Concerned but not convinced: Manchester Council and the lack of public consultation

Today, MCFly went along to the latest council meeting dealing with the recent Call to Action to highlight problems with the report and its catalytic actions. We wanted to ask the Overview and Scrutiny Committee why the six-months public consultation promised in February 2008 had been replaced by the rather vague “Proud Of”campaign and Robbie Gillett from Manchester University Student Union was also at the meeting to ask about the council’s ‘Green Airport’.

Public consultation
MCFly directly asked about public consultation and told the committee that we didn’t feel that the ‘Proud Of’ Campaign was good enough. Beverley Taylor, head of Environmental Campaigns, replied:
“It’s not an action plan at the moment, it’s a call to action and hopefully by the end of the year we’ll have an action plan that has a lot of information but also has the response from all the different sectors.
“There is still quite a high number of people who don’t understand what climate change is about or are mixed up about what its about. If I can quote the national MORI poll, I think the quote was ‘concerned but not convinced’. It about targeting those people in a positive way.”

In contrast Vicky Rosin, the Assistant Chief Executive was very clear about the limits of public consultation with the council.
“What we decided is to bring forward a number of actions and show real leadership from the council. Consulting on the actions we intend to take forward is not something that’s part of our exercise as consultation means we are prepared to change it and we intent absolutely on taking this action forward.”

Richard Cowell, the Executive member for the Environment also added that: “Yes, we’ve set a firm direction of where we want to go, we’re not going to carry on consulting getting nowhere.”

It seems, that now that the catalytic actions have been decided the Council is absolutely unwilling to take on board any genuine public input which questions them (including the controversial Green Airport). The ‘Proud Of’ Campaign which seeks to engage more people in climate change is great but it is NOT six-months public consultation and is it NOT geared directly towards the report with a real ability to change it significantly. There has clearly been some slippage in the council’s initial promise of real public input which remains unaccounted for.

Green Airport
Cllr Norman Lewis brought up the issue of ‘Green Airport’ stating that:
“If the proposed expansion of the airport happens as driver of economic growth, it wipes out all the hard work that might be out in by business to reduce CO2 emissions.”

Gillett also pointed out that “We are the generation that is going to be most affected by climate change and we want to act on it and work with the council, but if the council is going to pass the buck onto a national level then that will jeopardize the sincerity of how it is perceived amongst students.”

Cowell answered: “We will seek to look at aviation in terms of international perspective, not as a unilateral act.
“Concrete actions will be flowing from this [Call to Action], at the Executive meeting the Liberal Democrat Leader [Cllr Ashley] was calling for just purely symbolic, unilateral actions around the airport. I’ve used the word symbolic- that’s not what were about. This report is based on our community strategy and on concrete catalytic actions we can take to deal with problem of CO2 emissions.”

One of the major issues MCFly had with the Call to Action report was the lack of concrete targets or outcomes from the catalytic actions. With regards to the airport, the report itself acknowledged that any direct impact on CO2 emissions was “subject to airport decisions and other factors.” Furthermore only 4 out of the 9 catalytic actions had any significant impact on CO2 emission. In fact, the Manchester Prize which was action number 7 had no direct impact was considered simply ‘totemic’.

Action Now!?
Cowell reiterated the need for immediate action stating that climate change is a “problem we need to start addressing now.
“If you’re suggesting that we hold off, hold off, hold off and hold off until there is international agreement on aviation, I don’t think that’s the right approach to take. We have had 17 principles brought in last year, we’ve has a great deal of work put into this document and we’re ready now to get on with actioning now, to start making a difference now. I’m not prepared to hold off and hold off.”

However, as reported by MCFly on a number of occasions, the council announced the 17 climate principles back in February 2008 and promised a Climate Strategy in the same year with six-months public consultation. This didn’t happen and almost a year later the ‘Call to Action’ has been released with the final detailed action report now expected December 2009. Planned to coincide with the international summit at Copenhagen, we might add..

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About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
This entry was posted in Call to Action, consultation, copenhagen, green airport. Bookmark the permalink.

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