Manchester’s Housing Crisis




The proposed new development at Pomona


Most people know that the UK is in the midst of what has been dubbed the ‘housing crisis’. Indeed it is now part of mainstream political thinking that more house building is urgently required. Greater Manchester is no different from many other parts of the UK. The Department of Communities and Local Government has predicted that there could potentially be 1,500 more families in Greater Manchester than homes by 2026 if current trends continue.  Added to this, average rental prices have increased by more than 20% in Manchester over the past 12 months. These statistics will surprise few but it would be misleading to assume that simply building more homes is a magic bullet.

Firstly it is worth reflecting that certain areas in Greater Manchester have many empty homes. Indeed there are currently around 34,724 empty homes in Greater Manchester with places like Rochdale finding itself under the least pressure from a housing perspective. The problem then is not just scarcity of resource but also distribution with certain areas suffering from low demand. There are many long term reasons for this but it has likely been exacerbated by the bedroom tax and will potentially get much worse with onset of city regionalism with its emphasis on centralised assets and facilities.  As we have argued elsewhere a holistic approach is essential when seeking to address any social issue in Greater Manchester and the revival of and investment in all of our communities is needed if the housing pressure on the Greater Manchester region as a whole is to be eased.

Secondly house building on its own will not solve the issue of soaring rental prices, and people having to face the uncertainty of renting from a private landlord, if more social housing is not included in residential developments. Housing associations have recently been  dealt the double blow of having their rents reduced at a rate of 1 % per year until 2019 and effectively having had to opt into the extended right to buy scheme. Whilst the long term effect and practical reality of an extended right to buy scheme may not yet be clear, the 1% reduction certainly means that housing associations will have to downscale the scope of their ‘offer’ to tenants, reduce the scale of house building and retrofit programs that were in place and make large scale redundancies. All of which means that their ability to ‘place shape’ local communities in places like Rochdale is severely diminished.

With housing associations then seemingly not being in a position to act as a catalyst for a revolution in building social housing, and nothing meaningful having been done to address the steep decline in local authority building, the government’s solution seems to have been to leave it to housing developers. Yet the three largest post Devo Manc housing development plans in Greater Manchester will have no social housing included whatsoever.

At the Trinity Way, Middlewood Locks and Pomona developments an obligation to build social housing has been side stepped after successful use of the financial viability assessment. The incentivising of developers in this way clearly diminishes any positive social and economic impact on the local community and will mean heathier dividends for the shareholders of the speculators. These developments also exemplify the fact that for most developers having a large social housing element in the scheme significantly diminishes the profitability of a project and is therefore avoided where possible. Whilst private developments are undoubtedly needed to increase supply, historic trends show that UK developers tend to be cautious about over extending themselves and cannot and will not solve the housing crisis left to their own devices.

Yet there is a very real possibility that developments such as Trinity Way, Middlewood Locks and Pomona will continue to be the norm. Development such as these are seen as potentially lucrative investment opportunities, as an alternative to the London market, for foreign funds and fit in with the government’s northern powerhouse agenda. Further the government’s proposals to replace an obligation to build social housing with an obligation to build affordable housing will further lock out the majority of people from accessing a decent affordable home, whether for rent or to buy. The government’s claim that a house for sale at £250,000 is affordable is bizarre and obviously out of reach for most people.   The outcome of this will be higher earners will have an abundance of choice and the rest will have diminishing options if any at all.

The only way to address the housing crisis is to implement a viable housing building strategy which recognises the need for more social housing and at the same time aims to rejuvenate those areas with low housing demand so that housing is distributed fairly for everyone. Greater Manchester Councils need to be more robust in insisting on social housing being included in private developments and at the same time ensure that the houses that are built are as energy efficient as possible. They also should be empowered to build more houses themselves using the devolved housing fund. It is only by implementing a radical alternative that we will start to reverse the long term effects of a flawed housing strategy to date.

Robert Brown

(please note the views expressed here are my own and not necessarily the views of any organisation I work with or for)

‘How can education help to shape a Steady State culture? A Discussion Paper’

We are delighted that SSM has inspired Susan Brown to write: ‘How can education help to shape a Steady State culture? A Discussion Paper’. We highly recommend that supporters read it. Below, and in more detail in the summary at the beginning of the paper, we draw your attention to its richness and contribute to the discussion that she advocates.

