What are we made of...

Association of Greater Manchester Authorities Executive this morning and a decision on the proposal I put a month ago for a county wide referendum on our proposals to improve transport in the city-region including of course the introduction of a congestion charge in 2013. I'm delighted that all ten leaders agree to the referendum, to be counted by district, and the final decision on whether to proceed requiring the support of at least seven of the Greater Manchester Councils.

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Town Hall for the People

Today the Council's Executive Committee considers a report on the future of the Town Hall complex including the Central Library and St. Peter's Square. The buildings all need substantial work doing on them but there is an opportunity at the same time to vastly improve access to public services for Manchester residents by having a single "one-stop" reception area in the ground floor of the Town Hall Extension. We also have the chance to develop a new and better home for the Library Theatre Company, and transform St. Peter's Square into a world-class, pedestrianised (apart from the trams) public square. The aim is to ensure that this group of important buildings can continue to be the civic heart of the city for the next century and that has well as preserving our heritage they can provide 21st century services.

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Stormy weather

Two government Ministers in the Town Hall today but as they are both Greater Manchester MPs as well I assume this is also a convenient staging point on their route back to their constituencies. First up is Environment Minister Phil Woolas who is helping us launch a Greater Manchester "mini-Stern" report looking at the economic impact of EU and UK Climate Change legislation on Manchester City Region and the North West (available at www.manchester-enterprises.com). One comment on an earlier blog entry suggested I was overly concerned with economic matters in comparison to social issues. It's true that money can't buy happiness but it's also true that you are a lot more likely to be happy if you can keep a decent roof over your head, have your home comfortably furnished, take the occasional holiday, have the occasional night out, i.e. all things that cost money. The council did some research a few years ago that showed that the biggest single determinant of the sustainability of a neighbourhood was its level of benefit dependency and that's why our biggest priority remains creating more and better jobs and giving Manchester people the aspiration and skills to do them. Obviously the necessity of tackling climate change is much more than an economic necessity but this report done by Deloittes suggests that not tackling climate change in Greater Manchester would cost the city-region economy £billions over the next decade.

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Clearing the decks

Thanks to the failure of national negotiations on Town Hall pay I am looking forward to two days out of the office although I'm due to be in London tomorrow anyway. Yesterday I travelled to and from Liverpool by train for a meeting of the North West Regional Leaders' Forum (formerly the NWRA Executive Board). Amongst other things we discussed the redraft of the regional housing strategy and regional transport funding which is fully allocated up to 2018. The journey takes a little over fifty minutes and makes me yearn for a high speed link although that can't happen unless we can sort out the Manchester hub. At least the journey to London should be more comfortable and comparatively a lot quicker. I'm not going to comment on the pay dispute other than to hope it is resolved quickly because a prolonged dispute is bad for Council workers and bad for the people who depend on the services they provide. First up this morning is the Substance conference where I'm speaking about the legacy of major events, something we've done particularly well here, not just with the Commonwealth Games, but with many other events, for example this year's World Sport series, and for Manchester these events have contributed to the wealthier, healthier, and happier themes in our community strategy. Then its a purge of the office, something I've had very little time for over the past couple of weeks, making sure casework and as much of everything else is up-to-date as I can guarantee there will be a backlog by the time I return on Friday.

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Red invasion of Crumpsall

It has been a very busy week and so I'm relieved to get to Friday with a meeting and engagement free weekend ahead even though there is still a mountain of paperwork to get through . I'm out at 7.25am to get to Wigan for 8.30am adding to, observing and suffering the congestion along the way that some people like to pretend doesn't exist. Perhaps we're evolving a particular breed of human being who thrive on breathing car exhaust fumes. I've had a second year law student, Shereen Chohan, work-shadowing me all week. Might have been interesting to get her to write the blog as I'm sure it would be a very different perspective on the last five days. After a couple of hours in the office trying to catch up it's back to Crumpsall and to Herristone Park for a very pleasant duty.

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Everything you could ever want to know about...

TIF. Can't escape it for long and wouldn't want to because I'm genuinely excited at the prospect of implementing our Transport Innovation Fund Proposals. It will be the biggest single investment we've seen in Greater Manchester, will give us world -class public transport for the foreseeable future, and will be the most beneficial thing that has happened to Manchester whilst I've been a councillor. Very few politicians are lucky enough to be involved in something that will make such a difference and where it is so important to get our citizens on board.

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Monasteries to Messiaen

No TIF today but an Executive Member/Strategic Management Team away day to look at how we improve our delivery for Manchester. As usual it's not very far away, Gorton in fact, and the superb setting of the restored Gorton Monastery. We cover a wide range of issues but in the afternoon session we give special attention to four themes. The first is the economy and how we maintain Manchester's economic trajectory in the face of global slowdown. The second is housing-supply, affordability, quality, range and management-big issues we are grappling with. The third is recycling and how as part of our greenest city ambition and following the recent extensive consultation we take our recycling rate from the just over 20% to nearer 40% in the next eighteen months. Last but not least we look at how we can get more decision making at the neighbourhood level. It's a productive day and we probably don't spend enough time like this.

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