  So far, so standard. Councillor Pat Karney proposed it. Councillor Luthfur Rahman seconded it, in six words (there is a God).

While Karney was proposing the motion, he took note of the movements of the leader of the opposition, Cllr John Leech. Leech had gone up to talk to the City Councillor.  Karney was amused and mocking  “we’re all wondering why Councillor Leech is so agitated and irritated…” and then pretending Leech wanted to start the Xmas markets in September.

Karney was stepping on a rake. Again.

via GIPHY

Leech was (I presume) actually pointing out to the City Solicitor that the second amendment to the motion was out of order.

And so she later declared, saying it had nowt to do with the original motion.

It was, in fact, an electioneering stunt, the standard (and fwiw accurate/I agree with it) denunciation of the Tories record these last ten years.

But thanks to Leech’s “agitation and irritation”, the amendment was not put to a vote.  (Thanks to Our Glorious Leader’s pursuit, the speaker and seconder of the motion still got to have their says (both of which, interestingly, included reference to climate change. More on that later).)

Do amendments to motions get ruled out of order often? We consulted someone who knows about these things, and they told us nope, it’s quite rare indeed. As often as the closing of Deansgate by climate extremists, perhaps, to choose an example at random…
You can see the whole thing here (at 45 minutes in) https://manchester.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/393655

Footnote

(1) it may be more – it certainly feels like it)

(2) Have a read of Colin Thubron’s wonderful novel ‘Falling’

(3) 93 of the 96 Councillors are Labour. Three are Liberal Democrats.  There may be some change after next May. Watch this space.

Posted in Manchester City Council | Leave a comment

BREAKING: Target review for #Manchester WILL take place, albeit late…

In July 2019 Manchester City Council unanimously voted to declare a climate emergency.  The original motion committed the Council to “Continue working with partners across Manchester and GMCA to deliver the 2038 target, and determine if an earlier target can be possible, through a transparent and open review.”

A Liberal Democrat amendment “Explore the possibility of introducing a 2030 target in line with the IPCC report and request that a report on its viability be brought back to the Executive before the end of the year.” was accepted, also unanimously.

Since then, there’s been a lot of murkiness and confusion about what would be done by when.  See this failed attempt at a non-answer, for example. As MCFly reported recently, there will be a report to Executive (and that meeting has been pushed back because of the General Election).

It seems the review IS happening, albeit delayed.  According to the website of the Manchester Climate Change “Agency” (actually a community interest company funded by Manchester City Council)

http://www.manchesterclimate.com/plan

Updating Our Targets – December 2019

During December 2019 to February 2020, the Tyndall Centre are undertaking a review of Manchester’s targets to ensure we have up to date commitments in relation to the latest science and the Paris Agreement’s 1.5oC target. The scope of this review is:

  • Direct CO2 emissions: updating the targets we set in 2018 (as above)
  • Indirect / consumption-based CO2 emissions: to recomend the objectives and targets we should adopt to address emissions from the products, materials and services that we use here in Manchester but which are produced / originate outside the city e.g. electronics, furniture, clothing, construction materials, vehicles (their manufacturing), and others.
  • Aviation emissions from Manchester Airport: to recommend the objectives and targets we need for managing aviation emissions from Manchester Airport, in the context of the Paris Agreement and as part of wider national and international action.

The brief will be available to download by end-November 2019.

Today is the 27th November. Will the brief be available to download in seven minutes, seven hours, or seventy two? Watch this space…

And how “open and transparent” the review is remains to be seen.  Seriously, watch this space.

It was closer to seven minutes.  The five page document is now up here.

Dates for your diary-

dates for your diary

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Refurbing Manor Farm- #Manchester Council spends £174m to save 631 tonnes of C02 annually

We (1) here at Manchester Climate Monthly towers are not philistines. We do not believe that, as did the planners in 1945, that you should flatten the centres of British cities for the benefit of the almighty motor car.

Castle Grayskul… sorry, Manor Far… sorry, the Town Hall is a crucial part of our heritage.  Where else could Hollywood film its Houses of Parliament interiors, after all?

