Manchester City Council

Good Morning / S*** Afternoon

The day starts brightly enough. I chat with Alan Beswick about yet another attempt from central government to foist unwanted directly elected mayors on us and then I visit King David's High School in Crumpsall to talk to sixth formers and have a look at the new building, one of many built through the Building Schools for the Future programme.

Some tough questions from the students, not surprisingly including ones about the scrapping of educational maintenance allowances and the debt that many of them are now likely to leave university with.

Downhill from there I'm afraid. The Council received its provisional revenue support grant from government yesterday. Council officers are still working through the very complicated detail but it is already clear that it is much worse than expected, indeed Manchester has one of the five worst settlements in the country. I get a letter today from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government claiming that resources are being targetted on greatest need but a spread sheet from his department showing exactly the opposite, that is unless places like Surrey and Sussex have more need than places like Liverpool and Manchester. It is very bad news but I and colleagues in the Council are determined to find a way through this nightmare scenario and ensure that the city continues to thrive.

It could of course be much worse. I end the day at the Environmental Advisory Group, so never mind the budget cuts, I can worry about whether we will have a habitable planet at all.

There are 48 responses to “Good Morning / S*** Afternoon”

  1. Bette Davis Says:

    God, pass the razor blades. Having said that I know that if any city can make the best of this coalitions atrocious social engineering then its Manchester. What a set of utter bas***ds (cue some sad apologist yet again trying to blame a global recesssion on the last government). Anyway, because your post it totally depressing I will end on a joke.

    'Doc, I can't stop singing the green green grass of home.
    'That sounds like Tom Jones syndrome'.

    'Is it common?'
    'It's not unusual.'
    (courtesy the late great Tommy Cooper)

  2. Ed Cox Says:

    If anybody is interested in seeing just how badly the settlement is for cities like Manchester there are some interesting graphs on this website: http://www.leftfootforward.org/2010/12/eric-pickles-cuts-target-britains-poorest-areas/

  3. Ex Manchester Employee Says:

    Trouble is you've had too much for too long under Labour. I guess you'll have to tighten your belts now the same way the rest of us have been doing for years!

  4. Val Stevens Says:

    Can it be challenged on equity grounds? I seem to recall that SoS has duty to be fair. Or have they closed off that route as well?

  5. concerned Manchester resident Says:

    As a council tax payer of Manchester I am most concerned about the government cuts and what effect this may have on some essential valueable services. I therefore suggest voluntary cuts in pay for higher Management starting with Sir Howard Bernstien who is actually paid more than the PM and not forgetting yourself Mr Leese. Cuts at the top will save much money and may save essential jobs.

  6. cityboy Says:

    Please can you clarify the status of this blog. Is it aimed at giving the Council Taxpayer a topical rundown from the leader of issues facing the City ? Or is to spout labour propaganda ? This most recent post falls into the latter category.

  7. disgruntled Says:

    Does the massive cut mean that MCC will stop burying its head in the sand re budgets, and also stop recruiting for pointless posts? oh...and the gimick of a reduction in pay for top bosses is actually looking quite a good idea now!

  8. Jimmy Says:

    I really don't envy you the incredibly difficult decisions you are faced with - how you can possibly be expected to make cuts of £100+ millions in 2 years without impacting on front line services. It is just so vindictive and I hope the Lib Dem councillors hang their heads in shame - and I hope the electorate in Manchester remember this at the next elections.

  9. C3PO Says:

    We're doomed.

