Manchester City Council

A Different Perspective

I'm spending bonfire night in Malmo and Copenhagen so will not be disturbed by loud bangs late into the night. For lovers of Scandanavian crime dramas, I will be crossing " the Bridge " twice tonight and again in the morning. I'm here for the Eurocities AGM which is split over three days between the two cities and as neither is in the euro zone am having to very careful not to confuse my Swedish and Danish Krone.

Eurocities is the organisation of large cities in Europe and Manchester joined in the early 1990s largely to be part of a strong urban voice working on policy with the European Commission and the European Parliament. The EU does not have a specific urban competence but much European legislation does impact on cities and EU structural funds are the only long-term programmes supporting economic growth that we have access to so having a strong voice in Europe is important.

This morning I " hosted " a round table discussion with speakers from Toulouse, Florence, Porto, Edinburgh, and Gotenburg looking at securing investment and local economic development. The most striking thing was the different situation each city was in but there were some common issues and lessons to be learnt. All of the cities were growing and growing younger, recognised the importance of spatial planning, suffered from congestion, had real issues of social inequality to address, and were somewhere on the journey from industrial to post-industrial. At the same time each had its own distinctive strengths and those as well as their needs were the basis of their development policies.

The afternoon session concluded with a politicians session on refugees and asylum seekers with stories which frankly put Britain and it's 20,000 Syrians in five years to shame. Berlin received 6,000 refugees a week in September. Mannheim, a city two thirds the size of Manchester has 13,000 refugees including 400 unaccompanied children. Vienna has 40,600 refugees. Some of those are in transit, but many of them will stay and the efforts that city is going to with the support of hundreds of volunteers to ensure that those who stay are integrated into the life of the city from day one are remarkable. Many cities raised the spectre of xenophobia and the dangers of the far right, compounded by some countries in Europe not pulling their weight, but none were seeking to shirk their own responsibilities. Made the UK's effort look pathetic. Which it is.

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

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