From an environmental perspective, if February’s NESC [see here and here] was a feast, this week’s meeting [agenda and livestream here] was a famine. The newly scoped environmental scrutiny committee due after the local elections in May, meant there was nothing to say on the climate emergency…nothing, nada, zilch, zero.
That’s not to say some important issues weren’t covered.
A report on the allocation policy for council housing stressed that with priority demands for housing increasing, the current system of allocation will not be able to solve the problem. It can merely seek to target a scarce resource to those who are most in need.
A report on the lifting of eviction restrictions in the private rented sector was considered, along with the impact on homelessness services in Manchester. Due to be lifted at the end of March, the evictions ban is being extended to the 31st of May 2021.
Cllr Rahman (Executive Member for Skills, Culture and Leisure) stressed that prevention is the priority. If you are in financial difficulty, ask for help early and there’s more that can be done to support you. Cllr John Flanagan (Labour, Miles Platting and Newton Heath) described a perfect storm, with a possible 25% increase in evictions in the coming year made worse by digital exclusion and the suspension of face-to-face support due to the pandemic.
Guest speakers Andy Brown (Citizen’s Advice Bureau) and John Ryan (Shelter) described significant increases in homelessness enquiries since the pandemic started. Both organisations in Manchester are planning high profile social media campaigns. Nicola Rea (Strategic Lead for Homelessness) said the council are targeting harder to reach communities with pocket guides – to signpost people to credit unions, food banks and other support services.
Cllr Paula Sadler (Labour, Higher Blackley) shared her story of finding an unconscious man in a shop doorway during the recent cold weather. “Don’t walk past” she implored – which is lucky, because if she had the gentleman would surely have died.
Chair Cllr Lee-Ann Igbon (Labour, Hulme) summed up the conversation and asked the guests for their “fairy tale wishes”. The response was to roll contracts for support services like Citizen’s Advice Bureau on for 2 more years and for Manchester City Council to continue the consistency of funding, which allows for Shelter to retain experienced and quality staff.
If Cllr Igbon or Richard Leese do find that fairy wand under their desks, I have a few requests:
- A scrutiny committee dedicated to the climate emergency and with a widened remit to oversee Manchester Climate Change Agency and the city’s (rapidly shrinking) carbon budget.
- A massively ambitious (and funded) housing retrofit programme for Manchester and beyond, so we can all live in warm houses, powered in a sustainable and affordable way.
- A pony. I’ve always wanted a pony.