  10. Trev Says:

    The great North and South divide still exists it seems

  11. REDSTEVE57 Says:

    Well it looks like Thatchers slimy tentacles still have a firm grip on Tory policies and their new best friends the Lib Dems. As usual the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer, I know it's tired old political dogma, but anyone want to challenge it?
    Manchester as a city is an innovative and vibrant connurbation that can and will survive the onslaught of the Tory hoardes, I didn't include the Lib Dems because the reality is they are just there as a makeweight and have no political power whatsoever. We have rising inflation, the inevitabilty of rising Bank of England interset rates to try to curb inflation, the increase in VAT followed by demands for wage increases to match the cost of living. Does this scenario ring a bell? try the Thatcherite years 1978 to 1997, out now and in stores in time Christmas, "bah humbug" a time of austerity that I thought I would never have to live through again.I know the City will survive but the saddest thing will be the huge losses in jobs that will probably never be replaced even in better times. Careers and hope and aspirations of the next generation lost through the greed and thoughtlessness of banks that still carry on with a "laisse faire" attitude (apologies for the French but it's been a few decades since I studied it). The cuts will no doubt be hard and deep and I cannot see how the front line services will be untouched. After all if a loaf costs a pound today and tomorrow you go to the bakers with 75p do you still think you will get the same size loaf? No, you will get something 25% less if you get any at all. That's what will happen with the services that I and every other Manchester citizen desire and deserve, inevitably there will be less but my Council tax will not reduce to reflect this, I will still have to pay my full whack every month for less. I will continue to fight for social justice as I have done all my adult life. I will never bow down to the Tory party that is hellbent on destroying anyone that opposes their political doctrine. So come on fellow Mancs lets show the Tory boys and their Lib Dem backstabbing mates that it's time to get the gloves off and get stuck in with the true Northern spirit we possess.

  12. lazyitis Says:

    Compare and contrast:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/2432632/UK-General-Election-2010-political-map.html

    with:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/interactive/2010/dec/14/council-spending-cuts-map

    Hope the above works, but I'm sure you all know what it will show.

  13. Nathan Says:

    The city as a whole is going to have to make more money or so it would seem, maybe one way of achieving this is to ensure that the current revenue streams are working correctly for example Council Tax and Business Rates collection.

    Of course we could always get the higher earners of the Council to take pay cuts or donate a percentage of their wage to the City budget, that would certainly send a positive message to residents and business leaders alike.

  14. Aaron H Says:

    Cityboy?
    How is it party political? The services thart are affected by these figures won't be discriminating who they can't help anymore because they have no funding - political leaning means nothing. This is something that will affect all of us, irrespective of political beliefs.

    I am sure that MCC will do its best to deal with the cuts, but it really is a grim time to be working in the public sector. It's sad to see a government that continues to spin a line about equity and fairness, and looking after its poor, is now slashing budgets for the authorities that need them the most, rather than continuing to try and iron out any social injustices through sustained hard work in those communities, with people who need help the most. And even more surprisingly how quiet the Lib Dems have been on this one:I have only ever seen Tory spokesman dishing out the bad news.

  15. maria Says:

    You cheered me up no end....nice to see its not just me who is totally fed up with recent changes...

  16. t matt Says:

    Cityboy you have not got a clue, 'Labour propoganda' ridiculous, this is real cuts for real services affecting real people of all political persuasions. Doesn't everyone wan't honesty and this blog is being honest, R.Lees has been working hard for Manchester I think we can forgive some despair on his part when faced with these ridiculously harsh cuts!

  17. Ian Says:

    Just remember, please in May a vote for the Lib Dems allowed the Tories to cut 8.9% from Manchesters budget at the same time as cutting Richmonds (London one) the real poor one a 1% cut.
    I say to the Lib Dem Counciliors hang your heads in Shame you will see some of the poorest people in Manchester take bigger cuts than those living in the most posh areas of London.

    I myself will remember this back stabing by the Lib Dems come May....kick them out!!!!!!!

  18. Bradstreet Says:

    The cuts are without doubts very worrying, and when I look at the debt this county is in,
    I feel this is just the start.

    I understand the country owes £900 billion, (£900,000,000,000 – I think that’s right),
    To cover the interest alone on that debt will costs each household in the UK about £1885 each year.

    And even with the cuts that are announced the government will be borrowing a further £160 billion by April 2011.