But it does stick in the craw a little bit when those long-term (35 years, anyone?) residents of CG/MF/Town Hall try to say that the Town Hall refurbishment will save significant amounts of carbon dioxide

Given that it will cost (at least) £175 million, you would have kind of hoped for an annual saving of more than… 631 tonnes of C02.  That’s probably merely a hundred round trip flights to Pakistan, to choose a destination entirely at random.

cost versus refurb

 

 

Footnotes

(1) That would be the royal (but Meghan, not Andy) we.  As in me, (Dr) Marc Hudson.

Posted in Manchester City Council | Leave a comment

RETRACTION: @ManCityCouncil boasts of #climate action- but it was actually Transport for Greater Manchester’s efforts…

MCFly (i.e. editor Marc Hudson) has stuffed up.  Traffic lights and street lights are not the same thing. A FOIA about Salix and STREET lights has been submitted. Have sent this letter to MEN.

In my letter (published in today’s MEN) I stated that the City Council was taking credit for TfGM’s work on traffic lights.  That’s because I didn’t take proper note of the distinction (somewhat obvious, and clear in your reporter’s story on 23 October) between traffic lights and street lights.
The fault for the mistake is entirely mine. I have now submitted a FoIA about street lights, and the answers will appear in due course on the Manchester Climate Monthly website.  Meanwhile,  apologies to your readers, and to the City Council.  There’s a lot to criticise them on,with regards to their poor performance on climate change over the last ten years,  but this particular claim was simply not true. 
Marc Hudson

editor of Manchester Climate Monthly

 

Another day, another inaccurate PR effort by Manchester City Council: a Freedom of Information Act request reveals that work they lumped into their Big Number Boast was actually that of… TfGM

Last month,  the Manchester Evening News ran a story under the headline ” Manchester council is spending £69 million reducing its carbon footprint – here’s what’s being done”.

Climate Emergency Manchester sent the MEN a letter about the shonkiness of the claims in the article- and, to their credit, they published it.

And now, the plot thickens.  On the subject of LED lighting (and see here for some historical context about just. how. long. this. has. taken.) the MEN article said this-

More than 56,000 street lights are being changed for low energy LED replacements at a cost of £32.8million over the next three years. Around 45,000 have been replaced so far and the council said this has also been funded through prudential borrowing. It is understood the council has worked with Salix Finance, a company that specialises in providing loans to the public sector to improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and lower energy bills, on funding this scheme.

Great. So Manchester Climate Monthly submitted a FOIA. Questions in bold, answers in italics.

4. How much has Salix Finance received in consultancy fees, payments etc (so, ALL money to them in connection with the LED traffic lights replacement)
The Council is not carrying out an LED traffic light replacement scheme. Traffic signalling in Manchester is managed and maintained by Transport for Greater Manchester.

5. What is the total estimated
a) cost of the traffic light replacement scheme from beginning to end (a number of 32 million was quoted in the article, but that is just for 3 years)
Please see above response (question 4)
b) annual Co2 saving from switching to LEDs, in terms of kilos of Co2 per annum
Please see above response (question 4)

This, by the way, is NOT the first time the City Council has banked so-called emissions reductions from traffic lights. All the way back in 2013 Manchester Climate Monthly published a story with the self-explanatory headline-

#Manchester C02 “7% reduction” illusory; down to traffic lights moving to TfGM’s books #beyondthecarbonbudget.

Leopards and their spots, eh?

So what do we learn?  That the PR department of Manchester City Council seems to be extremely flexible (or desperate? or both?) in its understanding of
a) what counts as their spend
b) how stupid the voters are.

We can only hope that the Zero Carbon Coordination Group does not see fit to allow such tosh to be peddled.

Oh, and by the way, grok this, the first question in the FOIA.

sixty nine million bullshits

Posted in Manchester City Council | Leave a comment

Climate #Emergency in #Manchester – but NO discussions about using financial reserves. Dosh for CCTV, though…

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!)

draw down on reserves

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.

 

Footnotes

(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!

Posted in climate emergency, Manchester City Council | Leave a comment

The Leader’s Blog – the plot… thins? Comments remain non-existent. #Manchester #democracy

In October the chap who has been leader of Manchester City Council for 23 – yes, twenty three – years, wrote a blog post called “How Green is My City.”  Yes, “his” city.  No achingly-revealing Freudian slip there, whatsoever….

It contains various ra…  comments about “carping” (some of us call it democracy and scrutiny), and such sensible statements as “Parked cars are zero emissions.”   The Meteor (alternative newspaper) has run an interesting series based on responses to this blog post’s claim that the Council is interested in working with citizens’ groups.

