Where next?

The monthly series of meetings around the Combined Authority are delayed a little today to allow members to attend the launch of the Manchester-China Forum. Chaired by Airport Chief Executive Charlie Cornish the Forum's objectives are to increase Greater Manchester's connectivity with China and to facilitate the business climate that enables companies in Greater Manchester to further develop relationships with China. China is already the second biggest economy in the world, and although the rate of growth has slowed there, it still won't be long before it's the biggest economy. By way of comparison, by 2020, China will probably be Germany's biggest export market. If Manchester could be involved in only a tiny sliver of that growth, the impact on our own economy would be enormous.

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St.George's Day

Not actually going to say anything about St.George's Day which was of course yesterday, but I am going to talk about a couple of things I did on the day. The Council has started decanting staff back from 1st Street into the Town Hall Extension. Lovely phrase that, decanting, which, very appropriately, makes Council staff sound like fine wine. The decant will take until June to complete but one whole floor and a wing in another floor are already occupied so I popped in to see how the move was going and how the remodelled accommodation was working and it was all good news. The building looks tremendous inside, the working environment looks good, and the staff I spoke to all seemed to be very happy to be back in the Town Hall but in much improved office space.

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Over the Hill

The first leg of the six part 2013 UCI Track Cycling World Cup takes place at the new indoor BMX track at the National Cycling Centre tonight and tomorrow night. There will be a full house both nights and the world's best BMX riders will be experiencing the world's best all-weather facility i.e. it's indoors. It's not always elite cyclists though. There is already a thriving BMX club based at the centre, a number of schools, primary and secondary, using it on a regular basis, and it's very affordable. I can't go when the competition is on so went up this afternoon to watch some of the time trial practice sessions. There was a big audience for that including a number of school parties. It was really easy to get to. A short tram ride to the Velopark stop and then a two minute walk over the canal and the combined Velodrome and BMX facility looks fantastic. Think I'll stick to the road on my bike though!

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On the Rack

I often describe the position the City Council is in as an impossible one, trying to balance an enormous range of demands and expectations of Manchester citizens with the ever diminishing financial resources available to us. Yesterday I met a delegation from the Save Burnage Library Campaign which included primary school pupils right through to pensioners. It was the last day of the formal consultation on the proposed library strategy so I was there principally to listen, but was given a bit of a grilling by a number of students from Burnage High School.

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Myths and Legends

Back to the benefit system and a presentation I was at by Trafford Councillor Anne Duffield on the recent " reforms ". Anne had collected research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and other reputable organisations which really expose many of the myths that underpin the unpopularity of the present system. Here are just a few:

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Helping Hand

The Council's Executive Committee met today. The Belle Vue proposals have already received significant media coverage. I suspect any further media coverage will focus on the excitingly titled 'Leisure Budget Proposals Consultation Response report', so I want to draw attention to two other items on today's agenda, proposals involving rather smaller amounts of money than the aforementioned reports, but ones with the potential to impact, hopefully positively, on far more people's lives.

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And now for something a bit more harmonious

I don't usually do two posts in one day but thought I would keep what is a good news story separate from the gloom of benefit cuts. I'm not a historian so I'm not going to make claims to know exactly where the industrial revolution started. I do know that the Castlefield Basin, the Bridgewater Canal and Ancoats all played a significant part in that early history. Ancoats, between Redvale Street and Oldham Road, has a number of major buildings that are part of that heritage- from the magnificent mill buildings, the oldest dating back to the eighteenth century through to the city's earliest Council housing at Victoria Square and Anita and George Leigh Streets.

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Hard Times

Not a good week for thousands of low income families across the country. I wrote in the Manchester Evening News on Monday of this week, April Fools Day, about two of the sweeping changes in the benefit system that came into force this week, the scrapping of Council Tax Benefit and the introduction of the bedroom tax for families in receipt of housing benefit who are supposedly under-occupying their property, i.e. have a spare bedroom.

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