Manchester City Council

Doing the Best We Can

It would be a little odd if I didn't blog about yesterday's budget Council meeting, and comment on some of the news coverage, although in most respects there is nothing new to say. There was a surprisingly small, indeed disappointingly small lobby outside the Town Hall yesterday morning.

A couple of newspapers described it as 2000 protestors surrounding the Town Hall but as the couple of papers were the Mail and the Sun nobody will be surprised that they were grossly inaccurate. The real figure was little more than hundred and personally, given the importance of the decisions being made and the number of people affected, I would have liked to have seen a lot more.

There were only eighty seats in the public gallery in the Great Hall for the meeting itself ( but that's more than we would have had if we had been meeting in the Council Chamber ). The majority of those were there because there were particular cuts proposals they were concerned about, and when the meeting started wanted to hear what was being said. There were also a small number that seemed to have little interest in anything other than making a lot of noise. The meeting did have to be adjourned twice early on because of the noise and protestors were warned that if that did continue that everybody would have to be cleared out of the public gallery. Democracy was not going to be halted. I went over a couple of times and spoke directly to the people there, some of whom were very concerned that they would be ejected because of the behaviour of others. I am pleased that it was a decision that the majority of those there took themselves, that they would stop being disruptive and allow those that wanted to, to hear proceedings.

From then on, at least until the very end, there was probably no more noise than we get in an average Council meeting and the business was conducted in an atmosphere appropriate to the seriousness of the occasion. The Executive's budget proposals were agreed with an amendment incorporating the Executive's response to the consultation which I blogged last week.

Not a good day. Not a pleasant day. But Manchester was able to uphold it's long held tradition of supporting the right to peaceful protest. Nobody was ejected from the Council meeting, and the democratic process was able to run its course. I do believe that the Council has produced the best budget for Manchester that it can in the circumstances. Others are entitled to disagree.

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There are 33 responses to “Doing the Best We Can”

  1. sue Says:

    Wednesday is hard for workers and Council workers can't say a thing. But yes, should have been 1000s. However, would have been to see more Labour Cllrs at Saturday's demo, which was clearly anti-government. Democracy is already halted; the government has no mandate.Mobilisation is happening across the city; you should be shoulder to shoulder with anti-cuts groups.

  2. Mr Robert Willescroft Says:

    No doubt some of the measures taken by this so-called coalition have been ill considered -especially, in terms of defense. However, Manchester has always been a wasteful council and it has not gone unnoticed. Manchester has not been efficient in collecting council taxes, letting too many people get away with none payment. the latest figures show that Manchester is owed Eleven Millions in uncollected council taxes. Manchester council has too many none-jobs or quangos within its ranks - it must get rid of these.I believe that most city councillors are there for the salary and not for the people. finally, collect all the unpaid council taxes, get rid of the quangos and make the councillors more accountable.

  3. david Says:

    I disagree you have told your staff in a leter that you have restated your commitment to sure start and that there has been a lot of suggestion that you will close or privatise the sure start centers ans that is not the councils intention .BUT we will not directly provide the sure start provision but we seek to transfer that provision to other providersincluding schools and the voluntary sector saying you already do and successfully at forur sure start centers across the city .That is very cleverly worded you are not privatising them but transfering them to private providers sorry Mr Leese to me that sounds like a contridiction there can you explain who is going to pay the staff another company or the council if its not privatised hen surley they should be salaried by the council not TUPED .Please explain in laymens terms what is going to happen to those centers now and the staff such as someone I know who works in one .Tell them they wont be tuped until the other company decides to lower thier pay and conditions i await your reply as i am sure will many others

  4. Aged 55 and disgusted Says:

    Calamity Jane said
    "We’re been top heavy with upper Management for years whilst the frontline staff have got smaller. CUTS should have started here first and years ago.

    Of course Sir Richard will tell us that they have been the first to go and so they have been - pushing their wheelbarrows of cash out with them and leaving the sinking ship behind them."

    OMG! Superb observation! So true! Btw, those of you aged 55 and finally refused VER based on 'red cost', let's wait and see. I am hoping the Unions can together agree legal support for a class action, or if not and the Unions don't like to spend money on Solicitors, a private class action against the Council based on ageism. If the sole reason you are refused VER is because you are "too expensive to release", then that is unlikely to be a reasonable reason in law in this whole situation. It will be easy enough to interrogate ages vs redundancy refusals in due course under 'freedom of information'. I don't think MCC is immune from shameful conduct, notwithstanding our respect for Sir Richard.

