Manchester City Council

Christmas Present

Although I will be in the office tomorrow this will probably be the last post for this calendar year and not I'm afraid full of Christmas cheer. Councils up and down the country received their provisional grant settlement late yesterday afternoon. The Treasurer and his staff now have a big task to work through all the figures, both to check the accuracy of the data used in the grant formula and also to understand exactly what the financial impact is on the city's coffers. However the headlines are pretty clear. Manchester faces another enormous cut over the next two years. Yet again the most deprived areas face the biggest cuts whilst some more affluent areas including, according to the press, the local authority containing the Prime Minister's own constituency, actually appear to gain.

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The Next Ten Years

Or more to the point, my chances of making it to the end of the next ten years! Last time I visited the Health Bus it was parked in the district centre car park in Harpurhey offering instant health checks on a drop-in basis to anybody passing by, very successfully taking health out of the hospitals and surgeries and clinics into people's everyday lives.

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Tuning Up

Greater Manchester Combined Authority today and a short tram ride to Bury for the usual series of meetings, starting today at 10.30am and ending five meetings later around 3pm. The most interesting part of the day was in a closed session presentation from the Green Investment Bank.

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Keeping the Wheels Turning

Attend the meeting of the Greater Manchester Business Leader Council this morning. The agenda includes items that will be very familiar to readers of this blog like whole place community budgets and the Greater Manchester Strategy refresh but also items I haven't commented on before. One, the Town Centre strategy has been underway for a while. The question is very straightforward, how can we ensure our eight biggest town centres, Bolton, Bury, Rochdale, Oldham, Ashton, Stockport, Altrincham and Wigan continue to thrive and meet local community needs in a very hostile retail environment. There are a number of suggestions but they all hang around the notion of distinctiveness. Not being a clone High Street is obviously part of that but each centre needs it's own characteristics that will make people want to visit them.

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Trumpet Blowing

Full Council yesterday. Council meetings are always proceeded the night before by a meeting of the Labour Group, ie all the Labour councillors from across the city. It's a meeting that Labour councillors are only allowed to miss with the permission of the Chief Whip and I haven't missed a meeting for many years. There was a lot of important stuff on Tuesday night's agenda. The budget obviously, but also discussions on housing, school reform and equalities work. However I wasn't there. I was in London at the Political Studies Association's Annual Awards with BBC political editor Nick Robinson presenting me with a Lifetime Political Achievement Award.

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Minus and Plus

Potential job losses at the City Council arising from the next round of government cuts have attracted a lot of news coverage over the last few days, including quite a bit of national coverage. Of course, in some respects, this is not news. When the council received a two year grant settlement after the comprehensive spending review in 2010, indicative figures then from government suggested that we would have to cut between £55m and £80m in 2013/14 and 2014/15, and that on top of the £170m per year we have already had to cut. Since then in-year " hidden " cuts, for example to Early Intervention Grant, alongside exemplifications from governments Communities and Local Government department suggest we are more likely to be at the £80m end of that range. We won't actually know the settlement for another couple of weeks - a lovely Christmas present for those who depend on our services and those who provide them. Last week's announcement about voluntary early retirement and voluntary severance is part of planning ahead so that we can minimise uncertainty, anxiety and disruption when the bad news does arrive.

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