Briefly Susan’s paper

  • Argues that a learning renaissance is required to achieve a Steady State culture. A transition from the current role of education ‘to ensure a workforce able to compete in a global market’ to one where people ‘ play full roles in developing sustainable local economies
  • Includes an accessible, broad, diverse, inclusive vision of a Steady State education culture which responds to the initiatives and issues of local communities. It is brought to life by descriptions of existing educational initiatives from near and far which are ‘which are changing the learning landscape in ways that can shape a Steady State Culture.’
  • Moves from a very individualistic, competitive form of current education to a collective endeavourThe paper has both developed our understanding and raised questions we want to explore further including:Is education ‘any communications and/or activity intended to have a formative effect on the way we think, feel and act.’? Would examining other areas that have demanded massive cultural change this understanding? For example, the abolition of slavery, the peace agreement in Northern Ireland, ending apartheid in S. Africa and/or reducing prevalence of smoking or encouraging wearing of seat belts?

    Public health has been wrestling with the issue of cultural change for decades. Hard, costly, time consuming lessons have been learned. Can we learn from them too? One of these is we need to start from people’s lives, not the issue.

    Does a Freirean approach have a part to play?

    Read a more detailed summary of this blog and the paper ‘How can education help to shape a Steady State culture? A Discussion Paper’.

    We welcome your contributions to the discussion. We are planning community conversations about viable economy issues in 2016. Have you a suggestion for an issue to discuss stimulated by Susan’s paper and/or this blog?

Briefing note on GMCA Climate Change Strategy Consultation

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (the nearest thing we have to a regional government) is consulting on its Climate Change Strategy for the period until 2020.

We have prepared a briefing note that can be download by clicking THIS LINK.

The Strategy sets an ambitious target of 48% reduction of carbon dioxide equivalent ( CO2e) emissions reduction by 2020, using 1990 as a baseline. By 2013 (the last year for which figures are available) the fall since 1990 had been 23%. That leaves 25% to go in 7 years, 2 of which have already passed (with unknown results). Put another way, emissions need to fall by an unprecedented 32% from the 2013 figure (i.e. by 5.15Mt CO2e, from 16.15mt to 11mt).

Our briefing sets out the main points of the Strategy and contextualises them. It then looks at the proposed actions ,commenting on their adequacy or inadequacy. To give the game away, we are underwhelmed by the Strategy which despite its ambitious headline target uses a lot of print to celebrate the minimal action to date, is very short on the kind of detail we might expect from a Strategy worthy of the name and makes some rather optimistic assumptions about some of its proposed interventions.

We also take you through the short consultation questionnaire with our commentary.

Please do contribute to the consultation, both with the online questionnaire but also by raising the issues with your elected representatives and in any other place where you have a voice.

CLICK HERE for our briefing (pdf file).

The consultation link (both download of the Strategy and the consultation survey link) is at: and will be there until 11 December, 2015.

Updated with minor correction 11/11/15

GMPF and fossil fuel divestment – update

First the good news: we understand that Greater Manchester Pension Fund has agreed to update its “responsible investment policy” in line with current thinking on Trustees duties.  That is to say, it will now consider social and ethical considerations to “actively divest” so long as these do not harm the fund and its members financially (something they have already done with tobacco).  This is a good start, and one that follows campaigning by The Campaign Against the Arms Trade, ourselves Steady State Manchester, Friends of the Earth and Fossil Free Greater Manchester.

But in their response to Fossil Free Greater Manchester on divestment, the Fund is still saying that they have no plans to divest from fossil fuels in the medium term.  They quote approvingly a statement from the union Unison:

• “The first duty of the LGPS is to pay the staff their pension benefits when they retire”;
• “Divesting of carbon assets without having found adequate renewable investment returns would create huge economic uncertainty”; and
• “It would be irresponsible to begin any programme of disinvestment in fossil fuels that threatened in any way the ability of the funds to pay people’s pensions.”

