Shopping list style proposals must not limit real climate scrutiny

Write to your councillors to get a climate scrutiny committee that magnifies real action. 

Shopping lists matter. This remark may reveal a narrowing of horizons after a year of lockdown. Or indicate someone who likes food far more than a slight frame suggests. But shopping lists also matter because they are a good example of how a few words – seemingly technical, factual, neutral – can determine what happens next.

Will any bread do? Milk is a minefield. And ‘fruit’ hardly tells me what to get. It’s not even clear that anyone would be able to make a substantial meal from the list here – isn’t there a whole set of items missing? And isn’t it time we moved from a laboured metaphor to the call for action?

Soon we will know the wording of the proposed revisions to the scrutiny committees Manchester City Council. Last week, Climate Emergency Manchester released a 4-page briefing paper setting out a series of recommendations for the remit, membership, format of a rejigged Climate and Environment Scrutiny Committee. The briefing paper also set out proposals for the work plan of the committee in 2021-22.

The report that all councillors will be asked to approve on Wednesday 31st March is unlikely to set out its case in detail. More likely is a short wording and a series of topics (much like a shopping list) that will fall under the remit of a committee. These may all look fine. All the listed issues may be important areas that form part of the response to the climate emergency, issues that a committee should cover. But what might be missing? What might drastically limit the ability and ambition of this committee?

  • Will the the remit cover all Council services as well as the functioning and effectiveness of the City Council’s Climate Change Agency, Climate Change Partnership and Climate Change Board?
  • Will the membership include elected and co-opted members? (Health and Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Committee have co-opted members).
  • Will there be any information on the work plan for 2020-1?

To be clear, we are not asking for the agenda of the next ten meetings to be drawn up now. We know that constitutional change will be ‘high level’. But unless the points above are made explicit, we run the risk that the committee is little more than a reshuffle and a rebranding.

The next four weeks are crucial in getting the strongest set of proposals.  Four weeks today, on Wednesday 31st March, all councillors of Manchester City Council will debate and vote on the proposals. So if you live in ANY of the 32 wards of Manchester, please contact your three ward councillors and ask them to make the proposals bold, far-reaching and ambitious. We have a letter template here and also an open letter for individuals to sign.

If this whets your appetite, you could then write to the Leader, Richard Leese. Just don’t ask him to do your shopping.

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