Last week all six of Manchester City Council’s Scrutiny Committees met and our excellent ‘Team Scrutiny’ volunteers have watched over 12hrs of footage and reported back . We think this citizen scrutiny might be a first for any local group, certainly in Manchester, and we’re really proud of being able to achieve that at the start of 2021. This post rounds up what we’ve learnt from all this public scrutiny. Links to all the posts can be found at the end.
Firstly, the number 50 million was the number of the week and made regular appearances in all committees. This number is is the financial black hole the council needs to fix in its next budget leading to talk of unpalatable cuts across council services. Another common theme on all scrutiny agendas was the Our Manchester Strategy Reset. This item fell at the end of most agendas so didn’t really get much airtime, apart from in Communities and Equalities, where it received a bruising from Cllr June Hitchen (Miles Platting and Newton Heath) and Cllr Jade Doswell (Fallowfield) who questioned its historic effectiveness at poverty alleviation and whether its priorities reflected those living in working-class communities.
Our most revealing finding was that there is insufficient investment to retrofit the public housing stock by Northwards to zero carbon standards. This was buried within a report to the Economy Scrutiny Committee and no question was raised about it. A similar question was asked by Cllr Ben Clay (Burnage) at Resources and Governance this month and has been asked before in other committees in previous months. We see issues like this getting kicked around like a football and no meaningful response or action provided.
So what have we learnt?
Climate and environment issues are making it into a variety of reports that go to scrutiny committees and there’s plenty of scope at all committees to raise this issue on a monthly basis. MCC’s commitments to a zero carbon city within the Our Manchester Strategy did get cursory mentions at a number of committees. But when it comes down to the gritty details of policies and asking how they’d create metrics to show that they’re on track to becoming a zero carbon city by 2038… well, we see there’s very little challenge to converting the ambitions stated in strategy document to action that will impact and improve residents’ lives. The closest we got to this was concerns around the level of housing retrofit investment.
Next month we’ll be addressing Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee (Tuesday 9th Feb, 10am) to try to change this.
If you want to know more or help out at all on Operation Scrutiny or any other project, get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org