    You can argue all you like about who’s fault it is, Tory, Liberal, Labour the bankers, it’s makes no difference that’s what we owe and we’re heading for tough(er) times.

  19. straightman Says:

    Have just seen MCC's so called public consultation on the budget. It really is pathetic. It just asks a series of generic questions. One of them is along the lines 'should we improve our efficiency'.Is any reasonable person going to disagree with this ? What was the point of asking the question - its a bit like the old soviet elections, only one person on the ballot paper.

    Far better was the exercise run by Rochdale Council - they gave a list of about sixty specific savings and invited comments on each.

  20. OldFella Says:

    Sir Richard,
    I think that the'Plan A' approach to saving Council jobs and transforming how services are delivered in Manchester is laudable. 'Promising' no compulsory redundancies has been a soothing message to some Council staff, about 2/3rds, and it has appeased the Unions. I'm sorry that the latest financial cuts are much worse than expected, because the citizens of Manchester do not deserve this punishment. They pay their taxes at the same level as before, but will get less back for it, their taxes going to pay for the National debt instead.

    However, Council staff are also desperate for a 'reality check' message, and the most recent statement from Sir Howard only leaves one reading between the lines as to what is really going on, and what is really going to happen. We're nervous, and we want to know the facts. But for myself, I suspect that there still are no decisions yet, Directors and their Heads of Service are still talking and talking, even when other Councils have made their cost saving plans public, as unpalatable and shocking as those plans are. Manchester City Council is still not saying how it is going to save all this money. And as each month goes by without any significant saving in spending being made, makes each month ahead even more challenging. "Crisis? What Crisis?"

    I believe that there is an 'army' of us 'older 'uns', 55+, working in Manchester, many with decades of honest hard graft in public service already, who are simply now very tired, stressed out, burnt out, and sick, who really would like an opportunity to go 'early' before being put through the added stress of the inevitable 'transformation' deployment and reskilling programme. Help give people who are truly in want and need of continuing full time employment and salaries to keep their jobs, ahead of those desperately waiting for an invitation to retire. WHEN is the question?

  21. Aaron H Says:

    Good post OldFella.
    Let us see a reasonable council approach to the workforce, with a sensible redundancy policy that leaves both parties happy. This will save the council plenty of money, and make the workforce happier in general, in the long run.

  22. Laura Says:

    Manchester is a creative city and so I have confidence that we will respond to these deeply unfair cuts with determination and enterprise. The Council has asked for staff to be flexible and I hope this is reflected in the way you ask staff about how to respond to and make these saving, why not offer staff the opportunity to work a four day week for between 3 and 6 months?, for example. Given the excellent recycling service offered by the Council do bins really need to be emptied weekly? and what can we do collectively across Greater Manchester to provide joint services such as IT, Communications and back office services ?

  23. Stop the ride I want to get off Says:

    Great Post Oldfella

    Aaron H
    I agree we need to see a sensible redundancy policy - The current policy of 1 weeks pay for each year you have worked is criminal - if you had worked for 15 years the average person would possibly be able to pay the rent / mortgage for 3 or 4 months - what a shambles

    They will not give VER as to get rid of younger staff and not fill the vacant posts would save them much more in the long run

  24. Aaron H Says:

    Good post Laura but as I understand it frontline services should be protected as much as possible. There needs to be a full and frank review of senior post holders within the council because there is, without a doubt, jobs that exist that do not need to exist. The workload of middle and senior managers is often disproportionately allocated across individual directorates and the council as a whole. What the council needs to decide is whether these posts need to exist or not, and concentrate on making sure well paid individuals really do graft for their money. That isn't an unreasonable demand.
    Despite what we are told the majority of decisions taken at a senior level have very little impact on the quality and quantity of frontline services - the majority of committed staff will continue to deliver the service they are paid to as part of their own desire to keep high standards for the people of Manchester. I have yet to see a significant redesign at strategic level, or a 'rejig' for the sake of it, that seriously impacts on the quality of people to deliver, unless frontline services are directly cut as a result.

