Monday, 23 September 2013

Comment: 14.5 million reasons...

Recently a group, askthepeopleofmanchester formed in reaction to a news item that came out of Manchester City Council.

At a committee meeting the Council announced that its investment in Manchester Airport had yielded a windfall of 14.5 million pounds that they could spend as they like.

What are they proposing to do?
  1. Put the money into the ‘Green and Clean Initiative’, the focus of which is NOT reducing climate change OR pollution levels. It is to run activities that improve the ‘perception’ of visitors and cleanliness of the city in line with Manchester aspirations to be a ‘Global City’.  
  2. Put the decision on how to spend the whole £14.5 million in the hands of the Chief Executive, Howard Bernstein (in ‘consultation’ with others)

It’s nonsense.

For the last 3 years, Manchester City Council has been complainingthat the cuts to services have been forced on them by the Government and there has been no choice in decisions it had to make.

Now it HAS some money its choosing NOT to look at saving those services, services which help the people of Manchester.

What would we do? A number of things including
  • Keep open the libraries and swimming pools that people have campaigned
  • Create a fund for people affected by the bedroom tax to prevent evictions
  • Look at pilot projects that support the employment of young people in Manchester
  • Improve and extend Manchester cycle lanes
  • Create a fund for small social enterprises and voluntary sector organisations offering up to 20% matched funding for grants or contracts that offers a public service to the people of the city
  • Invest in proper ‘joined-up-thinking’ planning, education and activities that reduce the climate change emissions and pollution in the city.

There are also a range of things that can be done around the food banks, investing in start-up microbusinesses and child poverty.

But really, who is to blame for this proposal being considered at the full Council meeting on October 9th?

Manchester’s Labour councillors. As a group.

They were the one’s wringing their hands saying ‘its not our fault’ when the cuts were happening and now they actually have a chance to do something about it, they are silent.

Manchester has had enough of them.

What can you do?
  1. Signthe petition TODAY!!!  Askthepeopleofmanchester are a campaign worth following
  2. Contact Manchester councillors, ask them why they are supporting this proposal
  3. VOTE!!!

In Manchester Labour councillors only seem to react if they think their seats might be threatened. OnThursday October 10th, is the Ancoats and Clayton by-election.

Of course, we are asking people to voteGreen Party or if you can’t vote get in touch to help out.


There are 14.5 million reasons to do so.
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Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Comment: Manchester Council Carbon Reduction Report ‘untruth’

There has been some reaction to the Manchester Green Party response to reports that Manchester City Council had lied about the results of its Carbon Reduction Report, spinning an increase in carbon emissions into a 7% reduction. One local councillor described it as ‘petulant’ while conceding it as accurate.

The report, presented at the Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee on July 16th, under pressure from ‘Friends of the Earth’, other environmental groups and attending councillors forced the committee to alter the report to accurately reflect the facts.

What this means is that the Council’s target of reaching an interim 20% reduction in carbon emissions by 2013/14 is in disarray and assumption of trust in the council’s reporting of progress, gone.

It’s a depressing state of affairs.

You could say ‘It’s a local council sleight-of-hand, what does it matter?’

In 1992 the historic Rio Earth Summit was held where global issues of climate and environment were discussed in a meaningful way for the first time by a significant number of countries.

Following that rousing event Manchester, in 1994, organised and hosted the follow up event, the Global Forum. Though it had its problems, it was aspirational.

Next year will be that event’s 20 year anniversary.

And in that time the Council leadership has gone from Global Forum to major airport investor and ‘misrepresenting’ its Carbon Reduction Reports.

It has fallen a long way.


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Thursday, 27 June 2013

Manchester Green Party: Response to Comprehensive Spending Review 2015/16


Picture by George Hodan
Yesterday the poorly performing Coalition government announced its Spending Review for 2015/16. The centre piece of the review was a further £11.5 billion of spending cuts, including £2.6bn from the Communities Department.

It is expected that this will translate to an average 10% cut to local council budgets.

Manchester and Manchester City Council has fared badly from previous rounds.  Under the current government, during 2011/13 the Council had been forced to make cuts of £170 million. The last Spending Review, taking effect during 2014/15 an additional £80 million is removed from local budgets.