Unison seem unaware of the actual demands from the divestment movement which are to,

  1. Make an immediate statement of principle adopting the principle of divesting from fossil fuels,
  2. Immediately stop new investments in the industry,
  3. Instruct its investment managers to wind down the  existing holdings in the fossil fuel industry over the next five years.

We are fully aware that switching some 10% of investments cannot be done overnight.  As we’ve already shown (in keeping with most analysts, including Mark Carney, the Bank of England governor), these investments are increasingly a white elephant, losing value all the time as the world wakes up to the unburnable carbon problem and as volatility increases as conventional fossil fuels become more difficult to extract (hence the heavy investment in unconventional sources such as fracked shale gas).  A managed programme of divestment/re-investment is not just sound environmental policy but it also makes good financial sense.

Meanwhile, GMPF has released an updated list of its top 20 holdings (a list that is already seven months out of date). There are some changes, with two mining companies dropping out, and the value of fossil fuel stocks lower than it was 12 months previously.  However these changes are probably less the result of divestment than of the falling quoted values of these stocks (although who knows, maybe fund managers are also waking up and switching stocks).  Likewise the amounts invested in BP and Shell are now lower, but they are still the top 2 (albeit with changed places).
UK Banks take places 3, 4, and 6 (the latter being Barclays). Al these banks have big commitment to fossil fuels (see and in Barclays case in fracking see See our annotated listing of the 2015 top 20 GMPF investments, with comparisons to last year’s data .

On a somewhat brighter note, GMPF have announced a joint programme of investment in “renewable energy”.  The first of these is a £9M investment in a plant making biogas from food industry waste. This is broadly positive: some biogas capacity will be important for rapid response electricity generation in a renewable energy future.  But other investments to come may be more problematic, since not all biomass projects are carbon neutral: it depends on the specifics.  Indeed wood burning from old growth forest makes a large contribution to European greenhouse gas emissions.


The decoupling debate, one year on: the global picture, and Manchester.

update:  an updated and longer version of this piece now appears at
and was also syndicated by and This Changes Everything

A year ago, in one of our most popular web articles, we took issue with claims from New Climate Economy (NCE) that there was no conflict between climate change mitigation and continued economic growth. NCE argued that by taking action on climate change economic growth could be boosted. While NCE have marshalled a lot of relevant information on the how of emissions reduction, emphasising the role of cities, investment in clean energy, and adopting more efficient technologies in aviation and shipping, their argument relies on the idea that economic (i.e. GDP) growth can be decoupled from the growth in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

There are two kinds of decoupling. Relative decoupling means that the rate at which emissions increase is lower than the rate at which GDP decreases. That is not a lot of help in the climate crisis, since under relative decoupling, if there is economic growth, then GHGs continue to accumulate in the atmosphere, contributing to the already high risk of runaway global warming. Absolute decoupling on the other hand would mean that as the economy grew, emissions don’t. If it could be demonstrated, then we might want to rethink our critique of endless economic growth.

Last year, NCE made the claim that there was evidence for decoupling.

The decoupling of growth from carbon emissions in some of the best-performing economies, both in Northern Europe and in North America, demonstrates the gains that can be made in incomes, jobs, rates of innovation and profits from a low-carbon, resource-efficient model of growth.(34). (p. 18)

As we showed, there wasn’t such evidence. The only evidence was for relative decoupling, and decoupling within a territory, whereas for post-industrial Western economies a large proportion of emissions (estimates range from 34% to 50% for the UK) have been outsourced to extraction, manufacturing and distribution outside the territory.

In their most recent report, they again make the claim that,

The reduction in the CO intensity of global GDP adds to the growing body of evidence that countries can reduce GHG emissions while sustaining economic growth.” p.22

Yet two pages on they state what is actually the situation:

But the challenge is clear. Although GHG emissions are gradually being decoupled from growth rates, they are not doing so at anything like the rate required to put the world on a 2°C path.” p.24

This is all but saying that absolute decoupling is not happening.

However, a report “Turning point: Decoupling Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Economic Growth” has just been published by the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s North America office. This appears to provide evidence that absolute decoupling is occurring in some economies. Let’s look at this.