    They should concentrate on trimming the organisation down where it counts, retaining the expertise of tried and trusted managers, and get a personnel department that instead of hindering the disciplining of people who are not up to the task, allows and gives managers the confidence to put their own managerial capabilities to good use.

  25. i love jack russels Says:

    The spending announcement really is an absolute obscenity. The map of cuts lines up perfectly with that of the national and labour national vote - they've made safe labour LAs pay because they've written off any chance of getting their vote anyway. And to keep parroting that it's 'fair' when the settlement has obviously been made in inverse proportion to need is vile. So the North West, the North East etc have to pay for the debts caused by reckless gambling in the south. Far from being the new caring tories, they have showed themselves to be worse than Thatcher - she wanted to do this, but stopped short of actually doing it as even she thought it was a bit much. Lib dems should congratulate themselves on being the enablers to this mess, and enjoy the power while they can, because it will be another 100 years before they get a sniff of it again. I think Val Stevens point is good - surely there is a good case for seriously challenging this ? Although as the Fawcett Society recently found out when they tried to mount a legal challenge over the inequalities of the cuts (76% of which will come from women's pockets), some judge will throw it out and prevent it being considered. One interesting thing - the next tory conference is being held at gmex - and I don't think it should go ahead here. Any money pocketed by the Midland Hotel, GMEX and a few other hotels is going to be off-set by increased policing costs to ensure that residents don't get through the ring of steel that they're going to need.

  26. louis alexander Says:

    @ REDSTEVE57 - You do not know what your talking about. It is people like you who have wool over their eyes and can not see the blatant truth.

    @ RIchard Leese - who says we dont want elected mayors? I would vote for you, but please do not assume that we do not deserve a choice in such an important position.

    Thanks

    Labour Lou

  27. ABU Says:

    Good post 'I love jack russells'. And good question on who will foot the Police Bill next September… It must stick in your throat Richard knowing that we will have to find the money to foot a police bill that is necessary because they disproportionately took money away in the first place!

    The student body seem to be the only standing up to the government. Whilst i completely condemn the violence, I condone their on-going efforts. Not only that- they haven’t marched once, or twice or even three times but four or five. This coming from the ‘disaffected, unengaged yoof of today’. So many posters on here seem very critical of the government but I wonder how many would stand up as others have?

    The LG settlements are both disgraceful and disappointing but lets not heap all this on the poor Lib Dem scapegoats. The real architects of this are the Conservative party.

    Oh and Richard to echo posts above. As a Council employee I simply cannot see how the no redundancy policy is going to work no matter how admirable the stance. If, as your post suggests, we have to make serious SERIOUS savings then politically you must lead a change of heart on this commendable but ultimately doomed policy.
    ABU

  28. ABABU Says:

    Re ABU.

    There is a difference between a no redundancy policy and aiming for no compulsory redundancies. Unfortunately, even the latter may be unachievable due to the sheer level of the cuts.

    To echo the sentiments of others though, it would be nice to see the very high earners within MCC give up some of their salaries which are overblown in some cases.

    Nobody within MCC should earn as much as (or more than) the Prime Minister

  29. CB Says:

    @ Louis Alexandar

    Maybe you should of said you wanted an Elected Mayor last year when the very costly consulation was done? It cost a hugh amount and about 10 people and a dog replied. Localism when it suits!

  30. Mari Says:

    I totally agree with ABABU but would also expand on it by saying perhaps we could start looking at WHY in some departments it takes so many layers of management to organise an ever dwindling frontline of staff.

    We need to focus our attention HERE first when starting to make any cuts.

  31. Richard Leese Says:

    The most recent estimate I've seen of the prime Ministers total remuneration package is about £650,000 per annum. Nobody at the City Council gets anywhere near half that.