In practice, in Manchester, this has directly led to almost 3000 jobs lost from the Council, closure of Youth Services, SureStart Centres, Day Care Centres, libraries, swimming pools, public toilets as well as cuts to Childrens’ Services, Adult Services, Neighbourhood Services, grants for voluntary organisations and funds which support disabled people to remain independent in their communities. And this is not a complete list.

What will an additional 10% cut mean to Manchester?

For the people of this city, up until recently, the hope was to hold out for a change of government, to hope that an incoming Labour government would put a stop to the austerity that is strangling our local communities. But Labour has accepted the Coalition’s argument and has committed itself to keeping to the current government’s public spending plans. It leaves The Green Party as one of the few national parties making an argument against austerity.

For the past few years Manchester City Council has reacted to the budget reductions by 

There is an argument to be had in Manchester on the Council’s spending priorities.

Manchester Green Party Chair, Deyika Nzeribe reacted to the Spending Review saying “Further cuts to the Council budgets will be disastrous given what has already been lost. But after 2 rounds of significant cuts, the reaction of the Labour Council is poor. Funding the Australian Swimming Team while cutting Manchester libraries and swimming pools is one of several bad decisions that we can’t afford.


And instead of just concentrating on how best to reduce its services, why isn’t the Council using its fundraising expertise to support and expand what is left of the voluntary sector in the city so it can take over where the Council can no longer manage? It clearly can do it for buildings, why not services for people that need it?”

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Friday, 3 May 2013

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Martin Luther King 'I've Been to the Mountain Top Speech' April 3rd 1968

Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4th 1968, aged 39 in Memphis, Tennessee.

The day before, Dr King delivered one of his finest and final speech, commonly called the ‘Mountain Top’ speech.

45 years ago today, this is that speech.









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Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Manchester Greens Demand No Bedroom Tax Evictions Vote


Speaking at a cross-Party rally against the bedroom tax on Saturday, Manchester Green Party Chair Deyika Nzeribe called on the city’s Labour Council to refuse to evict any tenants because of the bedroom tax.

Deyika said  “The bedroom tax and council tax changes effectively cut benefits income by 27%.  That could affect over 12000 households in Manchester. The Green Party is against this – locally and nationally. 

“The coalition Government could have looked to make their reforms through local councils and housing organisations, instead they have made the bedroom tax the responsibility of the poor.   The Green Party and the Scottish National Party have taken a clear stance against the bedroom tax in Parliament.  Though campaigning against it, Labour has indicated that they would keep the tax in some form.  

“The same double standard is reflected in Manchester where the Council have remained silent on what they would do regarding the changes. Green-led Brighton and Hove Council have resolved that no tenant will be evicted because of the bedroom Tax.  On behalf of Manchester Green Party, I call upon the City Council to vote on a motion that no tenant will be evicted because of the tax in this city.  The Labour Council should stop making speeches and start taking action.

Manchester already has the highest level of child poverty in the country and rising levels of unemployment.  These welfare changes will make things very much worse." 

Manchester Green Party in recognising this,
  • have met with and support the work of the Greater Manchester Poverty Commission and the newly formed Poverty Action Group,
  • we have started a debate on how a local Green Economy can decrease the shocking levels of poverty in the city and make it less susceptible to recession, and  
  • are assisting local and city wide groups providing support for and protesting the bedroom tax and cuts to local services.

During the Spring 2013, the Manchester Green Party will hold a series of open policy forums following on from our initial ‘Green Economy, Green Jobs’ seminar in March. With the aim to creating practical policy and actions to address some of Manchester’s pressing issues, areas looked at will include
  • the  Economy, Employment and Poverty,
  • the Environment and Climate Change,
  • Infrastructure,
  • Neighbourhoods and Democracy. 

Welfare, NHS, Social Services, the Economy. 

The country is going in the wrong direction with these  ‘reforms’ and by its inaction, so is this city.

The Green Party aim to change that.

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Monday, 25 February 2013

'Green Economy, Green Jobs' Event Friday March 15th



What If..?

What if Manchester City Council’s economic policy is wrong?
What if it can’t adapt to a hostile government’s welfare reforms?
What if you found out that Manchester has the highest levels of child poverty in the country?


What then?

We think differently about the Manchester economy.

Let’s talk about the future of Manchester.

We can build a model that is resilient and distributes wealth more equally in the city.
A model that can build a strong city and stronger region.


