Manchester City Council

Local Democracy

It's very rare to make changes to the Council's Executive Committee in between Council Annual General Meetings, but Jim Battle leaving the Council to take on the role of Deputy Police Commissioner and Afzal Khan standing down from the Executive to concentrate on Europe, has led to three changes this autumn: Bernard Priest moving to become Deputy Leader, Sheila Newman re-joining the Executive as Executive Member for Children's Services, and Kate Chappell coming in as Executive Member for the Environment.

We've also taken the opportunity to review all the portfolios, and the full list of changes will be reported to the next full meeting of Council next week. Three I will draw to your attention are these: as the current waste collection contract approaches its end, responsibility for it has been moved to the Neighbourhood Services brief (which Bernard has taken with him to the Deputy Leader's post) to join it up with street cleaning and other street scene management; Highways has moved the other way to Environment to be joined up with transport, mirroring the more integrated approach being taken at a Greater Manchester level; thirdly, the Inclusion brief has been widened to explicitly include family poverty. We have seen lots of recent headlines about the impact of the 'bedroom tax', the number of children still living in relative poverty and the number of people in rent or mortgage arrears. This third change is to try and ensure that the Council is as best organised as it can be to support thousands of Manchester families through very difficult times.

MPs seem to spend an enormous amount of time talking about what councils do - maybe it's easier than running the country. Recently they spent a big chunk of time talking about council parking charges, bus lane enforcement and those other things that get Mr White Van hot under the collar. Not so long ago one of Greater Manchester's MPs wanted a select committee enquiry into council Chief Executives' pay. The discussion on parking etc. seemed to take little account of where the money went (back into transport and highways), the improvements bus lanes make to public transport, and that parking fines or bus lane violation fines can be very easily avoided by not parking illegally or driving in bus lanes at the times they are in operation. There is a bigger point though, which is that apart from their rights as citizens, this is none of their business. Citizens elect local councillors to make these decisions and if they don't like them they can always elect different councillors - something that, in Manchester at least, they have rather more opportunity to do than to elect members of parliament. I, along with many others, often bemoan the poor turnout in local elections. Turnout would undoubtedly be higher if it was clear to the electorate that local councillors, and nobody else, were responsible for local decision making.

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There are 6 responses to “Local Democracy”

  1. max Says:

    Dear Sir Richard
    You talk a lot of sense, but....
    I am surprised you seem surprised that Rochdale's MP is raising the subject of Chief Exec pay.
    Rank and file members of staff at the Council have had redundancies, pay cuts and a pay freeze. The Council Tax was increased by the largest amount possible without triggering a referendum (as in Manchester - Ed Milliband's cost of living crisis anyone ?). Yes the Council want to give a £30k increase to its Chief Exec. This is despite an outcry in the local press and a petition signed by almost 1500 people. Yes, the MP is absolutely right to demand an enquiry into this.

  2. franky Says:

    Above all these days, we have to bring poor families out of poverty, which is a struggle against this terrible government!

  3. Just the Facts Says:

    @max
    Some of the things you say make a bit of sense but...
    your comments about Council Tax are inaccurate.
    The percentage that councils could raise their bit of council tax by without needing to go to referendum was 2%. Rochdale only put theirs up by 0.5% and Manchester's actually went down by 4%.
    Its true that council tax went up overall in both areas but that was because of a big increase in the cost of waste disposal by the Greater Manchester Waste Authority, which was I think part of a long standing commitment.
    So both authorities kept their part of council tax down below inflation and did their bit to keep the cost of living down.
    The Daily Mail and other papers may well have reported it differently, but then the press often distort the facts.

  4. Max Says:

    Dear Just the Facts

    Sorry, I don't recognise your figures. My council tax in Manchester went up by 3.7%. Manchester used a loophole to ensure that the levies by TFGM and the Waste Disposal Authority were excluded from the 2% limit for capping.

    Talking of loopholes, wasn't Manchester one of just four Councils exploiting a technicality to allow them to transfer £15m from the HRA to the general fund. This money could have been used to support people hit by the unfair bedroom tax.

    It is a little unfair that Sir Richard brands people who don't agree with him as 'white van' man and that you assume they read the Daily Mail.

    Perhaps we could hear from Sir Richard on these matters.

  5. Richard Leese Says:

    @Max Think you need to read more carefully. I didnt express any view on White Van Man agreeing or disagreeing with me. I didn't express any view on a Rochdale MP expressing a view on Rochdale Council business which is entirely reasonable for him to do whether I agree with him or not. The view I did express that such matters were none of parliaments business - they were a matter between the Council and its electorate. Manchesters Council Tax is made up of a number of elements. The element for the City Council's own spend did indeed go down for the current year, and the 3.7% figure was as a consequence of waste and transport levies and police and fire precepts. With respect to cost of living, Manchester has the second lowest average Council Tax in the country and yes all of this is misrepresented by the Daily Mail and the rest of the right-wing press

  6. Ian Says:

    Hi

    I feel Sir Richard is talking about our Right Honourable Eric Pickles who seems to want to get involved in Parking disbutes. Lovely to see him spend his time looking after government things lol...

 

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

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