A double helping of Communities and Equalities Scrutiny Committee from Jackie Haynes, summarising the low calorie discussions in December and slightly larger portion in January
Low-hanging Climate Fruit Pudding: a recipe for a disaster?
All, but not equally.
Low hanging or windfall over-ripe fruit
Cork Infill or Rubber Crumb topping (optional)
Slowly gather low hanging or windfall over-ripe fruit and press into policy-shaped moulds. Leave enough gaps between the moulds to obscure accountable process and progress across the timeline to net zero. Periodically tip out the puddings from the moulds, prod and poke them, sprinkle optional topping and clap each other on the back, then return to moulds. Repeat until 2038/2050, depending.
Recap: December 2021
December’s Communities and Equalities Scrutiny Committee delivered on its promise not to talk about climate change, with two climate-related reports instead planned for January’s meeting looking at Cultural Events and Leisure Estates, so maybe it’s best not to over-egg the climate emergency pudding?
In brief from the minutes, the December meeting’s decisions emerging from the ‘Deep Dive: Disability in Manchester’ report, scrutinised by the Councillors present, resolved to recognise the importance of the social model of disability being embedded across all areas of the Council. Representatives from the Highways Service will be invited to a future meeting to discuss equalities issues relating to pavements and roads. Accessibility of meetings will be discussed with Committee Services and raised through the Overview and Scrutiny Co-ordinating Group, and an update on the work to improve Workforce Equality will be scheduled for a future meeting.
Decisions regarding the item, ‘Compliance and Enforcement Services – Performance in 2020/2’ requested that Ward Councillors be provided with information on who is responsible for the enforcement of different kinds of parking issues, including parking on cycleways, and what regulations are being breached in these different situations.
There were apologies for absence from the Executive Member for the Environment, Councillor Rawson, which may or may not account for the lack of climate detailing in Decembers’ meeting. Manchester Climate Monthly has recently shed light with Freedom of Information Acts (FOIA), on what often appears to be slim pickings, even from low-hanging fruit, in terms of coverage and depth to MCC’s actions in response to its own climate emergency declaration:
‘the Executive Member has held no meetings with business, faith or community leaders about emergency action on climate change. She has no intention of doing so, it seems. She has not contacted members of the climate “partnership” to get them to put climate change on their websites. She has no plans to do so.
Three obvious questions: Why is she being paid 34 thousand pounds per annum? What does she think the job IS? Does the Labour Group think she is the right person for the job?… This despite the awkward fact that Manchester has burned through 6 million of its 15 million tonnes (40% of its carbon budget) for the entire 21st century in the last three years. Here the Council hides behind the EIR (Environmental Information Regulations), knowing that nobody will try to hold them to account on the politics, since 94 of the 96 councillors are Labour.’
January 2022 – Climate Change and Events, Climate Change and Leisure Estates
January’s two climate related items followed mayor Andy Burnham’s appearance on Crime and Policing and then an item of the proposed Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO), restricting alcohol consumption in public places. Net zero climate scrutiny from the PSPO was promised in the Environmental Impact Assessment, which bluntly stated ‘There is no direct impact on achieving zero carbon from the implementation of the PSPO’, although maybe Councillors will find that there is (they didn’t!)
The chair, John Hacking (Chortlon), thanked officers for their quick response befitting the urgency required for Manchester City Council’s climate emergency, in compiling the two reports requested in the November meeting. In the first report on events, Manchester City Council’s Head of Parks, Leisure, Events and Youth, Neil Fairlamb, described the progress made at events on single use plastics, the Sustainability Guide supplied to event producers, the problem of diesel-powered generating units and the carbon footprint of event suppliers’ products. The work is set to continue over the next 3-4 years, focussing on community events’ data collection, to understand their production of CO2 per annum.
Events – Sustainability Progress
Cllr. Igbon (Hulme), the Chair of Environment and Climate Scrutiny Committee was present in the meeting to contribute to the scrutiny of the report. Cllrs are allowed to attend other scrutiny meetings and is good practice for Manchester City Council’s cross-cutting scrutiny intentions. Cllr. Igbon acknowledged the importance of neighbourhoods who actively engage with their local park, identifying them as a way of starting good sustainability practices, whilst bigger events are more likely to have considered sustainability already. She outlined communication problems with smaller scale events and the over-reliance on Park Rangers’ capacity to, for example, clear up rubbish left after the event. The major problem of cross-contaminated rubbish left after events was not mentioned in the report. Cllr. Igbon suggested workshops for smaller event holders — and as Cllr Connolly (Moston) suggested, also with the many park Friends groups, of which Neil Fairlamb commented that there were 55 — to minimise rubbish in the planning stage prior to having to deal with recycling.
Cllr Ali (Rusholme) indicated another omission in the report with potential for improved communication and engagement. He would like to see market stall holders being encouraged to use biodegradable bags — surely this is low-hanging fruit which should have been established by this stage in MCC’s climate emergency? Mike Parrott, the Head of Event Development, said Manchester’s many markets, comprised of many different elements, require further engagement efforts to prioritise sustainability by promoting the use of biodegradable bags, as with the festive and other specialist markets.
