Fine words need funds – first look at budgets in Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Committee

Budget-setting season is upon us. Each scrutiny committee agenda this month included a ‘high level’ financial forecast for the next year, following the government Spending Review. But even before the detailed breakdown, Mike Franks raises concerns whether the Children’s and Young People’s budget will help to address the climate emergency

Tuning into Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Committee after panels at COP26 on loss and damage is an enraging experience. Is there still an ‘eyes closed’ belief that climate change won’t happen here? No consideration seems to be given to addressing the climate emergency in funding decisions. For instance the section of the draft budget report headed ‘Home to School Transport’ in Appendix 2 of the budget papers could potentially have made mention of a sum of money to encourage parents not to drive their charges to school. For longer journeys at subsidy for public transport might be adopted. Councillors and officers may claim that their terminology is broad or the report is ‘high level’. But that does not limit a response to positive suggestions for how the funding could be used to improve both air quality and children’s wellbeing.

And yet we get a summary in the meeting documents which states that ‘increases in the liability of the City’ are seen as acceptable. Especially when in the Environmental Impact Assessment (see my previous posting and the link to Jackie Haynes’ post) it clearly states ‘The budget reflects the fact the Council has declared a climate emergency by making carbon reduction a key consideration in the Council’s planning and budget proposals.’ 

The November meeting covered a number of issues:

Discussion of the budget forecast –  the Executive Member for Education (Cllr Garry Bridges, Old Moat) stated that while the settlement this year is likely to be more favourable than the severe cuts experienced to budgets over the last decade, it will not go anywhere near to repairing the damage to services in Manchester inflicted by central government. The Council’s Leader Designate (Cllr Bev Craig, Burnage) reminded the committee that the government reneged on monies promised to cover extra expenditure during COVID, leaving a big hole in the overall budget for the future. It is to be hoped that any extra funding made available by central government will not lead to competition between local authorities, and will help give Manchester residents the services they deserve.

Linda Foley (Didsbury Ead about funding that may be available over the next five years to assist schools with decarbonisation, retrofitting and installation of solar panels. Will this be covered by the paper on Climate Change and Schools that we no know will come to the committee in January? 

School attendance after the half term break remains high and above the national average. Incidence of COVID in schools remains relatively level, above figures seen at the beginning of the autumn term but below those for neighbouring local authorities.

During the last school year on average each pupil in Manchester lost 43 days of face to face teaching! It has been found nationally that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds have fared worse than others.

In the last minute after the chair had wound up the meeting, Cllr Rob Nunney (Wodehouse Park, the only Green in the village) was allowed to speak, perhaps missed by some who had made their way to the door. In the context of COP26 ongoing in Glasgow he encouraged report makers to consider and make explicit elements in their work which relate to tackling the climate emergency. Good call. The chair didn’t take issue with the suggestion. These points must be followed up on and used to bring serious pressure when the committee discusses Climate Change and Schools in January 2022.

If you’d like to join CEM’s work on Children and Young people and climate change, get in touch. We’ll be presenting suggestions before the January scrutiny committee – and there is plenty to help out with before then. conact@climateemergencymanchester.net

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