  5. Jonathan Says:

    No doubt one of the saddest Council meetings in history! We've been robbed! The country is run by rich men who often lack compassion and arrogantly wave papers in the air when the Chancellor announces cuts that affect people's quality of life. At least, Sir Richard is showing genuine remorse and sorrow at these difficult decisions. It's a sorry state of affairs when libraries and leisure centres have to be shut, and Sure Start centres have to be sold off. I feel very sad about it all. Manchester Advice is to close completely. This is particularly worrying. Manchester Advice provides free and confidential advice and information to Manchester residents. The service provides information on a range of subjects, such as moving into work, education or training, benefits and pensions, debt and housing problems.

    I disagree with the Council saying that the service is no longer required, as Citizens Advice Bureaux are cut to the bone and cannot come provide a comparable service at all. Manchester Advice has actually saved other public services money in averting homelessness and has seriously improved many residents qualities of life.

  6. disappointing Says:

    i am disappointed to see that after having the meeting yesterday that will have an effect on every resident in Manchester you are more concerned about having your say on the disruptions at the meeting, than the effects it has on the people of Manchester. the so called BEST BUDGET does not help the fact that i am going to lose my job as i will have to to take my child out of an excellent nursery in harpurhey. that is run by 1st class staff..who don't even no what is going to happen to there centre, i will not but my child back into a privet nursery as i want him to have the best possible start in life and not be seen as pound signs So please would you tell me what is to come of carisbrook childrens centre

  7. mandy Says:

    Mr Leese you have produced the best budget ye s for saving money not for saving jobs or protecting services god help the future generations of manchester people have now said no more labor council in manchester .
    Why ? you ask because we were 1 penalised for having a Labor council and 2 They didnt back the manchester people when the crunch came they could have refused to set a budget and manchester people would have backed them as they had voted them in what peole are saying is they have acted like a tory council also children of all things to mess about with thier services half the cuts were made from this one service alone and you say its not being privatised i say its lies you are transfering the service to other providers
    One of the voluntary sector organisations that had made it known it wanted to take over the nursery service is the same organisation that regularly refuses to carry on caring for children if funding dries up.

    For example if a single parent earns slightly more than would entitle them to free care they simply tell the parents that they are no longer ‘eligible’ and to go and ’try the council’. It’s the council nurseries who then end up taking these children on at a reduced or free place rate.

    These same children are often borderline in terms of their development with slow language skills and usual come with the sad baggage of poor housing and poor health. It’s the council that picks up the pieces where the ‘voluntary sector’ drops out of provision not the other way around. Without funds the idea that some happy clappy hippies are still prepared to provide a service, free of any form of funding, is fanciful and dangerous.

    its a sad day when manchester loses its council services and sadder that it looks almost certain to lose its labor council the only thing you can look forward to is seeing some of your staff in the job center

  8. Star gazer Says:

    I think you looked so genuinely sad yesterday but it was a sad, sad day indeed for the people of Manchester.

    If you can do one thing and I had one wish it would be for you to honour the commitment to protect front line services because to me it seems like the highest management layer is not reducing or at least has no intention of doing so.

    As for the small number of people in attendance I think that is down to a mixture of disbelief and denial as they may have just given up.

    Somebody complained to me about the likelihood of paying for parking on Sunday and that just summed up the selfish attitude of so many. No regard for the closure of youth provision, community facilities and so on but more bothered about paying a few quid to go galavanting around the City Centre - enough said.

  9. Manchester Man Says:

    I have no doubt that you are a good man working hard to do the best you can.

  10. Mari Says:

    It might be because most of us were actually working Sir Richard and were not allowed to come out and show our disgust.

  11. Lost for words Says:

    Disagree Disagree Disagree!!!!!! The council did its best for the budget in manchester i am lost for words.When will the council realise that through the Voluntry severence the childrens centres are losing 6 and 7 staff centre workers by 1st May 2011Releasing 50 level 2 and Level 3 workers in the coming weeks. How can the centres still run and keep in ratio. Its crazy children ar not at the heart of these decisions.........................................

