Climate emergency and scrutiny – suggested work plans for the months ahead

The climate emergency needs to be on the agenda for the new municipal year at Manchester City Council, where newly constituted scrutiny committees have met this week (Tuesday 24th – Thursday 26th May) to plan their work programmes for the months ahead.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell what the scrutiny committee priorities are, because the work planning meetings take place behind closed doors, excluding the public. It would be good if there could be a more transparent process in future years….

Despite being excluded, we have come up with some suggestions for what the committees could look at, which we think would be helpful in addressing the climate emergency in Manchester. We wrote to all the committee Chairs to highlight these suggestions, and will look forward to reviewing their work plans when they become available. The suggestions are all available in the tables below.

Maybe you think that there are other priorities that the scrutiny committees should be addressing, in which case, let us know in the comments or send an email to us at contact@climateemergencymanchester.net

Reminder: the carbon budget for the city is way off track; the climate emergency declaration of nearly 3 years ago is fading from the memories of many; and the impacts of global warming are being felt increasingly here in Manchester and elsewhere – and unfortunately all of this will probably continue to get worse as heating continues from more CO2 in the atmosphere!

Scrutinising Manchester City Council is not a panacea, but it’s an important way to shine a light on what is and is not being done by our local authority ‘leaders’.

If you would like to get involved in Team Scrutiny to help put pressure on Manchester City Council to take the climate emergency seriously, send us an email  contact@climateemergencymanchester.net (There are other volunteering options available too, not just in Team Scrutiny)

Environment and Climate Change Scrutiny Committee – work plan suggestions

Proposal Comments
1 Carbon literacy training status of senior leadership Whether a more extensive education can supplement the basic one especially around historic and current corporate efforts to delay mitigation action and demand management. 

Senior leadership mandatory carbon literacy progress – committed to being completed by end of 2022 in FOI to CEM.

2 Air pollution & position on the Clean Air Zone.  Honesty on the condition of air quality in Manchester. Providing more information to residents about air quality. Andy Burnham has set himself against any charges. ECC should urgently reconsider the fundamentals of the plan e.g. application to private cars, when charges may be needed, possible exemptions from charges etc. Different charging models could be considered, e.g. flat fee per time, sliding scale, etc
3 Manchester Climate Change Agency – partners & city missing their targets? How can ECC increase the accountability of partners within MCCP / MCCA and show leadership in taking action?

Members of ECC should have transparency over who is part of MCCP (a list was previously requested, but never given) and how they are being held to account for commitments made in taking action. This should include whether that action is proportionate for meeting a 2038 zero carbon target and what challenges they are facing in implementation.

4 Recycling of plastics & food waste management  There is significant policy change coming through from central government – EPR, deposit returns scheme, flexibles recycling, coffee cups take back schemes. There is a recognised lack of capacity locally to recycle more plastics. Why can’t GM invest directly in creating more mechanical recycling capacity for these plastics considering it is quite a profitable business considering the demand for these materials.

MCC has not managed to meet the 50% recycling target by 2020 set by Defra, but other councils (Stockport, Trafford, Bury, Rochdale) in GM have. What can be learnt from them?

5 MCCA – Annual emissions report for the city Following Bev Craig’s comments in a meeting with CEM about honesty on carbon budgets, what assurances can we get that the next annual report from MCCA being properly communicated to city residents and businesses?
6 Quarterly carbon report The committee has often complained (as have CEM) about the way/amount of trackable, quantitative data in the quarterly reports. Could the committee set out now what that want to see? Could we (and others) feed in too?
7 Review use of glyphosates by contractors e.g. Biffa Believe the status quo is still a street by street opt-out. Committee should discuss total ban e.g. how to communicate the changed approach with neighbourhoods, any potential exemptions, mitigations to be considered with this approach? Could we get an update from the below:

From Dec ECC SC report, next steps:

It is clear there is no single favoured approach to weed control, there are different factors which need to be considered on different land types. The approach being taken is to strike a balance between environmental, economic and societal factors. An internal working group has been established to develop a set of common principles, as recommended by PAN, to support the reduction and elimination where possible of the use of glyphosate. The working group will be expanded to include registered providers, with an aim to try and align practices. 

7.3 Each of the Councils service areas responsible for weed control outline their intended next steps within this report to reduce or further eliminate the use of glyphosate and other herbicides.

