Manchester City Council

Black or White

A very busy week so far and not had a lot of time so, probably upsetting further bcprs who already thinks this is becoming a bit cryptic, I'm going to do yesterday's entry today and today's entry tomorrow.

When I first started doing this blog our Head of Press made me stick to strict rules about use of tenses, how numbers were presented etc,etc but she's now gone to Stockport so stylistically I can now do what I like including if I feel so moved using past tenses. Lunchtime yesterday I had a very important meeting about the colour of the litter bins in Market Street which were to have been black, are now going to be silver, to match the proposed city centre recycling bins we should be starting to install next year, as long as we can ensure that they can be kept clean on the outside ( At least four different tenses in one sentence ).

Fascinating though it was, not the most important or most interesting meeting of the day. That prize goes to the Manchester Partnership Board which had it's quarterly meeting 8 - 10am yesterday. Earlier in the year when discussing the State of the City report we had observed that the performance indicator for the extent to which our citizens felt that they could influence decisions affecting their local neighbourhood had gone down and we asked for more work to be done to understand this. A report on that came back yesterday with some surprising conclusions. Apparently performance on this indicator had gone down across the country, but even so Manchester outperforms the rest of Greater Manchester and all the other Core Cities, indeed every Metropolitan Council. Good news? Not necessarily. The full report is available to anybody who is interested but just one little sample. The further research showed that unemployed people and people who didn't own their own home felt far more able to influence decisions, and conversely people in employment and owner occupiers were the least interested in influencing decisions. Conclusion, the best way to improve performance on this indicator is to make the city poorer? Not exactly a route we want to go down. The conclusions we did come to were that we wanted to do was build stronger feelings of belonging to a neighbourhood community through greater cohesion,engagement and communication.

There are 9 responses to “ Black or White ”

  1. Billistic Says:

    Hmm, holding decision influencing meetings/events at times when working home owners, or even working tenants can attend/participate may help.

    The current trend for everything to revolve around the traditional 9-5 working hours of local authority, or other statutory (full, semi or quasi) officers limits the attendance/participation to the unemployed, or at least excludes those that work during the day.

    Less use of closed questions and limiting the ability to respond to what has already been decided is another option.

    Consultation is supposed to be a two way thing, the trend is to label information giving as a consultation, changing that may alter the perception.

    Being involved in the decision making is very different from being involved in influencing the implementation of the decision.

    Are there still two related indicators, one around ability to get involved, which used to be higher that the other, ability to influence?

  2. bicolouredpythonrocksnake Says:

    Glad to hear about your liberation from the petty tyranny of your corporate style guide - fight the power! Incidentally, council press releases are rarely models of good practice in this regard - a recent one about a French food market wished us 'bon apetite', thus managing to be wrong in two languages. And the headline 'All aboard the benefits bus' unintentionally summed up much of what is wrong with Manchester.

    Billistic is right about services effectively being accessible only to the unemployed or the elderly. Even arts events such as readings at the Central Library and talks at Manchester Art Gallery are held during the day. He is also right about the way consultations frequently attempt to sway the outcome - a recent case in point being the consultation about council leadership arrangements. Worse, entire areas of public policy appear to have declared war on the middle class. Moving home to be near a good school is simply good parenting; the real scandal is that there are so many poor schools that people feel the need to do this. Characterising the middle class as 'pushy parents' when in fact they tend to embody the very values politicians try to encourage in others is not the way to build community cohesion.

  3. CorporateResearch Says:

    A quick point of accuracy from Corporate Research. Owner occupiers and employed people feel they are less able to influence decisions although some of them say they would like to participate more. Those who don’t, say they are too busy or that they don’t really want to influence decisions.

    We are working on a new Engagement strategy which should increase opportunities to participate in the decision-making process and are in the process of commissioning a new, on-going, telephone survey to replace the city-wide annual postal survey. The intention is to make it easier for people to have their say and for results to be presented to councillors much faster.

  4. Billistic Says:

    I have some questions re: telephone surveys.

