Manchester City Council

There and Back Again

Back in time too, but only to yesterday, as very little of reportable interest happening today. Was on the 6.35am to London for a meeting of the LG Group Executive which is the governing body for the Local Government Association ( LGA ) and a number of other local government bodies that have been merged into it.

I suppose the LGA could be described as local government's version of the CBI or as local government's trade union as one of its primary functions is to represent its member Councils on the national stage. There are four political groups ( Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem and Independents ) on the body, none of which have an absolute majority of seats although the Tories as largest party hold the Chair, and historically it has worked by trying to build cross-party consensus. There are some big items on the agenda and at least two of them don't exactly lend themselves to consensus. Firstly Health " Reform ". What is clear is that whatever the merits of the changes to the legislation indicated earlier in the week, they are still a long way from meeting local government's requirements particularly on structure and funding of Public Health post 2013, on getting integration between health and social care, on the commissioning of the so-called " Cinderella " services ( things like community health and mental health ), and on the role of Health and Well-Being Boards and the role of Councils in the clinical commissioning process. I also raise the issue of what is happening now in the Health Service which on top of a whole load of other issues is now staggering under even more uncertainty.

The next potentially contentious issue is the governments local government finance revue and the proposal to relocalise business rates. There is general though not unanimous agreement that they should be re-localised, and an agreement on a set of principles that should underpin that relocalisation, but also a recognition that it is going to be extremely difficult to do this in a fair way. The last big item is a discussion on the Localism Bill, now going through the House of Lords, where the LGA are promoting a number of amendments including one to stop some cities, including Manchester, being forced to have shadow Mayors.

13.20 and I'm in my favourite bit of London, on a train heading North. The Health theme continues as in the early evening I go to a Smith Institute organised seminar in the Town Hall on the Health Reforms, with an interesting and challenging discussion led off by Shadow Health Secretary John Healey.

Yesterday was also the fifteenth anniversary of the IRA bomb, and I end the evening at a lovely social gathering with many of the people who were involved in the re-building process. One of the hallmarks of our response to the bomb was the speed with which we acted, and how quickly we not only re-planned but also re-built, so it might surprise many people to know that there are still two major projects from the city centre master plan yet to be completed, although I hope to have that down to one by the end of this year.

Looking forward to the weekend and particularly Sunday afternoon when I will be joining tens of thousands of others in the city centre for what promises to be a spectacular second Manchester Day Parade.

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

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