In response to the blog, and the lack of comments, Manchester Climate Monthly wrote an open letter “Are you okay, hun”) and submitted a Freedom of Information Act request with various requests about the post, the comments (or rather, lack of them) and the viewing stats..  We got a strangely speedy reply.  So we submitted another FoIA

What is the *usual* protocol for FOIAs to be dealt with – is there a policy for the information not to be supplied for 20 working days (this seems, after all, to be my experience)

Once a request for information is received the request gets logged centrally on the system the Council uses for processing requests and then gets allocated to the department who hold the information. The department will gather the information requested and will then respond to a request as soon as soon as possible. The length of time it takes a department to respond will often depend on how complex the request is. There is no policy for the information not to be supplied for 20 working days.

 Was FoIA  ITC/BH6D6H dealt with differently? Please supply the internal correspondence that pertains to this. I am particularly interested in any instructions – verbal or written, by any politically elected members, or senior officers – to expedite the matter.

I can confirm that request ITC/BH6D6H was not dealt with differently to any other request. As this was processed like all requests no internal correspondence exists.

The viewing stats seem REMARKABLY low – could you please check? I know for a fact that a bunch of people looked at the now notorious (some have said other, less kind words) blog ‘How Green is My (sic – it’s 550,000 people’s) City’.

I have checked with the department who provided the information and they have confirmed the figures are correct. They noted that historically – this page hasn’t ever had particularly high figures. This could – in part – be explained by people’s personal browser settings.

So, here is a screengrab of the viewing stats I was sent.

lear blog

 

And meanwhile, the glorious leader has not blogged since the 4th November (but perhaps purdah?)  And the comments section is still not fixed.

if you want to talk to King Lear
Watch this space.

Posted in Manchester City Council | Leave a comment

Sustainable Consumption Institute Festival – 5th December. Tickets available

SH-Final-PRINT-VERSIONA festival of ideas at the University of Manchester’s Sustainable Consumption Institute is set to lay down a marker for sustainability research in the next decade.

The event on Thursday 5th December will draw together findings from the Institute’s research over the past 10 years, and launch their new agenda for the coming decade. The event will be open to policy makers, business leaders, researchers, and activists, as well as the general public.

The full line up for the Festival  can be found on the Sustainable Consumption Institute website

Here’s where to go to register for your free ticket.

It will feature guest speakers from all aspects of the sustainable consumption conversation. In addition to SCI academics, speakers include Corin Bell, the Founder and Director of the social enterprise Open Kitchen MCR which takes food that would otherwise go to waste and uses it to cater at conferences and events. Corin is also the Lead for the Plastic Free Greater Manchester Campaign for Mayor Andy Burnham and Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

Also speaking are Nissa Shahid, an urban planner at the London-based Future Cities Catapult, and Martine Postma, a Dutch environmentalist and former journalist who pioneered the concept of Repair Cafés, where people come together to learn how to repair the objects they would otherwise throw away.

The event will take place in the new lecture theatre of the AMBS, and the programme offers several opportunities to discuss ideas as well as to network during a break and reception to follow. The reception is being catered by Open Kitchen MCR and attendees will have a chance to sample products from sustainable local businesses including Beer Nouveau, Stitched Up doing upcycled products, Sodada doing kombucha, as well as participate in a raffle  for a bag of organic and locally-source vegetables from Veg Box People.

The event has been led by Dr Sherilyn MacGregor, Reader in Environmental Politics at the Sustainable Consumption Institute, who pointed out that the research agenda is driven by the twin challenges of growing social inequalities and a rapidly worsening climate crisis. “There are significant socio-economic barriers to the uptake of sustainable practices, products and services, and our research aims to tackle these barriers head on, alongside issues such as urban transport, meat consumption, and plastics”, she added.

Today, the SCI is a key contributor to the University of Manchester’s aim to excel in research that combines the insight of different academic disciplines such as sociology, human geography and urban studies, business and management studies, environmental politics, social movement and innovation studies as a basis for research that illuminates the ways in which consumption practices play a key role in shaping societal responses to questions of sustainable development.

 

Full disclosure

Marc Hudson, editor of Manchester Climate Monthly, did a funded-PhD at the SCI between 2014 and 2018, and is currently employed by the SCI.

Posted in University of Manchester, Upcoming Events | Leave a comment