Events organised with Community Events funding were to be offered a series of workshops on event waste management and there will be increased efforts made to engage organisers who aren’t funded in this way and don’t have the same sustainability remit, with a view to improving the situation. Cllr Rawlins, the Executive member for Environment, who is in conversation with MCC Neighbourhoods Strategic Lead, Shefali Kapoor, reiterated the need to inform and learn by reducing waste from the outset, rather than recycling after.
Cllr Rawson (Chorlton Park) raised the difficulties for smaller event organisers to find less-polluting power source alternatives. He also specified Manchester’s Marathon event’s excessive use of plastic bottles of water — more over-ripe fruit for the pudding? Neil Fairlamb reassured the committee that the Marathon organisers were on board and working with MCC on sustainability and expected that the learning around alternatives to plastic bottles of water would trickle down to become embedded in smaller organisers to make them accountable.
Cllr Evans (Brooklands) raised the need of support for smaller parks and organisers’ reliance on electricity generators, although Neil Fairlamb said that ad hoc events’ business cases for infrastructure are not strong enough, and larger parks would be the priority.
Leisure Estates Sustainability Progress
The second climate report focused on MCC’s leisure estate contributions to their carbon neutral target for 2038. Currently, costly heating and heat maintenance of Manchester City Council swimming pools contributes 8000 tonnes of carbon annually, which is nearly a third of MCC’s operational estate total of 24000 tonnes and therefore a high priority. The program of works carried out over the last 18 months are set to continue over the next two years. Once the action plan is implemented, 3500 tonnes of CO2 are expected to be removed from leisure estates by 2025, in advance of MCC’s 2038 carbon neutral target. The plan sounds dynamic, and it would be most useful to see it in context on a detailed timeline alongside the other planned carbon reductions, such as the new leisure developments and refurbishments which Neil Fairlamb stated have significant in-built carbon reduction measures.
Cllr Wills (Withington) requested update on July 2021’s report on re-useable drinks bottles at MCC leisure centres’ day-to-day running and users’ sustainable behaviours. Neil Fairlamb confirmed that after July’s scrutiny meeting recommendations, progress is monitored and measured at quarterly meetings. He agreed with Cllr Rawson that sustainable all-weather pitches are important, saying that Manchester is leading the way by experimenting with organic cork infill as a preference to rubber crumb, but was cautious about cork’s longevity as it has not yet been tested over time.
Cllr Hussain (Levenshulme) congratulating the progress outlined in the report, envisaged Manchester’s eventual proximity to actual net zero, perhaps from the metaphorical platform of a fully extended cherry picker, reaching a point when it becomes difficult to show MCC’s massive decreasing carbon achievements. Maintaining an affirmative tone, he reported that climate change unified all communities of all ages in his Levenshulme constituency. He raised the problem of adding to carbon emissions, however, by travelling to events and leisure centres around the city. He’d prefer to see increases in sustainable forms of transport alongside reductions in unsustainable forms and improved air quality, with benefits to physical and mental health seen recently in active Mancunians’ use of parks and the city. Neil Fairlamb acknowledged that the last pre-climate emergency declaration round of Leisure Strategy investments’ priority was a maximum 20 minutes’ walk or public transport links to leisure centres for all, to decrease car use, which now requires a sharper focus on climate.
Cllr Wilson (Didbsury East) queried for completeness and context, if any of MCC leisure centres had received no carbon reduction action on the estate at all. All but centres leased as facilities to partners have in some way been considered. Exceptions are Broadway Leisure Centre in New Moston, which is leased to a Community Group, and Community owned Withington Baths, who both have plans to improve their own carbon reduction measures. Cllr Connolly confirmed that Broadway Leisure Centre in her ward are getting support and advice, which isn’t recognised in the city’s overall carbon reduction. Cllr Rawlins explained that both direct and indirect emission reductions are calculated and MCC tries to influence indirect emissions through collaborative partnerships.
Paradoxically MCC’s climate change measures push up overall capital costs, which to non-departmental public funding body, Sport England and Football Foundation, make Manchester a benchmark as a high cost provider of services, compared against other lower cost cities, meaning Manchester’s community groups struggle to get the funding. To counter this, Neil Fairlamb explained, national organisations needed to be lobbied for funding and Manchester needs to promote its carbon reduction successes publicly via leisure centres. Similarly, Cllr Igbon requested better publicity for travel incentives encouraging walking, cycling or using public transport, promoting what we’re done already on GLL (operating under the leisure centres brand “Better”) websites and in leisure centres.
The Key Takeaway Menu
Couched within January’s discussions are planned but not yet implemented carbon reduction actions. Figure 3: Manchester City Council pathway to zero carbon of Manchester City Council Climate Change Action Plan 2020-2025 has a note saying ‘Nb: This chart is a draft and will be updated following the publication of the final Manchester Climate Change Framework 2020-25 and the Council’s 2019/20 annual emissions data.’ Revised quarterly action plans, plotting progress against timelines, now come to the Environment and Climate Change Scrutiny. But are also being presented in an accessible way to Manchester citizens? Cllr Wilson’s (Didbsury East) reasonable request for completeness and context is a key ingredient, as is expertise and experience, in bridging the gap between the low hanging fruit and the net zero tree top cherries.