Christmas in Albert Square Towers
Still recovering from a very early start yesterday, the 6.02 a.m. train to London, first for a Centre for Cities Board meeting, where not surprisingly the main topic of discussion was the impact of the economic downturn on our cities and what the prospects there are for the short and long term future.
Then a cold walk to the other side of the Thames for a meeting with John Denham, Secretary of State for Industry, Universities and Skills, looking at the prospects for Greater Manchester having a London style Employment and Skills Board when the Learning and Skills Council is replaced by the Skills Funding Agency, probably in 2010. Suspect this is somewhat obscure for most people but is important, particularly in the current economic climate, to ensure that publicly funded work-related training matches the needs of the city-regions economy. A long day because in the evening it's our monthly Labour Group meeting, something I'll enlarge on in the future.
Today is Christmas Council preceded by an agenda setting meeting for the Executive Committee and the gloriously titled Constitutional and Nomination Committee, average meeting time around thirty seconds. Despite occasional rumours to the contrary all sides of the Council Chamber enjoy Christmas (hence the discrete market outside) and on the last Council meeting before Christmas we celebrate with a traditional Christmas lunch.
We will also be unveiling in the Council ante-chamber, inscribed on the wall dedicated to those honoured with the Freedom of the City, the name of the late Tony Wilson. We will have very real reminders today that for many people Christmas is not a joyous occasion. We will be missing one of our number, Liberal Democrat Councillor Neil Trafford, tragically killed last week at such a young age and his friends and family will be in all our thoughts. Christmas will go on as normal but with more than a tinge of sadness.