Openness and Transparency

On the tram on the way back from Bury after today's Greater Manchester Combined Authority meetings. I say meetings as there have been seven, of various lengths, with the last still going on as I left. One of the criticisms legitimately made of the CA has been a lack of apparent openness and a feeling that too many decisions are made behind closed doors. Today's programme was sadly a good example of why that is the case.

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The East is Red

Only one thing I could blog about today, the visit to Manchester of the President of the People's Republic of China, Xi Jinping. Although we have had many important visitors to the city including several Prime Ministers, I cannot recall us previously welcoming a Head of State as part of an official State Visit, and certainly not one with the status of heading the world's most populous country and its second biggest, heading for biggest, economy.

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Reading Ahead

Went to a great event yesterday lunchtime thanks to an invite from Steve Lynch, UNISON Education Officer and Union Learning Reps Co-ordinator. The City Council's Libraries together with UNISON have been promoting the six book challenge, the aim to get more people to read for pleasure. For the participants, as well as the sheer enjoyment, there are lots of benefits, better mental health, more confidence, better skills, better able to read to and with the kids ( if you've got them ), and for the Council it helps to positively develop our workforce.

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Saving Lives

The highlight of this morning was going down to the University of Manchester campus to take part in an attempt to break the world CPR relay record. This involved being trained how to do CPR and then every participant doing sixty pumps in the relay itself with every change over having to be no more than five seconds. A bit of fun with very serious intent behind it and by the end of today I might even be a world record holder.

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I attended a citizenship ceremony for the first time this morning just to see what it was like. The ceremony took place in the Pankhurst Room in the City Council's Registry Office ( Emmeline Pankhurst was a Registrar apparently ) across the road from the Town Hall. The Council conducts around two ceremonies a week and applicants cannot become a British Citizen until they have been through one.

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Spaced Out

The Council's Executive met on Wednesday and indeed many of you might already have seen the webcast of the meeting. It wasn't a big agenda but there were some very interesting items. One concerned school places. Until around ten years ago, as the population of the city declined and grew older, all we ever did was to close schools. Now, not only is our population growing, but its also getting younger, and over the last few years we've barely been able to keep up with the demand for primary school places.

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Ordinary People

The Conservative Party conference has now rolled out of town, and at the risk of courting a little controversy, these are some reflections on it. I can't do so without giving at least some political perspective. I have described myself as a socialist for some forty five years now and if I have to put a qualifier in front of that it is libertarian. I have been an active member of the Labour Party for thirty five years and there are a whole range of policies of this and the previous coalition government I am totally opposed to. When the TUC marched through Manchester on Sunday my sympathies were 100% with them and their opposition to the government's austerity programme.

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Feet on the Ground

The only flying I've done this week is around Manchester on my bike trying to keep up with my diary although nowadays my progress is rather more stately than jet propelled. Scrutiny committees have all been meeting this week and there were reports on issues covered by my executive portfolio at both Economy and Finance Overview and Scrutiny Committees.

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Homelessness and Street Begging

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