Council leader Bev Craig reflects on her first year at the helm

Today (Thursday 1 December 2022) marks a year to the day since Cllr Bev Craig became leader of Manchester City Council.

It has been a tumultuous year nationally and internationally which has seen three Prime Ministers, four Chancellors of the Exchequer and countless ministers, the outbreak of war in Ukraine and the emergence of a cost of living crisis set against a volatile economic backdrop. 

By contrast, Manchester has seen a smooth transition of leadership and a determined focus on delivering the city’s priorities. 

These have included: 

A strengthened emphasis on affordable homes

Adopting a new Housing Strategy which will deliver 36,000 new homes that the city needs over the next decade, 10,000 of these genuinely affordable homes. By the end of March next year, the city will have seen 534 affordable homes completed with a further 1285 underway, 1100 more with planning permission and a further 2300 going through the planning process.  

The Council also established This City, a new wholly council-owned development company using council land to accelerate the building of high quality low carbon homes – at least 20% of them affordable. 

The launch of the Manchester Living Rent – the idea that you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of your income on housing, so is set at or below housing benefit levels to ensure homes are genuinely affordable – will encourage more housing providers and developers to commit to affordable rents.  

 

Continuing action on climate change

The Council remains on course to halve its direct organisational carbon emissions by 2025 – having cut them by 30% since 2020. This year its Climate Change Action Plan was refreshed to maintain momentum.  

The citywide climate change framework was also updated, recognising that the city is not currently on track and needs to do more collectively to pick up the pace. 

Work has continued to retrofit more council buildings to make them energy efficient, to increase the number of electric vehicles in the council’s fleet and to increase use of renewable energy.  

More than 2,000 trees have been planted and Mayfield Park – the first new city centre park for more than 100 years – opened in September this year.  

The new Housing Strategy sets a target that 50% of homes built in the city up to 2025 will be low or zero carbon.  

 

Tackling inequalities and supporting Manchester people through tough times

The Council announced an £8m package of support to help people struggling with the cost of living which included expanding free school meals and launching a helpline for people needing advice and support. This is in addition to the £34m allocated in its budget to fund community groups and support.  

Work is underway on an updated Anti-Poverty Strategy designed to help prevent poverty but also to lift people out of it through support to work and access to fairly paid job opportunities.  

Manchester also became a Real Living Wage City, with the council leading a city wide partnership of businesses and organisations leading the work to double the number of companies paying the Real Living Wage or above. Over 200 organisations in the city have already become accredited, covering 65,000 employees. 

Tackling inequalities has been placed at the heart of the Council’s work with the launch of the Making Manchester Fairer strategy and action plan, an ambitious five-year plan to address the social issues underlying health inequalities. 

The Council also launched the Women’s Night Time Safety Charter- a pledge for all in the city to take action, and more than 123 organisation have already signed up. 

 

Regeneration and community investment 

There were milestone moments for major schemes such as the approval of a planning application in July for the infrastructure which will pave the way for 5,500 new homes and a new City River Park as part of the Victoria North development.

Construction also began on 274 low carbon homes (130 for social rent) in Collyhurst. Victoria North will see 15,000 new homes – at least 20% of them affordable – created on brownfield sites over the next 15-20 years.  

Planning permission was also granted for the first This City scheme, which will see 128 new homes (30% at Manchester Living Rent) created in Ancoats.  

Investing outside of the city centre was also a priority with ambitious plans for Wythenshawe. The Council acquired Wythenshawe shopping centre and put in a £20m Levelling Up Fund for plans to transform the town centre. Plans are being worked up for Moston, Withington, Gorton and Cheetham.  Gorton Hub – a community, health and learning centre including a new library – opened last month. A new children’s library was also opened in Hulme in October in partnership with Z-Arts.  

 

Giving our young people the best start in life 

The Our Year campaign, which has run throughout 2022, has aimed to create increased activities and opportunities for young people and put them at the heart of the city. Its goal is to create a lasting legacy.  

Ofsted rating Manchester’s children’s services as Good ranked them among the best in the North West and recognised a remarkable improvement since they were rated as ‘inadequate’ in 2014 and as requiring improvement in 2017.  

 

Council of the Year 

It was this focus on working with, and for, Manchester people which saw Manchester City Council recognised as 2022’s Council of the Year in the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) Awards.  

 

Council Leader Cllr Bev Craig said:

“It’s been a chaotic year in national government set against a turbulent backdrop, but here in Manchester we’ve been getting on calmly with delivering on residents’ priorities and building an even better city. 

“It was the privilege of my life to become leader of this great city a year ago and I am proud of what we have achieved together so far. 

“We’ve ramped up the number of affordable homes being built, refreshed our climate change plans, provided vital support for people struggling the most with the cost of living crisis, made progress on growing an inclusive economy which Manchester people can share in, and invested in jobs, opportunities and facilities across the city.

"We’ve also put young people at the heart of what we’re doing through the Our Year campaign, investing in youth services and Ofsted’s verdict that our children’s services were ‘Good’ confirmed that they have been successfully transformed. 

“It’s been a busy and eventful 12 months, and we’ve achieved a lot. While it’s good to pause and reflect on what has been accomplished, there’s so much more to do in the year ahead and I’m excited to get on with it and show what 2023 has in store for Manchester.”  

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