Communities and Equalities Scrutiny Committee, Thu 11 Mar 2021 by @houseofhaynesfd

Wishing all our Manchester City Councillors a very Happy Municipal New Year!

Especially to those who do everything they can to advocate for the strongest possible set of Climate Emergency scrutiny proposals.

 A notable change from the last two months in the Environmental Impact Assessment header of the meeting agenda sounded promising for Climate Emergency scrutiny:

‘Cultural organisations in the city lead the way in their response to the climate crisis. Through the Manchester Arts Sustainability Team, partners have established Carbon Literacy Training for the cultural sector. In addition to the carbon reduction programmes at individual organisations, cultural partners are working together on projects to reduce carbon emissions and engage audiences on climate change’.

Manchester City Council’s Director of Culture, Dave Moutrey (also Director and Chief Executive of HOME) confirmed recovery priorities over the next 18 months to 2 years have to be inclusive and green. ‘We can’t turn the dial back on our carbon reduction targets and broadening access and participation.’ The bumper report, ‘Support for the culture sector in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic’, is recommended reading for anyone working in the sector looking to piece back together what is going on in Manchester.

Accompanying this report, the Cultural Impact Survey presented data from 47 cultural organisations, such as Manchester Libraries, who participated for the first time this year. This pushed up schools engagement to an impressive 98%. Less impressive was the ‘And then finally, just a bit on carbon reduction. We’re going to strengthen this section of the survey this year’. Here’s hoping. Three slide-type images showed that 33 of the 47 organisations showed membership of a carbon reduction program, 19 had at least one member of staff with accredited Carbon Literacy training and 323 individual employees across the cultural sector have accredited training. If this is how cultural organisations in the city are leading the way, we’re not going to get there any time soon.

Cllr Hitchen asked the solid question of how many of these organisations that Manchester City Council is supporting employ their workers with zero-hour contracts. She emphasised that the council want to see people in long-term employment, however, zero-hour contracts data is not captured in the survey. In the next iteration of survey, this information along with more substantial carbon reduction data analysis would be essential additions. Cllr Hitchen also wanted to know why, when audience participation in culture is very limited in Miles Platting and Newton Heath, do they not show in top 5 areas of low engagement, and what work will be done for those furthest from the pay-scale to participate? Mr. Moutrey explained that travel is a major issue for culture and that cost limits participation, giving HOMEInspires scheme as an example aiming to address this. HOME is looking to extend the scheme which offers free travel on the day of ticketed events for disadvantaged communities. Unprompted, he expanded on this in terms of carbon footprint, which for Manchester’s cultural sector is 1% overall. Within individual organisations, however, audience travel to city venues accounts for 60% of the sectors carbon footprint. He stressed that changes such as making public transport affordable are essential to both carbon footprint and audience participation. Many more questions and answers relating to equality were raised and discussed before moving onto the next equally substantial agenda item.

Chief Superintendent, Paul Savill presented Greater Manchester Police’s Victim Service Inspection. This was fascinating although Climate Emergency isn’t seen directly as the 999 variety so there is nothing to report on that front. However, there does appear to be some links between heatwaves and increases in the rates of violent crime up to a point.

Cllr Dar asked for more details regarding what the City Council are doing to support residents in Manchester’s Covid recovery plan. Cllr Craig promised that multi-faceted plans are currently being developed and underlined the need to think how best to develop the recovery across all Scrutiny Committees, Wards Coordinators and Neighbourhood Teams. The municipal new year begins after the local elections in May, when details of direct and indirect plans will continue to be developed on both physical and mental health, social care, economics and the needs of communities and residents. Climate Emergency did not feature as a facet on this list and was surely an unintentional omission.

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