Manchester City Council

Local Democracy

It's very rare to make changes to the Council's Executive Committee in between Council Annual General Meetings, but Jim Battle leaving the Council to take on the role of Deputy Police Commissioner and Afzal Khan standing down from the Executive to concentrate on Europe, has led to three changes this autumn: Bernard Priest moving to become Deputy Leader, Sheila Newman re-joining the Executive as Executive Member for Children's Services, and Kate Chappell coming in as Executive Member for the Environment.

We've also taken the opportunity to review all the portfolios, and the full list of changes will be reported to the next full meeting of Council next week. Three I will draw to your attention are these: as the current waste collection contract approaches its end, responsibility for it has been moved to the Neighbourhood Services brief (which Bernard has taken with him to the Deputy Leader's post) to join it up with street cleaning and other street scene management; Highways has moved the other way to Environment to be joined up with transport, mirroring the more integrated approach being taken at a Greater Manchester level; thirdly, the Inclusion brief has been widened to explicitly include family poverty. We have seen lots of recent headlines about the impact of the 'bedroom tax', the number of children still living in relative poverty and the number of people in rent or mortgage arrears. This third change is to try and ensure that the Council is as best organised as it can be to support thousands of Manchester families through very difficult times.

MPs seem to spend an enormous amount of time talking about what councils do - maybe it's easier than running the country. Recently they spent a big chunk of time talking about council parking charges, bus lane enforcement and those other things that get Mr White Van hot under the collar. Not so long ago one of Greater Manchester's MPs wanted a select committee enquiry into council Chief Executives' pay. The discussion on parking etc. seemed to take little account of where the money went (back into transport and highways), the improvements bus lanes make to public transport, and that parking fines or bus lane violation fines can be very easily avoided by not parking illegally or driving in bus lanes at the times they are in operation. There is a bigger point though, which is that apart from their rights as citizens, this is none of their business. Citizens elect local councillors to make these decisions and if they don't like them they can always elect different councillors - something that, in Manchester at least, they have rather more opportunity to do than to elect members of parliament. I, along with many others, often bemoan the poor turnout in local elections. Turnout would undoubtedly be higher if it was clear to the electorate that local councillors, and nobody else, were responsible for local decision making.

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

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