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

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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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Twitter:  @McrGreenParty
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Sunday, 10 February 2013

Save Alexandra Park Campaign event Saturday 9th February

Several Green Party members were amongst the approximately 100 supporters that were at the Save Alexander Park Trees campaign event on Saturday 9th February.

The speakers, covered by the press included MP Gerald Kaufman and Marc Hudson. Hudson, co-editor of the Manchester Climate Monthly website and paper urged the campaign to keep focus.

Several supporters talked about their activities in the week. Carl, a local wood and stone sculptor talked about his conversation with Westfield, the contractors felling the trees. Apparently the timber and chipping were already sold before the felling began.

Perhaps this is another reason the Council is  not prepared to speak to campaigners. Its not a good reason. In the meantime the campaign’s online petition has reached over 3800.

Check out the campaign’s website for latest news.

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Friday, 8 February 2013

Comment: A Passing Thought for the Manchester Peace Gardens

When a friend of mine said that there was only one tree left in the Manchester Peace Gardens, I was wondering what he was talking about. But I thought I would go and see myself.

He was wrong of course. There are no trees left at the Peace Gardens. I was taken aback and from the expressions of the passers-by, so was everyone else. I took some pictures.

Manchester was quite rightly renown as the first city to declare itself ‘nuclear-free’. The Peace Gardens were created as part of the celebration of that action and had been an attraction to the city as part of the Peace and Social Justice Trail and part of the world-wide network of Peace Gardens.

That has gone now.

(Apologies for the lens smudge.)

It’s a particularly sensitive time in the city regarding its environment, with Manchester City Council’s plans to fell large numbers of trees at Alexandra Park being resisted by local campaigners and the Mersey Valley set to lose its wardens.

Ironically in place of what once was the Peace Gardens will now be the relocated War memorial according to plans. 

The only certainty in those plans that required the destruction of the Gardens is the buildings. As the overlong leaders of the city ‘regenerate’ it, its seems to me that they look to shape their legacies in concrete.

The Peace Gardens went down without a fight, February 2013. The Alexandra Park campaign is putting up resistance and generating local support in defence of the park trees and wildlife.

They deserve all the support they can get, see their website for latest news and what you can do to help.

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Monday, 4 February 2013

"A Graveyard of Trees"

Its been an important week for Alexandra Park.

Manchester City Council stepped up the felling of trees and in response the ‘Save Alex Park Trees’ (SAPT) campaigners mobilised to having a physical presence. There is currently a small tented group resident.

Though SAPT , supported by 100s of local residents have managed to halt most of the felling, most people who got to the park were shocked and angry about what they saw. This Green Party member had similar feelings.

It was commented that the park had become ‘a graveyard of trees’.

Some of the images and video of the week are below. They are from the area called ‘Sycamore Avenue’ (running along the Claremont Road side of park). It’s gone now.

Residents filmed the footage below just after the felling began.

There is though a significant area of trees that is still being protected by campaigners and they need your help to do so.

To get further information and to help, you can contact organisers on their website.

Images from and individual contributions. 

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