They substitute the terms “strong” and “weak” decoupling for the more usual “absolute” and “relative”. They actually compare four economies, Germany, USA, China and India as well as reviewing global figures. They claim that Germany alone shows strong (absolute) decoupling. The US and China demonstrate week (relative) decoupling, while India does not demonstrate any decoupling. Yet, having checked the primary source (BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2015), the claim for Germany’s strong decoupling is based on the net territorial emissions and territorial energy use and not on the country’s consumption emissions (and energy use), which will include, for example, consumer goods and components made in China and products such as steel from India. This is the same problem that we drew attention to last year, an unwarranted optimism based on looking at only part of the picture. It is like trying to assess someone’s attempts at weight loss based on the food prepared at home, mostly salads, when nearly half their diet is take-away fast food and confectionery!

Not surprisingly, then, when the Böll report looks at the global situation, it concludes that

Between 2004 and 2014, global GDP has grown by 44%, while the consumption of conventional fuels has increased by 19%, resulting in a 22% increase of worldwide emissions. (p. 10)  and
There is little evidence for a changing relation between fossil energy consumption and growth.  (p.11)

To illustrate the problem, here is a graph from a 2012 report on Consumption-Based Emissions Reporting to the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee:

So what do we know?

Firstly, there is undoubtedly progress on switching to renewable energy in much of the world’s economy. There are also signs of a reduction in use of the dirtiest fossil fuel, coal (although we should be cautious here since this conclusion is based on what might turn out to be a 2014 blip).

Secondly, while renewables have increased their share, and expansion of fossil fuel use has slowed, as the following graph from New Climate Economy’s 2015 report shows, fossil fuel usage is still increasing.

Graph showing that fossil fuel use predicted to continue rising til at least 2030

Additions to energy capacity fossil and renewable from New Climate Economy 2015 report p.17

Thirdly, while it is important to focus on energy generation and use, there are other factors critical to GHG transactions. De-forestation, emissions from agriculture, release of trapped polar methane, reduction of ocean capacity to store carbon dioxide, and so on. Technological optimism about energy generation should not make us forget this. For a good example of how such factors can be incorporated into a (national) net zero carbon framework, see The Zero Carbon Britain work of the Centre for Alternative Technology.

Fourthly, while there is undoubted progress being made in some places, it is the global pictue that is most important. China is to be commended for taking its emissions seriously, yet those emissions are still predicted to rise further, and it is the cumulative emissions that will kill us.

Fifthly, the hypothesis that economic growth is compatible with action on climate change remains unproven. Our best strategy is still managed degrowth to a steady state economy.

What does this mean for us in Greater Manchester?

We need to think globally and act locally – for a global impact. There are some obvious implications.

1) Continue to lobby for disinvestment from fossil fuels. Campaigns to this end in the region focus on the giant Greater Manchester Pension Fund, and on Manchester University. This disinvestment needs to be matched by a strategy of re-investment in local renewable energy production, low-carbon transport, energy conservation and stewardship of the land.

2) Continue to encourage our public bodies, GMCA, the LEPs, the Chamber of Commerce, our councils, to adopt an economic policy that rejects the endless pursuit of aggregate growth, instead focussing on real local prosperity based on conserving resources, building resilience, and investing in the replacement economy.

3) Campaign vigorously against the UK government’s disastrous policies on energy and energy conservation while supporting local initiatives for a switch to community owned and run renewable power and retrofit.

4) Campaign against fracking which will lead to an increase in GHG emissions since it will add to rather than substitute for other fossil fuels.

5) Get a grip on food and energy waste. In this, we commend Manchester City Council for its reduction in net energy use last year, although that achievement is not reflected in GHG emissions, which are calculated based on a national formula – so for example the switch to purchasing (equivalent generation of) green electricity is not reflected in the calculations for emissions. It is essential that we get better, local data on both territorial and consumption-based emissions. And there is much more to do, not least acting on the promise of building a low carbon culture in the city.

Not just ecologically, but financially unviable too: GMPF’s fossil fuel investments

Our last post was about the fossil fuel divestment campaign that is focussing on local government pension funds, and in our case Greater Manchester Pension Fund.

One argument made against the divestment campaign is that Trustees (responsible for the Fund) have to ensure that the Fund’s investments are sound, with the implication being that “ethical” investments are less reliable.

