Open Letter – Citizen suggestions for the Scrutiny Committees of Manchester City Council

What should Manchester City Council scrutinise in 2021? We asked a range of citizens and local groups and put their ideas to councillors in an open letter below. If you have further suggestions, please do get in touch.

 

Dear Councillors,

Happy new municipal year. Welcome (back) to the first round of scrutiny committee after the local elections and thank you to those who signed our three climate pledges.

We know that the second part of each scrutiny committee meeting in May is a work programme setting session. Although this is done in private between the committee and officers, scrutiny is supposed to reflect the opinions, wishes and priorities of Manchester residents. Councillors will of course be able to feed in the views of those in their ward. In addition, we at Climate Emergency Manchester have convened a range of citizens and local groups to identify broad themes and issues that they would like to see each committee examine in 2021/2. Some mention climate change; some relate to other parts of the Our Manchester Strategy and come from organisations focused on other issues. 

The top suggestions we received for each committee are summarised below (and the short document here, which gives further explanation of the proposals). There will be other good ideas out there. We know how busy councillors are, but would welcome their consideration in the work programme setting session.

Climate Emergency Manchester and supporters

Communities and Equalities 

  • Zero Carbon Communities Programme and scrutiny of Manchester Climate Change Agency, where its activities fall within Communities and Equalities remit eg. EDI accessibility to participation, community events in public places, funding opportunities.
  • How to include climate breakdown implications to direct and indirect planning around the needs of communities and residents.
  • How the Council engages with communities
  • Digital and technological inclusion
  • Policing of protests and public events (in aftermath of Policing Bill)

Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee

  • The Airport – from cash cow to white elephant.
  • The Council’s communications around climate – the website, the twitter feed 
  • Procurement – continuous reporting needed on how they are meeting their 10% environmental consideration (part of 30% social value consideration)
  • Retrofitting council buildings
  • School catering suppliers

Health Scrutiny Committee

  • Climate impacts on health (heatwaves, flooding) and specific threats for the 32 wards. What learning from other cities? Who is affected particularly (race, class, gender, pre-existing conditions, age) by them. What does effective community resilience look like? 
  • The mental health burden of an ever-more destabilised climate
  • Air quality and lungs
  • Is Manchester’s social care system equipped to deal with the climate crisis?
  • Monitoring climate-related health issues over time 
  • Review the tendering process for health and wellbeing services
  • Food and health

Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee

  • Young people’s mental health and the climate emergency
  • Young people and green space
  • More indoor and outdoor spaces for young people to meet, socialise, exercise
  • Young people’s environmental (and climate) activism –  How can it be celebrated, supported without crushing it and using it as a ‘youthwashing’ figleaf?
  • Supporting school’s with campaigns for regular school streets and encouraging parents not to drive to school
  • Young people and skills
  • Scrutinising how young people leaving care are being supported to learn life-skills (digital, cooking, growing, accessing services etc) so they are empowered to live healthy lives and close the huge disadvantage gap
  • Ensuring that vital life skills, including cooking-from-scratch, which can help forge a more resilient, healthier future are part of the school curriculum and actively encouraged outside of institutions e.g. through holiday projects 
  • More devolved children’s services – more resource controlled at School level

Environment and Climate Change

  • The climate “agency” and its efficacy over the long term (5 years).  Its behaviour in the last year – gaslighting over the 26 percent in two years carbon budget blow out
  • The climate change “partnership” – what is actually being achieved? What could be achieved?
  • The 98 per cent of emissions that are not the Council. Who is keeping tabs? Who is trying to do anything? 
  • The carbon literacy debacle – why has it taken ten years to get even half the councillors carbon literate?
  • Food packaging and food waste, growing projects in every ward
  • ‘Final mile’ deliveries and increased provision / funding for bike couriers; sustainable transportation of goods
  • Meaningful and radical plans for LTNs and safer walking and cycling. Supporting local groups to campaign against negative opinion and resolving conflict
  • Easier to access support and funding for community creation of small green spaces (not big complicated applications for just a few to get larger amounts of funding)
  • Ward plans? Making councillors accountable for getting key actionable changes in each ward plan.

 

Economy 

  • What is a green job? What is actually being done
  • Housing – both retrofit and new build – and how this will meet zero carbon targets
  • Asphalt and low-carbon procurement
  • How do we encourage other organisations and businesses in Manchester (including the Airport) to radically reduce carbon emissions?
  • Low Traffic/Active Travel/15 minute neighbourhoods and School Streets

Running throughout the suggestions we received was a concern that the discussion of recovery from COVID-19 really does focus on the green and the local. How will the Council seriously emerge from the crisis / a recession in a way that does not replicate the economic injustices of the last 50 years? How will we invest in building a zero carbon economy (including decarbonisation of transport and energy)?

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