  12. nato Says:

    In response to some of the posts on here I'd just like to say Thank you to Councillor Leese for continuing to post updates and such despite the widespread flak he receives on these pages.

    The budget does not have children at the heart of it, nor does it have any other specific group. Its sole focus is on absorbing the cuts which have been imposed from central Government, whether or not you agree with these cuts is of little importance, they have been decided.

    I am sure Manchester will continue to grow and thrive despite these cuts but it's going to take a lot of hard work from everyone who lives here. If everyone in Manchester showed as much pride in the City as most of the people in the Council do then this place would be one of the best citys in the world to live in, unfortunatly there are many people who couldn't give a toss and as someone mentioned before they are the ones who are complaining about having to pay for parking.

    I hope the sure start centres can continue provinding the service they do as it seems clear from comments on here that people really value them but don't make the mistake of thinking that the Council or any other group is deliberatly targeting anything, they are not. We are living through a period of austerity and pragmatic political decisions, some of which are based on questionable views but they are trying to deal with the issue at hand.

    I hope Councillor Leese and the other people right around the country who are working hard for their community can continue to do so and that people will get off their backs and start trying to help.

  13. REDSTEVE57 Says:

    Is it any wonder that the turn out for the lobby was not as well supported? 2000 members of staff are on their way out of the door and the majority of the rest that are left to pick up the pieces are fearfully clinging on to some semblance of a job and a future work load that will increase by at least 33% this year and increase year on year until the ConDem alliance has finally driven all Public Services out to the Private Sector.
    It is clear to me and to most that did turn out to support the lobby that there is no fight in this Council or the Labour Councillors that were elected to protect and provide services.
    You are condemning the youngest in our communities to little or no provision of safe, secure, not for profit child care for those that cannot afford private providers. Those in this society, and our/ my community, that are on or below the poverty line and whose only chance to interact with others is their time spent at the Sure Start Centre are in danger of losing that continuity in their lives. They don’t want privateers/volunteers running their centres they want MCC to provide the service because they are at least accountable at the ballot box.
    Stop hiding behind the ConDem alliance and using them as an excuse to do what MCC have been craving for many years. I recall a speech made at a conference by a senior officer of MCC, “Keep the best and ditch the rest” is the part that has always stuck with me. It seems Cameron and Co has given you the perfect opportunity to carry out that mandate.
    But be afraid; be very afraid, as a Trade Unionist that fought hard and long to oppose Thatcherism and the Thatcherite cohorts that demanded Compulsory Competitive Tendering, and now the all out attack on our Local Government Pensions, as in the Arab states, the time for action is coming.
    Don’t be complacent that Labour will waltz back into office in the local elections because the ConDems have systematically begun to destroy Public Services and bring the poorest communities to their collective knees. Questions will be asked of the Labour politicians campaigning for a seat.

    What have you done to fight off the cuts, save jobs and public services and protect the vulnerable?

    Got any real answers or just the usual spin?

  14. United_We_Stand Says:

    I was there from 8.30am until the end. A bitterly disappointing sight, to see our representatives voting through Pickles' cuts budget

  15. Skint Eastwood Says:

    Although I have been critical of many of the councils and governments actions on here, I would like to mention that I have (despite my posts here!) had a really enjoyable time here and have taken away a very positive experience, I’m saddened that the FJF (despite it’s flaws) is being wrapped up. I think this was a truly good idea that with a little more planning and effort would have been very beneficial to all involved. After my work and experience working here through the latest economic and political events I am now going to volunteer my time and resources to those most effected by the cuts and will be working with the Citizens Advice and other charitable organisations and agencies that have lost funding due to the recent cuts. If I don’t get paid, then I can’t complain how unfair my wages are. Lol. As this is my last day here I would like to thank all those people who despite my “attitude problem” have really helped me work here, including the m people team (both staff and managers), the other people on the FJF who shared this experience with me, all those contributing to this blog, Sir Richard Leese for the use of this blog, to a girl on the Fourth floor here I have a real big crush on and to Steve for being really helpful and supportive from start to end.