Manchester Green Party Presents: ‘Green Economy, Green Jobs’

Speakers: Natalie Bennett – Leader, Green Party of England and Wales
Neil McInroy - Chief Executive, Centre for Local Economic Strategies

Friday 15th March, 7–8.30pm
Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount Street, Manchester M2 5NS
More information: email secretary@manchestergreenparty.org.uk


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@McrGreenParty



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Friday, 22 February 2013

Fighting for Fairness… but Who is doing the Fighting?


The Manchester City Council Leader’s Blog is an interesting piece. Called ‘Fighting for Fairness’, it is about the recent Council Executive meeting that spent most of that meeting addressing cuts to local swimming pools and libraries.

From the title and text, you would think that it was the Council that was fighting to keep services open, NOT the 1000s of Manchester residents that signedmarchedoccupiedlay down in roads and attended council meetings.

Its unlikely that any pictures will emerge of the council leader addressing crowds, loudspeaker in hand, urging them to fight cuts to local services.

And its easy to jab Labour over these issues but not so helpful.

Its more helpful to ask questions:

Why has the Levenshulme pool not been built? When campaigners fought to keep their baths open in 2011, the council were happy for people to think the pool will be open this year. What guarantee is there that other promised pools will open in 2015?

Why are local libraries under threat anyway? Why didn’t the Council plan ahead in 2011? If that seems unfair, Manchester Central Library, costing £48 million in refurbishment, is to share a new award of nearly £1million with Birmingham Library. Someone planned ahead for Central Library. Whilst it is good news, its more money for large capital projects whilst local services go to the wall.

Where is the new thinking on how to keep council services open? York Council is experimenting with creating a mutual to run its services instead of cutting services or getting volunteer’s to run libraries.

It’s a sad day when a Labour Council takes on board the Big Society model of service delivery.

There are other ways of addressing changes in local council services in Manchester.

Watch this space.

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Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Comment: Libraries Consultation Session in Longsight. Well...


Its currently consultation season in Manchester.

To deal with the £80 million cut to its finances from central government, Manchester City Council has decided that cuts to library and leisure services are amongst its preferred option choices.

For libraries, that consultation runs until April 17th 2013 and consists of a questionnaire and a series of public meetings.

I went to the first of two sessions which covered the ‘central’ area which includes Central Libraries, Longsight, Hulme and Moss Side.

Though the fate of libraries and pools have been the subject passion and attention, it was disappointing that I was only one of 3 people in attendance at this session to hear the Head of Libraries and his deputy run through their tentative plans for libraries in the city.

They seem to be proposing various types of libraries in the city. Where facilities are to be cut, it is suggested there maybe community libraries.

Community libraries will

  • Be run by volunteers
  • Have access to main book stock and  library system IT
  • Have a buddy library (with staff from the buddy library possibly working 7 hours per week in the community library)
Libraries are willing to hear other ideas/ variations BUT their overwhelming goals are to cut costs and have as wide a geographical reach as possible in a ‘sustainable network’.

If community groups raised additional funds from other sources then this would/ could alter what resources that library may have in it such as cultural activities, homework clubs, advice surgeries. 

But its up to the communities.

I took the opportunity to ask about Hulme library. It was confirmed that the library plans are to ‘move the service’ to Moss Side Leisure Centre but this will be settled finally  after the consultation period. The Head of libraries said that they would be looking at a multi-purpose venue such as at Wythenshawe Forum.

The Head of Libraries said that the new Hulme facilities would not be a ‘drop-in’ service but could not confirm what level of service or staffing would be likely. He was also unable to confirm how long after the consultation, staffing levels and service would be settled.

It didn’t occur to me to ask about the Power House Moss Side library until after I’d gone. That seems to be a different kettle of fish altogether, but that is also up for review.  

For myself I left feeling unconvinced by the whole thing and said that I thought that the lack of two way feedback to ideas submitted meant that communities did not have the chance to develop ideas in any meaningful way within the consultation process (although that’s not to say it doesn’t/ isn’t happening). In addition, it wasn’t clear from Libraries what resources were available for communities  were thinking of taking over a facility, though it did come to light that some support would be possible.

The second public session covering the central area is tomorrow, if you have any questions or concerns, go to the meeting, fill out a questionnaire, see what you think.
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Thursday, 14 February 2013

Manchester City Council Executive Meeting: Masters of Illusion at work


At least 50 members of the public  attended the Manchester City Council Executive meeting yesterday. They were mainly campaigners and supporters of local services from Withington, Levenshulme and Miles Platting hoping to have change council minds about the closure of swimming pools and libraries in those areas.