  32. red5 Says:

    I appreciate that we are in tough economic times. I work in Children's Services and was saddened to see the council have to release a temporary member of staff who worked in our team for the last 18 months. I would like it to be known that he was a great asset to our team and leaves a void. During that time he consistently performed to the highest level, was proud to work MCC and displayed great potential. I honestly believe the decisions being taken at senior level in culling temporary staff a great shame as their skills play a pivotal role within the organisation. I’ve been working for the council for many years and believe that temporary staff that has worked within the council should have the opportunity to be retained in some way.

  33. Aaron H Says:

    ABABU

    It's a bit of a pointless comparison to be honest - I think anyone can read between the lines regarding the PM's salary dropped so low as a tokenistic gesture from a man with an estimated personal wealth of £30m. Also, it adds further weight to the Conservative agenda of stripping public services down to their bare bones, allowing them to add the old 'no one in public service should earn more than PM' line whenever they feel like it.

    If a man can't get paid £150k+ for effectively running and managing a public service, should a man who gambles with your savings and trades in bonds and shares be receiving bonuses of £1m+ this christmas at whichever respected bank he for?

    This isn't an anti-capitalist rant: it just deserves some consideration. Those people who need services have their services cut, public sector workers made redundant or pay frozen whilst we provide tax breaks to the richest, the most powerful, the most influential.

    Successful taxation of the rich would prevent the kind of slide we are seeing now, with 'ordinary' people paying the price. It started with the Blair government and its love of big business, it's continuing now.

  34. t matt Says:

    They do not normally take up their pension and their basic pay per year is lower than many local Government staff; many also in the private secot earn more than the PM, nearly all partners of large firms etc. People in MCC DO earn more than the PM; fact.

  35. howard Says:

    What was the salary of the Chief Exec in 1997 and what is it now ?

    What allowances were paid to the leader of the Council and what is paid now ?

    This might give a clue as to why the Council needs to save so much money ?

  36. ABABU Says:

    I must admit that I hadn't seen this estimate and can't find reference to it anywhere. I can, however, find full reference to Sir Howard Bernstein's remuneration package from the Guardian hence the confusion. The Guardian states very clearly that Sir Howard earns far more than the Prime Minister but I would readily accept that such stories can often vbe printed for their scandal factor if proof were available to the contrary.

  37. Jim Mogg Says:

    Your comment is slightly disingenuous Sir Richard, and without any reference point. The PM's salary of 1 April 2010 was £132,923 with his salary for being an MP this would have risen to £198,661 - which is listed here http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-information-office/m06.pdf - However, as of today the parliamentary website states he is drawing £142k, which would suggest he is not drawing part of his MP salary or drawing less of his PM salary. I suspect you are talking about the cost of the PM which will be expensive but isn't tied to his salary. Can you provide your sources for your claim and on the basis of £142k are their officers paid more than the PM?

  38. si Says:

    Good point from howard, can we have an answer Richard ?

  39. ABABU Says:

    Aaron H, Personal net worth is largely irrelevant in this case.

    The post of Prime Minister is paid less than the post of Chief Exec for MCC (or so I and David Cameron thought).

    I know that it is easy to make a salary sacrifice with a large net worth but the chief exec is hardly scraping by on £200k for the past however many years.

  40. mal Says:

    These are really good points about Mr Bernsteins salary. Does MCC have any intention of answering ??

  41. thischarmingmanc Says:

    I’m not too sure that these are good points about the Chief Executive’s salary.

    Firstly yes, the CEX’s actual salary is more than the PM’s but then again the PM gets a swanky pad in London for him and his family thrown in. He and his family don’t have to pay council tax or utility bills on that pad and while they live there they can claim expenses for their second (constituency) home. Transport and food (for the family, not just the PM) is also thrown in. When you take the total package into account, I bet the CEX’s isn’t worth as much as the PM’s.

    Secondly – I think we need to be realistic. If the Council is to provide a world class service to the people of Manchester in the most efficient way possible then clearly it needs the right calibre people in the key positions (I agree, by the way, about having too many middle managers and ‘business analysts’) and Chief Exec is one of those positions (along with other Strategic Directors).

