November Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee – No bandwidth for the climate emergency

Simon Jermy reports for CEM on November NESC and how it further demonstrated the urgent need for a seventh scrutiny committee

This month’s virtual Neighbourhood and Environment Scrutiny Committee (NESC) included an important confession on behalf of the Council Executive. Technical issues plagued the first item on the agenda with the chair, Cllr Lee-Ann Igbon repeatedly telling a colleague “We still can’t hear you”.

Climate Emergency Manchester has been politely suggesting this for some time.

The first hour involved the review of potential cuts across the council’s services for the next financial year, from waste and recycling to parks and homelessness services. Watch out for more on this in January. It was reassuring to hear from Cllrs Gavin White (Old Moat) and Jon Cooper-Lyon (Piccadilly). Cuts to waste management could lead to an increase in fly-tipping and, at a time people can hardly afford it, having to choose between paying pills and recycling.

The second hour focused on active travel in schools. Cllr Jon Flanagan of Miles Platting and Newton Heath (on behalf of Cllr Sam Lynch, Northenden) berated the “derisory” take up of the Walk to School programme, noting large swathes of the city that weren’t represented, particularly Wythenshawe.

The Executive Member, Cllr Angeliki Stogia suggested that schools are just too busy with COVID-19 to encourage more walking and cycling, that all efforts to increase active travel were dependent on funding from central government. If only there were a cheaper way to offer safe cycling on Manchester’s roads during the pandemic, perhaps some sort of…pop-up cycle lane?

This month’s meeting demonstrated yet again why a 7th Scrutiny Committee is needed to tackle the Climate Emergency. NESC meetings rarely have the bandwidth to cover environmental issues, and when they do it’s at such a granular level that only small-scale progress is achieved.

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