Health Scrutiny Committee – work plan suggestions

Proposal Comments
1 Decarbonising health & care estates.  Especially in the context of care systems, where improved insulation and other carbon reduction measures can also quite literally save lives and reduce fuel poverty. Best placed to scrutinise the climate action plans of NHS trusts and other relevant bodies. See page 27 of the Health and Climate report
2 Mental health and climate change  Noting the systemic lack of mental health support tackling climate distress, consider measures that could alleviate this, such as targeted mental health support for those experiencing extreme weather events. See also page 20 of the Health and Climate report
3 Public understanding of health risks linked to climate change.  Make health and climate change indicators like air pollution, average temperatures and heat-related illnesses publicly available in a format that is easily understandable which promotes desirable adaptive responses. See page 6 of the Health and Climate report
4 Promoting equity in accessing the GM Green Spaces Fund  Manchester should be bidding for the GM Green Spaces Fund, targeting proactively areas that don’t often access such funds due to inequalities. This should connect to ward plans for improved health via access to green spaces. 
6 The work of the Health and Wellbeing Climate Change Advisory Group As the Advisory Group was due to meet for the first time in February, this should be set for summer 2022 to allow for work to have started and for scrutiny to be part of the group from the beginning. Who forms this advisory group, and whether their work extends beyond updating the ‘narrative’ around climate change and health to actual policy change, must be monitored. 

 

Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee – work plan suggestions

Proposal Comments
1 Manchester Climate Change Agency from a resources and governance perspective Up until now, the Manchester Climate Change Agency has only presented at the Environment and Climate Change Scrutiny Committee, in regards to its activities on the climate action plan. However, the resources and governance arrangements around the Agency and Partnership also need to be scrutinised, including a consideration of whether this ALMO should be brought back in house
2 Net zero test applied to all spending and budgetary decisions This is currently being advocated by WWF, with a focus on national treasury spend. Manchester could be the first to try this out at a local level
3 Social value beyond procurement – examples of community wealth-building beyond Manchester Items on social value at R&G have tended to focus solely on procurement, using one fixed measure / definition of social value. Given the wide range of examples of social value and community wealth building underway in other cities, an overview of other options and measures would be valuable

 

Economy Scrutiny Committee – work plan suggestions

Proposal Comments
1 Training and skills: shifting work and skills towards green jobs  We are yet to understand what MCC defines as a green job. The cost of living crisis has been exacerbated by lack of action on retrofitting homes and continued reliance on fossil fuels. Many more people will be pushed into fuel poverty over the winter. GM could use its devolved powers to shape adult education around green skills. What is the plan to develop the green sector and protect Manchester residents from soaring energy bills? 
2 Pedestrianisation in the city centre and other areas  There have been some improvements to pedestrian infrastructure in the city centre announced recently. However these are piecemeal and the city remains blighted by pollution and anti-social driving. Cllr Johns has expressed the need to address this ‘at the design stage’. Will MCC commit to pedestrianisation as far as possible within the city centre to cut pollution and avoidable collisions? The economic implications of pedestrianisation should also be considered. 
3 Walking and cycling: An update on strategy and investment plans  Some good new cycling infrastructure is being built around the city centre but it isn’t cohesive. At the January committee, a reference was made to a ‘strategy’ that would link them all together. When is this due to be released?  

City centre residents have expressed frustration at a lack of cycle storage in their buildings. MCC could make provision a condition of planning permission. Space could be reallocated in the MCC owned city centre car parks to cycle parking. This is important for Manchester’s connectivity and mobility.  

4 Pavement parking The pavement parking consultation by central government has been silent since October 2020. There is a noticeable lack of enforcement around Manchester on pavement parking, making many streets dangerous for children, the elderly and other vulnerable people who are forced to walk in the road. This has effects on accessibility of businesses and services. Could MCC follow London in banning pavement parking, using existing powers or influencing wider legislative processes?
5 Manchester Airport growth plans It remains unclear how exactly MAG can achieve its aim of net zero by 2038 while remaining such a large emitter, with plans to expand and with no feasible carbon capture technology available. 

Given the challenges that MAG has faced post-pandemic with staffing and the service to its customers, will the committee reevaluate its expansion plans? MAG was recently on the agenda, but ongoing management problems suggest that this should come back into focus. 