    Are you going to include mobiles? there is an increasing number of people that no longer see the need to have a mobile and a land line.

    When will the calls take place?

    Will you give advance notice that a call will be made? the level of anger at corporate cold calling, especially in the evening is rising, this could be counter productive.

    Are you going to record (as in audio recording, not ticks on a sheet) the calls and keep them available for scrutiny? at least the paper surveys provide hard evidence.

    And a point (or two) in general.

    As a citizen in full time employment I serioulsy want to be able to influence decisions. I find that the corporate nature of MCC is at odds with what I beleive it to be. That is (fundementally) a body established to ensure that public services are provided and delivered according to need, utilising a represntative democratic process.

    The fact that you want to be able to present the results of the survey to the cllrs (council) faster is indicative of how wrong the system is. The cllrs, as 'representatives' should be aware of what their constituents concerns etc. and instructing you (public servants) accordingly. Any true representative would not need a corporate body to keep them upto date.

    I think you will find this is the reason why so many 'do not want' to be involved. They are painfully aware of how pointless it is to get involved due to the corporate, rather than democratic nature of how our city is run.

    This process of commenting on the leader of one political parties blog highlights how much you want to hear from the electorate. The space allocated for comments is so small it is screaming 'we dont really want to hear from you'.

  5. Vicky Rosin - Director, Neighbourhood Services Says:

    Re: the comment regarding the timing of events at Central Library. We try to programme events at different times during the day to ensure that different audiences can come to a range of events. Sometimes we hold events at lunchtime - these are popular with students and people who work in the city centre - they are often seen eating their lunch inside one of the rooms in the library whilst listening to a talk or a poetry reading. In fact, customers tell us they prefer to have poetry readings at lunchtime - a recent comment received was, 'an oasis of peace & sanity in a otherwise mad day....what would we do without this?' We also hold reading events after 5pm and also on a Saturday to ensure that people who are working during the week can also enjoy events.

  6. bicolouredpythonrocksnake Says:

    Thank you, Vicky. I don't disagree with that feedback - I've attended readings myself that have made a very welcome break and afforded remarkable opportunities to meet people like the Australian poet Les Murray. I very much hope that the Library continues its partnership with Carcanet. It just feels a bit strange turning up to arts events in a tie!

  7. Corpoate Research Says:

    The telephone survey will be carried out at times that are convenient for respondents. The sampling will be done over many periods of the day and people will have an opportunity to ask the interviewer to call back at another time. We will also be asking the company we appoint to maintain a database of mobile numbers. However, mobile owners who don’t have access to a landline will have to register their number if they want to be involved because there is no source of mobile numbers we can buy. We will let residents know how to register once we have more details.

    We know cold calling is problematic at times but our experience tells us that in most cases people are quite happy to respond to a genuine survey and that they do distinguish these from sales calls. Paper surveys are confused with junk mail in a similar way but we know we get better response rates over the phone. We are not planning to give advance notice of calls because this will almost double the cost of the survey but as mentioned above, there will be an opportunity to rearrange an interview.

    And finally, in relation to the general point above, surveys are part of the intelligence that Councillors use. Of course they represent their area and know it best but we have to use a variety of tools to help them know what many people think. Many of those people find surveys the easiest way to have their say. Others prefer to come to meeting or speak to the representative directly. The council, as part of its democratic role and in order to be accountable, listens to as many people as possible using different methods.

  8. Janine Says:

    Hey richard,

    I might work in Stockport now but I still live in Didsbury so I do like to keep an eye on you! Your sentences are getting a bit long, you shouldn't use "etc etc" and acronyms are definitely a no-no (after 25 years covering local governemnt I still don't know what's a bcpr?)But your content and passion is good and that's why your readers will keep coming back. So do please carry on blogging. (A bit more about us residents down South would be nice too)

  9. Richard Leese Says:

    Thanks Janine. Will work on sentence length etc,etc but bcpr is not an acronym.Look at comment number 2



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

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