  16. Freedom of Information Says:

    For those who think the cuts/severances etc. are bad - wait till m-people gets a grip! It is like letting the place be run by L Ron Hubbard, wiat and see. No 0ne will be able/allowed/empwered to speak out, and you will have to do just as you are told. None of it will be aimed at service delivery (see above) and the whole system is geared to keeping layers of management busy and 'justified'. Staff who know what they are doing don't need an inexperienced and unqualified 'business analyst' to tell them what to do. But thats whats gonna happen. The last thing that HR & DOT etc want is to be out of a job themselves - plus it will all have to be on their terms as they have no frontline experience; none of them. Mr Leese you are past it and slipping - Stringer wouldnt ever have allowed this farce to take a grip of the whole authority.

  17. United_We_Stand Says:

    I was there from 8.30am until the end. A bitterly disappointing sight, to see our representatives voting through Pickles' cuts budget. Unacceptable, even when wrapped in regrets from Labour councillors. I’m personally a bit upset to be lectured by Mr L about the size of the lobby. For starters, 150 people is not a bad beginning, for a working day. On the Saturday before, I marched through the city centre with about 2,000 people protesting at the Tory cuts. Yet Mr L and all other councillors appeared to have taken a collective decision to boycott the march, not even turning up to speak. If you would have liked to see more on Wednesday morning, Sir R, then Labour councillors should have been out marching with us on the Saturday afternoon!
    This ain’t over. Campaigning must continue over every threatened service. I hope councillors, campaigners and council staff will join the big demonstration in London on Saturday 26th March.

  18. Bernsteinwatch Says:

    What arrogance!
    "ittle more than hundred and personally, given the importance of the decisions being made and the number of people affected, I would have liked to have seen a lot more."
    Why so you could feel big & powerful and ignore them and do what you were going to do anyway? And then patronise them to add insult to injury. Your Comms team should ve told you to just shut up for now if they were worth anything.

  19. United_We_Stand Says:

    The Tory cuts are unacceptable, even when wrapped in regrets from Labour councillors. I’m personally a bit upset to be lectured by Mr L about the size of the lobby. For starters, 150 people is not a bad beginning, for a working day. On the Saturday before, I marched through the city centre with about 2,000 people protesting at the Tory cuts. Yet Mr L and all other councillors appeared to have taken a collective decision to boycott the march, not even turning up to speak. If you would have liked to see more on Wednesday morning, Sir R, then Labour councillors should have been out marching with us on the Saturday afternoon!
    This ain’t over. Campaigning must continue over every threatened service. I hope councillors, campaigners and council staff will join the big demonstration in London on Saturday 26th March.

  20. ACryForHelp Says:

    I read this blog with a heavy heart and like Bernsteinwatch
    11/03/2011 wrote, it does not sound like a LEADER's blog. Not good enough to carry the people along. We can leave the rest to our imagination.

  21. Leon Trotsky ivth Says:

    @Mari and United_We_Stand
    Does this mean we can only have the revolution at the weekend?

  22. Jonathan Says:

    Some are saying Manchester will lose it's Labour council. OK, I felt deeply disappointed about these cuts. It's not going to make me vote Tory, some of whose MPs cheer George Osborne when he announces drastic cuts, as they help the rich get richer and patronise us with vacuous statements like 'we're all in it together'! I don't think I'll be first in the queue to vote Lib Dem either who whilst attacking Labour, are cosying up to these rotten Tories who made this nightmare scenario possible. So who could possibly make political gains, the Green Party, who just might be the official opposition on the Council the way it's going!

  23. sue harding Says:

    Hi all
    I have written to my local Lib Dem MP about cuts. I thought I would share with you all his reply and ask if anyone can verify the accusation he makes about Labour councillors:

    Dear Susan

    I apologise if that was the impression I gave. If the Lib Dems were in Government on our own we would be splitting up the banks and taking much firmer action. Unfortunately we only have 57 MPs and there has been a cosy consensus between Labour and the Tories over recent years not to split the banks or to regulate them. On local cuts the Lib Dems put forward an alternative budget that would have protected services – no library or leisure centre closures, retaining support for Manchester Advice. This was voted down by Labour Councillors. There was a choice and Labour chose to cut these services.

