Manchester City Council

The Big Dig

The last Council meeting of this municipal year yesterday. Over the last couple of years we have established the practice of starting the meeting with presentations on some of the major issues the city is dealing with. Yesterday we had two such presentations.

Any recent visitor to the city centre will have noticed a lot of construction work taking place. The refurbishment of Central Library, the Town Hall Extension, and St.Peter's Square, Metrolinks second city crossing, Victoria Station refurbishment, lots of utilities work and a host of private sector projects. The first presentation was from the people who have the unenviable task of having to co-ordinate and manage all this activity, currently standing at some sixty projects and with this order of work for the next three years. This is all part of having a thriving city centre with a very healthy future but we have to ensure the city centre, our biggest job creator, continues to thrive through the inevitable disruption work on this scale can cause.

The second presentation was on what we are doing in Manchester to tackle youth unemployment. The answer is a lot though it's worth saying our NEET figure ( 16-18year olds not in employment, education or training ) has stayed low throughout the recession. Not so long term unemployment for 18-24 year olds which, although it has reduced by 40% over the last two years, is still far too high. This presentation showed the advantages we get from working together with the other nine Greater Manchester Councils through the Greater Manchester Combined Authority which gives us the scale to run programmes we would otherwise not have the capacity to do.

There were some other big issues on the Council agenda too. We debated the national living wage, culture, and fixed odds betting terminals, before concluding with a debate on asylum seekers fleeing anti-gay legalised violence. We are not yet completely immune in this city from hate crimes including homophobic abuse but we have come a long way in the last thirty years, we are far more tolerant, and people are far less likely to be judged or discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality. Regrettably that's not the case everywhere, and there are a number of countries where being gay can put your life at risk. Manchester has always welcomed people fleeing violence of this sort and I'm pleased that Council voted unanimously to say we should continue to do so.

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

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