Manchester City Council

Improvisation

Have been enjoying bits of Manchester Jazz Festival this week (on until Saturday) helped enormously by the festival tent being parked right outside the Town Hall in Albert Square.

I've caught the evening sets a couple of times after early evening meetings and have even managed to get out for half an hour for a couple of the afternoon sessions (in lieu of a lunch break !!). Have been pleasantly surprised by the size of the audiences - frequently standing room only - and the age of the musicians. Young ! If Jazz is in decline as a music form you certainly wouldn't be able to tell from this very successful festival which represents in many ways the character of our city - open, inclusive and innovative.

Not all play though and a lot of early starts this week. Today I meet with the Chair and Chief Executive of the North West Development Agency to discuss the government's cuts to their budget and how we manage the transition to new arrangements when they are abolished. Then it's on to a meeting of the Council's Executive where the subject of the world post RDA and of the cuts comes up again. Greater Manchester is in a very strong position to use changes made over the last couple of years as the foundation for a Local Enterprise Partnership, the government's proposal to replace Regional Development Agencies. The LEP will still need funding and the unfortunate thing about most of the RDA's cuts are that they cut support for projects at the core of growing the city's and the sub-regions economy.

Keeping Manchester moving forward will require new ways of financing. There is one such proposal on today's agenda, using equity investment models to boost the amount of new good quality, well managed property for rent. That Manchester's empty homes problem has become a housing shortage problem over the last few years is good news in terms of what it says about the health of the city, but not so good news if you're trying to find somewhere affordable to live. New housing is beginning to start again but at nowhere near the levels pre-credit crunch and we desperately need ways of getting good new housing quicker.

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The blog of the leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Richard Leese.

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