MCC could use its powers under the localism act to not permit any further growth in passenger capacity beyond 2019 levels until 2030.

Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee – work plan suggestions

Proposal Comments
1 School streets and other measures around young people and active travel The discussion in January 2022 of ‘climate emergency and the education sector’ was a broad overview of multiple, interlocking issues. In 2022-3, many of these issues now need an agenda item in their own right,

This includes young people and active travel. School streets would be a good focus, including discussion of how we ensure that these initiatives are not dependent on volunteers and thus only viable in more affluent areas where parents are more likely to be able to contribute their time for free.

2 Young people’s involvement in action, not just on things that are done to them. Children as active citizens, not used for youthwashing. Engagement work should be empowering for children and young people. Are there procedures in place for promoting empowerment in children and youth work programmes? This also refers to the work of the committee, and the ability of schools and young people to influence the agenda effectively (keeping in mind working effectively with co-opted groups). 
3 Mental health and young people especially in schools, eco-anxiety.  The mental health crisis in children and young people continues and has become acute following Covid-19. Anxiety about the climate and ecological crisis is a big part of this and the Council should consider how it is sensitive to and responsive to this. 

Communities and Equalities Scrutiny Committee – work plan suggestions

Proposal Comments
1 Policing of protests and public events in the aftermath of the policing act and upcoming bills – will the council help protect people The brief presentation by Andy Burnham at January’s Communities and Equalities Scrutiny Committee did not cover these issues
2 The Community Assembly. Is it dead? What are the next steps? Who will review and follow up on the recommendations from the mandate? Around 100 members of the community gave their time in good faith to this initiative. Many now fear they wasted their efforts? Beyond reports that the mandate was taken to COP26 it is not clear how this will be followed up. The information available online is not in a digestible format.This erodes good will and trust for future partnership and community engagement exercises.
3 Review of the effectiveness of community engagement initiatives with a particular focus on community engagement around the climate emergency Over the past year, there have been a series of community events (some at ward level) around the climate emergency. Feedback suggests that these were attended by those who already engaged with the climate emergency, focused on individual actions. A review is needed so that future events listen and learn from communities rather than talk at them. There is also risk of ‘community washing’ when credit is claimed for initiatives set up by grass roots groots. 
4 Voter ID requirements- how will MCC manage new voter ID requirements, and its huge impacts for equalities – especially when turnout is already low. We need a functioning democracy, at every level, to address the major challenges our city faces, including the climate emergency
5 Windrush and equalities  and how the Council is managing complaints about racism in the Council and in parties? Is there (or should there be?) a member required to lead on the Windrush scandal and the impact of the UK Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’ on residents? What has been the learning since 2021?
6 The connection between homelessness, hidden homelessness and property development. The last homelessness report was not discussed in relation to the impact of planning and property development decisions in housing. Update/ collation of historical Section 106 contributions, how much was collected and what it has been spent on. How much was waived and why. When will the workforce be trained up to retrofit houses as an emergency, given energy price rises and cost of living crisis?
8. Large event licenses in parks eg. Platt Fields, an area where most houses lack gardens. There is conflict between significance of green space for the public’s wellbeing and  MCC’s apparent need to use parks as cash cows, for private profit. Where licensed events do take place, MCC’s Sustainable events guide isn’t enforced. Why not? Bluedot festival insists on their environmental principles eg. no plastic bottles, why doesn’t MCC? An environmental equivalent of the Buzzcocks, “No Moët, no showy, no Chandon, no band on” is needed. 

 

List of Scrutiny Committee meetings this week

Date Committee
24/05/22 10am Communities & Equalities

  • New chair (June Hitchen)
  • No other issues on the agenda (likely to be short)
24/05/22 2pm Resources & Governance

  • New chair (Andrew Simcock)
  • No other issues on the agenda (likely to be short)
25/05/22 10am Health

  • COVID-19 update 
25/05/22 2pm Children & Young People 

  • Manchester Safeguarding Partnership annual report
26/05/22 10am Environment & Climate Change

  • New chair (Mandie Shilton-Godwin)
  • No other issues on the agenda (likely to be short)
26/05/22 2pm Economy

  • New chair (Marcus Johns)
  • Report of the Director of City Centre Growth and Infrastructure and Director of Inclusive Economy

 

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