Scrutiny roundup: January 2022

Hannah brings you your blow-by-blow roundup (not the pesticide variety, which we covered in December) of Scrutiny week.

Our Team Scrutiny have been busily watching and reporting back on issues from policing to climate education, and you’ll be able to click through to all of that reporting in this post. You’ll also see what’s in each committee’s workplan for next time, so you can get your letters in to your councillors now.

In case you’ve missed it, we have seen a recent sweep of climate discussions through the scrutiny committees. Climate change is, in srs business language, a ‘cross-cutting issue’ which should be discussed regularly in every single scrutiny committee, but in reality it comes up rarely in most of them. However, this month we had climate items on the agenda in the children and young people’s scrutiny committee and the communities and equalities scrutiny committee, and (spoiler alert) another coming up in the health scrutiny committee next month. Whether this is because of a certain change in leadership, the effect of COP26 coverage putting climate at the forefront of conversations or a glut of lip service to get our hotshot reporters off their backs is yet to be seen. It also remains to be seen if we’ll see any actual policy change out of this or just more blah blah blah…

Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee

This month we saw an item on the climate emergency and the education sector, covered by our CYP beat reporter Mike. It’s a tangled issue, with a lot of education policy made up in Westminster, leaving issues like decarbonising school properties and improving the inclusion of schools in ward climate action plans in MCC’s hands. The results of this discussion are promising, with CEM’s recommendations endorsed for one, but one debate does not equate to addressing this knotty issue.

I’d highly recommend reading Mike’s briefing note prepared in advance of the meeting, which also contains the recommendations which were endorsed in the meeting.

Next month on the workplan, they’ll be discussing the budget proposals, homeless families and the role of Greater Manchester Police engagement officers in Manchester schools. Speaking of which…

Communities and Equalities Scrutiny Committee

Two stellar blogs this month from Grace and Jackie. First we’ve got coverage on the crime and policing item from Grace, “Talking about the need for culture change in GM’s police force is pointless if no one knows what the problem is”. We had a cameo from Andy Burnham and deputy mayor Bev Hughes to answer questions on crime and policing, and plenty of the discussion centred around culture change, but nobody was quite brave enough to say what about the culture needs changing. Read on to find out more.

Jackie cooked up a storm with a post on the climate change and events and climate change and leisure estates items. The blog has all the details here for how we are doing in these sectors and what to do next, so head over there for all of that information. The key takeaway menu shows that there are planned but not yet implemented carbon reduction actions in the process of being finalised, but are they accessible or easily available for Manchester citizens?

Next month, we’ve got an update report on homelessness, a report on the cultural impact survey, the libraries strategy update and the budget.

Economy Scrutiny Committee

Next in the economy scrutiny committee, Lauren watches an infuriating update on sub strategies of the city centre transport strategy. The report paints the town beige, obfuscating salient information in a ‘long list of everything related to travel and transport around Manchester’. There are some good attempts at scrutiny here, with one councillor saying ‘I was disappointed with the report because I wanted to know about the city centre’. I’d highly recommend giving it a read.

While we’re on the subject, let’s quickly glance over to Greater Manchester, where news just broke that transport commissioner Chris Boardman is heading off to become the head of Active Travel England. Walk Ride GM have good information-packed coverage on this development, including calls for Burnham to step up and make the Bee network a success.

Next month: the work and skills strategy update, the LTE group update, and Manchester adult education services. Klaxon for March though, when there’ll be an aviation item coming in for landing.

Environment and Climate Change

Now over to the ECC scrutiny meeting, to read Simon’s excellent coverage/primal scream over the climate change action plan quarterly progress report. Lest we forget, we are falling further and further behind the wider carbon budget, carbon literacy for council staff remains the bare minimum and still hasn’t been achieved, and yet the meeting spends more time on the minutiae than the bigger picture. No point washing up if the house is on fire.

Less frustratingly, Simon also covers the plan for large scale renewable energy generation, which has been assessed and hilariously judged ‘better than doing nothing’. The two main options are purchasing a solar PV facility or negotiating a power purchase agreement.

We’ve also got a food item going up on the website shortly, so keep your eyes peeled for that. It’ll be linked to our upcoming work on health, providing a convenient opportunity to segue over.

Next month: the green and blue infrastructure strategy, the Manchester climate change framework and implementation plan 2.0 and (all together now) the budget.

Health – a storm brews

This is my beat, and there’s no standalone report this time as we are preparing for what’s coming up in next month’s scrutiny meeting. That’s right – on February the 9th at 10am the health scrutiny committee will be talking about climate change. Here’s what’s we can expect from that item according to the workplan:

  • Climate change in Manchester and the impact of climate change on health;
  • Extreme weather events;
  • Air quality;
  • Food;
  • Mental Health; and
  • Health care systems and services

We have an event coming up on the 8th of February to launch a report on climate change and health in response to this item. It’s online, obviously completely free and will include testimonies and stories from activists and service providers from across Manchester. Several councillors will be attending so it’s also a great opportunity to vote with your feet and demonstrate that the public are scrutinising their actions. Sign up via the Eventbrite page.

While we’re on the subject of health scrutiny, the Manchester Mill just put out a great piece on health scrutiny in Greater Manchester. Worth a read.

Any other business?

It’s nice to see that everyone is having a totally rational conversation about how to cut air pollution in the Greater Manchester region. Just kidding – Jacob Rees-Mogg said in parliament that it amounts to an attack on motoring and that ‘the socialist does not like the independence that motoring brings to people’. Quick reminder that it is a (totally necessary!) intervention mandated by the Government, who then promptly declined to supply adequate financial support for businesses to switch to low emissions vehicles.

Anyway, this week has brought Andy Burnham’s “brave” response – an uno reverse that refers the clean air zone back to government for review. This means that the clean air zone will probably experience delays to its late-May start date and may end up weakened or even scrapped. Clean air zones are hard to do right, and need the right administration, exemptions and funding to ensure it doesn’t impact those who can’t afford to pay, but a decision to exempt all private vehicles and a lack of conviction to cut through the culture wars isn’t going to get us anywhere.

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