There is a pretty ropey seven minute youtube ‘lecture’ about the sexy subject of who is in charge of governance around the Climate Change Action Plan. It occurs to me now that I have made the damn thing that I have completely ignored the central role of the Green City Team. I suspect that they will be HAPPY about this.
Anyhow, here, as promised, is the script. Home made diagrams to follow…
This short video will tell you just enough about climate governance in Manchester to make you dangerous (and who knows, maybe useful).
If you go to the Manchester Climate Fortnightly website, the script I’m about to narrate is available, and a few home made diagrams. Oh, the wonders of the tinterwebs
Political power – and this matters, amid all the guff about governance and partnership – ultimately rests with the Executive of Manchester City Council. Of which more in about thirty seconds
Around the Executive sits various other bodies, that come and go and rise and fall. On climate change, right now, at the City Council level, there are three that are particularly worth noticing (that’ll change). These are the the Environmental Strategy Programme Board, the Environmental Advisory Panel and the “Steering Group”.
Now, about that Executive. Who are these guys? Glad you asked. They’re the 10 Manchester City Councillors who meet every couple of months, and whose word is final.
Background – Manchester City Council has 96 councillors, 3 for each of 32 wards. Each councillor is elected for four years. Labour dominates, with 63 [Actually, it is 62] of those 96 seats. And the smart money says there’ll be a Liberal Democrat bloodbath in May 2011, leaving Manchester as even MORE of a one party state.
So the Executive is drawn from those 63  Labour councillors.
Leader since 1996 is Sir Richard Leese, recently interviewed by MCFly.
There’s two deputies, the money man, and Execs in charge of Adult Services, Children’s Services, Neighbourhood Services, Employment and Skills, Culture and Leisure,… and the Environment.
On the morning of Wednesday 15th September they sign off on – or signed off on, depending when you are watching this video – the City Council’s delivery plan for its responsibilities on “Manchester A Certain Future”. That’s a meeting in the Town Hall, to which the public are if not welcome, then tolerated. Don’t forget to tug yer forelock.
The Environmental Strategy Programme Board is mostly the bureaucrats and senior management types whose job it is to turn the fine words into reality. It has met with regularity since late 2008. Initially Sir Howard Bernstein was listed as chair, but to MCFly’s knowledge he was never there in person (Howard, like God, is everywhere in spirit). The public – and even otherwise trusted outsiders – are NOT welcome, and its minutes are opaque and hard to get hold of. There is a traffic light system on the “progress reports” that, if implemented in real life, would the mother of all traffic accidents.
The Environmental Advisory Panel was a 2009 innovation, of uncertain provenance. It is made up of councillors (Council Leader Richard Leese and Deputy Leader Jim Battle are regular attendees, with the Exec Member for the Environment – Nigel Murphy, chairing), and council officers from the “green city team”. But the larger part of the membership is made up of volunteers from campaigning groups, academia, the business sector and so on. It meets every 6 or 8 weeks. It is supposed to be a “critical friend” of the council, bringing in new ideas. It is supposed to scrutinise the aforementioned Environmental Strategy Programme Board, but since it doesn’t have either ESP or the ESPB minutes, it never really does that job. Last year it helped make the “Manchester A Certain Future” document get written on time. But that was then, and this is now, and its role is going to have to shift, (and intelligent things have been said about that) because of the creation of …
the Steering Group. This is a classic arms length strategy – where the Council knows that it needs both the appearance and the reality of outside thinking at work. The Steering Group is essentially there to, well, steer – It’s there to get more “buy in” for the Action Plan, currently endorsed by a pitifully small number of organisations, and to make the Stakeholder Conference on Tuesday November 30th happen. And the following
The Steering Group, which has met twice so far, is chaired by Steve Connor of Creative Concern. It has 3 members from the “Manchester Partnership”, 3 from the Council, 3 from that Environmental Advisory Panel and other seconded folks, including Jackie Potter of Corridor Manchester, Jackie Potter, chief exec of “Corridor”, Helen Bidwell, Director and Head of Research and Consultation at Vision TwentyOne, a “Stakeholder Analysis and Communications” company, Gaby Porter of Action for Sustainable Living and Laura Wolfe, of the marketing company Journey 9 “marketing for innovation and growth.”
A businessperson and an academic have also been invited.
Its meetings are not (currently) open to the public, which is mildly ironic for a body that is about buy-in and transparency.
(it would be crude, rude and politically ill-advised to point out that a steer is just the same old bull without the standard amount of bollocks)
So, the Environmental Advisory Panel shouts or mumbles advisories from the sidelines. The ESPB is tasked with making things happen within the Council, or appear to happen. The Exec is where the buck stops and the Steering Group schmoozes everyone else onto the same page.
When all is said and done, a lot more will be said…. and done? Not so much.
So, throughout this video we’ve been talking about a silence. Can you tell what it is yet? It’s an essential democratic deficit, that Mancunians are going to have to name and shame into oblivion. Where and how – outside of annual council elections, and an annual stakeholder conference – does scrutiny of progress, stasis or regress take place?
That can change. You can help change it. Come to the “Manchester: what’s our future” launch on Thursday 23rd September. It’s a good preparation for the official “Stakeholder Conference on Tuesday 30th November.
This video has- by necessity, ignored the crucial city region level. There’s a Greater Manchester Strategy (July 2009). There’s the AGMA, and its monthly executive meetings. There’s the Environment Commission. There’s the prospect of some LEPers, now that the NWDA has dropped off. Maybe if someone starts paying me to do what the academics of Manchester University ought to be doing – explaining to the wider world what is going on – then I can crack on with that. Just a thought.