    The Chief Exec is head of an organisation of circa 17,000 staff, a budget in the £billions, customers in the millions and a variety of departments. Even if the Council was scaled back to the extent that has been suggested on here, the organisation would still be huge – the equivalent of a multi national in the private sector and the CEX pay would probably be in very high six figures or even seven figures with a bonus to boot.

    If MCC is to be the best at what it does, it needs to have the best people in the key jobs.

  42. avid Says:

    'We need to pay the best to compete with the private sector' is a common refrain from councils when trying to justify the salaries of their top people. Yet most of them have never worked anywhere else and the idea that any of them could be CEXs of FTSE companies is laughable. No doubt Mr Bernstein's salary has risen by far more more than other council staff over the last ten years. But is this really deserved ? Council services have certainty not improved. Outsourcing and partnering probably means the job has become a lot simpler. Mr Bernstein would win quite a few plaudits by offering to cut his salary (and by the way the Councillors should all offer to reduce their allowances as well).

  43. thischarmingmanc Says:

    What is laughable is the arrogant view in the private sector that their staff (particularly at the most senior level) are some kind of supermen and that senior staff in the public sector are not worthy. Many skills at senior level in the public and private sector are transferable. I’m not saying that CEX pay at MCC should be equivalent to what could potentially be achieved for a post of similar responsibility in the private sector, I am saying that the current salary, when put into context, is not as ludicrous as some are making out.

    ‘Council services have certainly not improved’ – could you please explain the basis for that statement? By most measures (including the audit commission’s reports) MCC is an improving Council (‘improving well’ is the official phrase) and has, I believe, been improving year on year for a decade or more.

  44. ABABU Says:

    CEX at private companies normally have their pay tied in to performance (please, no rants about bankers). I believe that MCC has made great strides in some areas but Manchester as a whole still has some of the most deprived areas in England and some shocking areas of performance in the recent health audit. Can a £200k per annum salary really be justified in light of this performance and in the current climate? Again, in context, this is a higher salary than the man responsible for the whoke country).

  45. politics lecturer Says:

    Comparing the salary of Howard Bernstein to David Cameron seems to have caught on in recent times, but it shows a bit of a lack of understanding of how government works on a local and national level. Cameron and Bernstein do not have comparable roles, as Cameron is elected and Bernstein is appointed. Better to compare Cameron's salary to that of Richard Leese's. The leader of the council gets something like £55k, which is a pretty reasonable amount, no? He doesn't get any other benefits and keeps his snout out of most troughs.

    A better comparison for Bernstein's salary is that of the Cabinet Secretary, Gus O'Donnell, who is the head of the civil service. He is paid something like £250k, which is in fairness a good bit more than what Bernstein is on. But then it makes it less of a sexy comparison...

    Fact is, Bernstein's done a good job. Is he worth his salary? Well that's decided by the council and they seem to think so...

  46. ABABU Says:

    @Politics lecturer

    I am sure I will expose myself as an ignoramus here but if the civil service currently employs close to 500,00 civil servants, is it really fair to compare the two roles?

    The work undertaken by Civil Servants covers the whole country and has a wider scope than MCC, it doesn't really feel like a fair comparison but perhaps you could clarify.

    In my opinion, when people are rightly worried about their jobs, those at the top should set an example.

    Finally, is a job well done because a few people with vested interests think so? Look at the health poll, we still have some of the most deprived areas in the country and our overall performance was shocking.

  47. gillo Says:

    Agree with ABABU, those at the top should set an example, and this includes the Councillors who should also take pay cuts. How much has Mr Leese's salary increased over the past few years - would not be surprised if it was much higher than the hardworking Council employee. But then, we have to pay top what to get top talent......

  48. manchester Says:

    I fully agree with Oldfella in saying let the over 55's go if they have the "Years" in

 

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