Communities and Equalities Scrutiny Committee 11th Feb 2021 – Report Including The Rustling Sound of a Petition Being Passed Up to Full Council

Jackie Haynes tuned into February’s Communities and Equalities Scrutiny Committee for a welcome announcement of from the Neighbourhoods Directorate’s continued committent to a Zero Carbon Manchester

The meeting began with a notification concerning the ongoing review of the Peterloo Memorial. Solutions to the current access problem will be sought at a public meeting on 3rd March with artist, architect and independent Chair amongst those in attendance.

The Neighbourhoods Directorate Budget Proposals 2021/22 report of changes occurring since January’s meeting, was prefaced by the Chair, Cllr John Hacking for Chorlton. @8m.38s he read from point 2.6 of this report, under About the Neighbourhoods Directorate Background and Context: ‘The Directorate is fully committed to Zero Carbon Manchester and to reducing carbon throughout all our programmes’. He then went on to say:

“Given some of the discussions in other meetings in scrutiny week around that issue, that is very welcome, I just would flag up that I’m sure we anticipate looking at that in more detail in coming meetings over the next few months as to exactly what that means and how we’re delivering that.”

This was very welcome and perhaps for the benefit of any Climate Emergency Manchester petitioners listening in, also in anticipation of what this might mean.

Moving onto sport, Manchester City Council are expecting an allocation decision in the next week or so from a submission made to the Government’s Sport England. They are confident that support will be forthcoming without having to charge residents with lower incomes more for access to sports resources. Further to this, Cllr. Doswell asked if leisure centres being used as vaccination centres will have budgets gaps plugged by Government, to recover some of the funding shortfall. It was confirmed that yes, vaccine centres are recovering costs which the Council then passes on to leisure operators as they see fit.

The 11th consecutive year of budget attrition was lamented before turning to the equalities update from Diversity and Inclusion Managers. Cllr Douglas raised the point that there was no mention of the impact of the £50 million cuts on mental health and a separate Equality Impact Assessment was needed. Cllr Andrews agreed that it seems unrealistic whilst the Managers offered assurance that impacts had been assessed and mitigated in proposals, with Quality Assurance support factored in to flag up inequalities. Later in the meeting, Diversity and Inclusion Manager Keiran Barnes explained the current but changing situation, where mental health was subsumed within disability as a characteristic, and whose impact may or may not be captured depending on if it is specifically being looked at. I detect an alarming ‘climate emergency’ ring to this.

The Chair read from the chat box that Cllr Douglas requested honesty about the impact mitigations can have. Further to this, Cllr Hitchens queried why the report did not show the cumulative impact of cuts to services in each ward. Cllr Rawson, warning that the next 2 or 3 budgets were going to be even more terrible, suggested that Quality Assurance offered after decisions were made were the wrong way around, with this information being needed whilst trying to debate the issues. This was disputed by the Manager, Keiran Barnes, who in response to Cllr Hitchen, concerned about a North/South divide developing in Manchester, reiterated that there was no current conversation about showing impact at ward level.

The scorn heaped upon the sustained Government cuts was matched in weight by the gratitude shown to Shefali Kapoor’s Neighbourhood Teams, who were credited and thanked by all for having to become experts at practically everything, particularly in the localised response to the Covid crisis.

This is a selection of issues scrutinised, for the full report, you can watch it here: https://vimeo.com/507033469

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