Last week was ‘scrutiny week’ – the three days of the month when Manchester City Council’s six scrutiny committees meet. Our team of citizen reporters tuned in to the full set. Ahead of today’s meeting of the Executive, here is a recap of the key points. What did we learn?
1. The scrutiny committees are being rejigged. Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee has recommended that the remit of the committees be reviewed to make climate and the environment central to one committee. This will go to Full Council on 31st March and we’ll be putting up a guide to the next steps and how you can help soon. Crucially, as our R&G reporter Ellen Bassam pointed out, the broad agreement among R&G councillors means there is still crucial work to do in the coming weeks.
“Consensus in many ways, is the hardest thing to fight, the hardest thing to hold accountable. By de-politicising and providing unquestioned agreement on the need to act, it removes the sting of those fighting for change. What it must not do, is lead to an apathetic response. This first step is commended, but the real work of the scrutiny committees (and Operation Scrutiny), has seemingly only just begun. “
2. The other five committees must discuss the climate emergency. This was the second clear view of the Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee and must not get forgotten in the remit revision. The Communities and Equalities Scrutiny Committee Chair, in a welcome move, signalled that his committee should be looking at zero carbon more in the coming months
“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.”
3. Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee received a progress report on the Council’s Climate Change Action Plan 2020-5. This document was a real improvement on the previous papers that have come before the committee, as our scrutiny reporters both noted. Yet there were still silences around the ‘Tower of Light’ and a distancing of council activity from the city’s carbon budget.
4. Any crisis makes poorer people poorer and sick people more sick. Maybe not a new finding, but an important reminder from the chair of the Health Scrutiny Committee. Although this was a ‘bumper edition’ of a meeting, our reporters already have clear suggestions of further issues that need to be discussed by this committee soon, following the recommendation of R&G for the climate emergency to feature across all committees. Health scrutiny committee should discuss recovery of patients of a respiratory pandemic might be affected by poor quality polluting air and increasing frequency of heatwave
5. Retrofit is regarded as a ‘chicken and egg situation’ by Economy Scrutiny Committee, who have grand plans for digital skills as part of the recovery but might not have cracked the relationship between supply and demand in this crucial pillar of the climate action plan.
6. Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee is still in rapid response mode, discussing budgets and the impacts of closure. Although as our reporter noted, there were mentions of the mental health and wellbeing of young people in reports accompanying the meeting. These concerns, and the ways they are compounded by young people’s fears about climate change, must surely feature in future meetings with a longer-term focus.
The next round of scrutiny committees in early March will discuss budgets. If you’d like to get involved in Operation Scrutiny, or help get the best possible review of scrutiny committee on 31st March, do get in touch. firstname.lastname@example.org