    Kind regards

    John Leech

  24. robert Says:

    @Sir Richard Leese

    you have said you will keep all sure start nuresries open can I askyou as a husband of aone of the sure start workers what if the nursery my wife works in dosent get taken over as you had hoped will she then be made compulsory redundant she doesnt want to take the vs as she has anothe 12 yrs left to work. Also if they do get taken over by another provider is the council going to do it as a joint venture and what pay and conditions protection will be in place it used to be 3 years does that still apply >
    I am sur many of the girls my wife included are having sleepless nights worrying about the security of their job can you give us any answers as to how you are hoping it will work

  25. Colette Crosdale Says:

    There would have been more people, especially young people if Council Youth Service Senior Officers hadn't gagged their own youth workers with the threat of disciplinary action if they told young people that their service was to be axed. Politicians and their Senior Officers denied young people the right to be involved in the democratic process. If you want the names of the Senior Officers we can provide them.

  26. Fabian Says:

    Richard Lees has the cheek to be disappointed in the low turn out of protesters at the budget meeting. Is there no limit to your hubris? Your disappointment is nothing in comparison to the diappointment that is felt by the people of Manchester, in the Labour Council that does nothing to oppose Tory cuts. You have delivered a pusillanimous budget and I am not fooled by your sad expression.

  27. Danny Says:

    We do not blame the council as it is being forced to make cuts of over £100 million to public services by the Conservative led government.

    However, we believe that closing this hugely popular children's nursery will leave a gaping hole in the provision of affordable childcare in our neighbourhood. It is a blow for working parents as the alternatives provided by the private sector are prohibitively expensive.

    We ask the council to think twice before taking away a valuable service; once it is gone it will be gone for ever. Yes, there are other children's centres, but these all have long waiting list and we believe that it is naive to assume that these will not be under threat in today's harsh economic climate.

    Local working families rely on the excellent day-care provided at this children’s centre. If it is allowed to close, mothers will need to stay home from work, more people will need to claim benefits, families will have less money to spend in local businesses and the economy at large will suffer as we pay less in tax and, ultimately, our children will suffer. Everyone loses...

  28. What's the point? Says:

    Sir Richard...not surprsing that the turn out wasn't great really when senior managers are hushing staff from asking awkward questions and no-one is sure what they can and can't say in case they say the "wrong thing" and it stops them getting a job later on...so much for democracy.It's been in name only for quiet some time in the council,I'm afraid.

  29. Day V. Lately Says:

    @Sue Harding

    You have to look at politicians like you would Top Trumps cards. We know they are all susceptible to ever so slightly bending the truth, but you are taking the word of a Lib-Dem MP, those guys trump everyone for truth bending. And I'm sure it would be better for their party if our Labour Council have to pass the most upsetting budget in recent history while they offer their alternative written on the back of a packet of menthol cigarettes.

  30. Fabian Says:

    RE: sue harding Says:

    I am interested to hear your comment on the contents of the letter that Sue received from John Leech.

  31. gladtobeanemployee Says:

    @sue harding
    Not sure about the Tory/Labour bank thing – but the lib dems did put forward alternatives to the budget at the Resources & Governance Overview & Scrutiny Committee on 28th February 2011 and were defeated

    All the papers, including the oppositions alternative budget can be found on the MCC website at http://www.manchester.gov.uk/meetings/meeting/1415/resources_and_governance_overview_and_scrutiny_committee. The minutes are at http://www.manchester.gov.uk/egov_downloads/Minutes28February2011.pdf

  32. LJ Says:

    Staff taking VER/VS have chosen to do this and I understand that they will be released when the council sees fit, however what I don't undertand is how 7 members of staff from one children's centre being released on the same date is maintaining a service. Also if these staff are being released now due to 'not being needed' why are their jobs being advertised on this website?

    http://www.manchester.gov.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?categoryID=100008&documentID=3016

    That says to me that these staff are still needed, where's the continuity for the children?

  33. Jeff Smith Says:

    @ sue harding
    For John Leech to claim the Lib Dems put forward an alternative that saved services is frankly dishonest. Their "alternative budget" proposed spending money that simply isn't there. They put forward over £4 million of entirely speculative "savings", with absolutely no indication of how they could be delivered. And they proposed over £1.5 million in increased income that was impossible to realise. There was a hole in their budget of (minimum) £6 million. They then claimed to be able to spend this missing money on saving libraries, Manchester Advice etc. The reason they are able to put forward a budget that doesn't add up is because they know they can't take control of the Council at the next election, so they will not be in a position where they have to implement it.
    The City Treasurer was asked at the aforementioned Scrutiny Committee meeting if he considered the Lib Dem budget proposals as "prudent" to which the answer was "no".

 

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