Still Catching Up
Highlight of Monday was a visit (in my role as the City Council's design champion) to two of our increasingly numerous new schools. The first, Irk Valley Primary, is in my own ward of Crumpsall, although it serves a much wider catchment area, sitting as it does on the Crumpsall, Harpurhey, Cheetham boundary.
The school has only been open since half term but early signs are that not only does it look good but it also, notwithstanding some early traffic management issues, works well. A good educational environment can't guarantee a good school but it can't half help, and the pupils clearly loved their new educational environment. Then it was on to the East Manchester Academy, still a building site, due to open in September, and already oversubscribed. A new school was planned for this site over forty years ago but never happened (must make it quite clear this was before my time). The new school will also incorporate a new public library and as well as being a welcome addition to the East Manchester landscape is a key part of the regeneration of the area.
Staying with the design theme, on Tuesday met the architects responsible for the new Council Housing, the first for two decades, soon to be under construction at various sites in Charlestown and Blackley, and also designing another chunk of new Council Housing for West Gorton. I think most volume house-builders have let us down, not just in Manchester, with poor quality layouts, external design, space standards, sustainability, and post-sale management, and I want the new Council Housing to show just what can be done, even with a tight budget.
Later on I give a welcome to Soccer-Ex delegates attending an England World Cup Bid Reception in the Town Hall. Soccer-Ex brought over a thousand delegates to the city Tuesday and Wednesday for a major football business to business conference and exhibition. They're coming back for the next three years and will be very welcome.
Yesterday was budget day. The headlines have already been widely reported, the one most people are interested in being that the City Council's own share of our citizens Council Tax bill will be frozen for next year (there will be a small increase for Police and Fire). There are no cuts in services and no compulsory redundancies, but there is a recognition that money is going to be even tighter over the next few years and there is a real challenge for us in how we manage that. The important thing is to make sure we start from the things that our residents tell us are the priorities for them.