3 speakers from the public were allowed in defence of those facilities and they spoke well, the effectiveness of the Withington campaign and work of Councillor Chris Paul  were noted.

The initial response from Council to keep the pools open were met with cheers. These quickly changed to shouts from the public area once more details were revealed.
  • Only the pools were considered in this apparent change of heart.
  •  The Withington pool (which had the most vigorous campaign and the most active campaigning Councillor (Paul)) would be the most likely facility to remain open. The Levenshulme and Miles Platting pools have ‘less viable business plans’.
  •  All the pools to be saved from closure would have find a way to fund running costs for two years, until the new facilities are built otherwise all bets are off.

All decisions would be considered as part of the current and ongoing consultation.

Most of the campaigners left after that but strangely enough, despite the long list on the Exec agenda, the committee ended soon afterwards, without any substantive examination of any of these areas.

Despite the victory tweets and Facebook updates, presumably mainly from Labour supporters, the campaigners impromptu gathering was a more sober affair. The acknowledgement that they had a very temporary reprieve and recognition that the e Council offer could be considered a ‘divide and rule’ tactic led to a resolve that the separate local campaigns should coordinate and work together where they can.

It was good to see all the support for local services. It was good to see Green Party supporters there. It was good to see Alexandra Park put forth from the public area.

But stepping back and looking again, its clear that moving the Council, even temporarily, has only been possible with the combination of organised public pressure AND an active, willing councillor onside.

The Council seems unwilling to have any meaningful public discussion of the budget cuts its proposing for the city, even within its own forums. The council’s agenda included its Budget Strategic Response, how the newly combined Adult and Child Services department will work, the overall Neighbourhood strategy which includes parks, pools and libraries. All completely sidestepped.

The Executive meeting was a fantastic display of political illusion. Not only did the important elements on the agenda disappear, even the commitment to keep the pools open appears to be ‘close-up magic’.

Levenshulme activists were not impressed, commenting to the Withington protesters they had seen this trick before. Manchester City Council promised to keep their baths open until the new facility is built as a result of their 2011 campaign.


We will wait and we will see.
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Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Comment: Manchester City Council voting for Christmas


Wednesday is the meeting of Manchester City Council’s Executive where the Budget cuts 2013-15 will be discussed.

More precisely its Wednesday 13 February 2013 Time: 10.00 am  Venue: Committee Room 11, Level 1, Town Hall.

The Green Party is going along. We are interested to see what they have to say about the cuts in services particularly with regard to libraries and swimming pools.  

The Council says that those swimming pools and libraries services under threat are going to come back in a few years.

We don’t believe it.  

Those facilities are not coming back in any recognizable form.

Why are we so sceptical?  Because of something the council writes in its own Budget Response Document 2013/15. In it (point 51), the council asks its officers to “analyse the Council’s budget position beyond 2014/15 given that funding is expected to fall whilst demand for services will continue to rise “.

That analyse predicts that by 2018/19 the only services that will be able to be funded by the council will be Social Care, Environment, Transport and Capital.

That means that Neighbourhood Services, which includes libraries, swimming pools, culture and parks will be completely cut. So how are those pools and libraries going to be run?

That prediction is only 5 years away.

Instead of engaging with local communities concerned about their parks, pools and libraries, those campaigners are dismissed as “a handful of noisy protesters”, their activities as ‘stunts’. Attempts by communities to engage the council on talks to take over buildings or services, such as in Hulme, have met with silence.

Local Labour councillors will throw their hands in the air and say that there is nothing they can do, they have to vote for the cuts.

Don’t you believe it.

Labour councillors from all over the country are organising against the cuts. The Labour Councillors against the cuts website lists an initial 25 councillors who are not prepared to vote for cuts to local services.

Manchester Green Party applauds their stand. That is principle.

Its unfortunate that  not a single one of the 86 Manchester Labour councillors is on that list. We predict you won’t find one in the future either.

The Budget response (60) also says “Only the Council has the leadership capacity to protect the City's future, and chart a new direction”.

They may have the capacity, they don’t have the ideas.

If you don’t believe us, go to the committee meeting on Wednesday.


The Green Party.

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