Let’s look at GMPF’s top five investments:  these graphs show their share prices over the last year.  Do you notice a common pattern?  A lot of the investment has perished, and given that they represent un-burnable carbon that must stay in the ground, assets stranded before the rise of renewables and energy efficiency, it might never be recovered, and at best these investments will continue to be very volatile.

GMPF's top 5 fossil fuel companies, performance over the last year to 25/9/15: all show large declines.

GMPF’s top 5 fossil fuel companies, performance over the last year to 25/9/15  (click image for a pdf version)















Now, these investments are, paradoxically, still delivering reasonable returns, but we can’t say how long that will continue.  Governments worldwide provide huge subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, but again that situation will begin to change as the global divestment campaign grows.

Economically, as well as for the climate, we say: freeze fossil fuel investments now and begin a five year programme of divestment, reinvesting where possible directly in the viable, local economy.


Campaign on Greater Manchester Pension Fund’s investments hots up

Some months ago we reported on our attempts to encourage Greater Manchester Pension Fund to rethink its investment strategy, using explicit ethical criteria as part of its overall strategy for sound investments and returns, and in particular to move money from fossil fuel companies to the viable economy – where possible the local viable economy.  With 15% wiped off the value of mining giant Glencore in two days this week, (some £9M of GMPF’s money) and falls in other fossil fuel companies over the last year and more, GMPF’s exposure is looking like a poor financial strategy (in ensuring pensions can be funded), as well as a highly environmental practice.

Now the campaign has got a lot bigger.  Nationally, Friends of the Earth and the Fossil Free campaign have, using Freedom of Information requests, collated data on all the local authority pension funds in the country.  This shows some £14 Billion of fossil fuel investments.  And the biggest pension fund, our own Greater Manchester Pension Fund accounts for approx £1.3 Billion (nearly 10%) of that.  Indeed, it is one of the highest investors in fossil fuels in the land, with 9.8% of its money in potentially unburnable carbon.

GMPF fossil fuel investment table

Today, Steady State Manchester was pleased to be part of Manchester Friends of the Earth Action at the GMPF Headquarters.  You can sign their petition HERE.  The action made BBC North West tonight – see the coverage It starts at 16.04 minutes in.

In the window, GMPF proclaim "Looking after the pensions of a thrid of a million members" - but given 10% could be in stranded assets, how accurate can this claim be?

In the window, GMPF proclaim “Looking after the pensions of a thrid of a million members” – but given 10% could be in stranded assets, how accurate can this claim be?

Here is a report on today’s demonstration at GMPF’s headquarters in Droylsden, from the Manchester Friends of the Earth website.

Earlier today, a giant ‘dinosaur’ visited the Greater Manchester Pension Fund office in Droylsden, Tameside to call on the pension fund to divest from risky investments in fossil fuels.

GMPF offices and fossil fuel dinosaurData released today reveals that the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF) has an astonishing £1.3 billion of public money invested through their pension funds in fossil fuel companies like Shell and BP. [1]The research by, Platform, Friends of the Earth and others, shows that:

  • The Greater Manchester Pension Fund has 9.8% of its pension fund invested in fossil fuels.



  • GMPF is investing £477 per resident in fossil fuels
  • Money is invested into multinational fossil fuel companies including £269 million in BP and £261 million in Shell.
  • It has the largest amount invested in fossil fuels of any local authority pension fund in the country, and the 4th highest percentage of fossil fuel investments

Fossil fuel companies hold five times more carbon resources than they can burn if we are to meet the internationally-agreed safe limit of 2 degrees Celsius. This means fossil fuels are in fact stranded assets and must remain in the ground. Therefore, GMPF’s investment policy means Greater Manchester’s pensioners risk being left with worthless assets underpinning their retirement funds.

Spokesperson for Fossil Free Greater Manchester, Chris Smith said:“The new data released today shows that Greater Manchester Pension Fund has the greatest amount of all local authority pension funds invested in fossil fuels. These are risky investments not only for the planets future but also with the future pensions of fund members.”

Chris Smith added:  “Greater Manchester led the industrial revolution on the back of fossil fuels – and now it’s time for us to lead the world out of the fossil fuel era.“At a time when smart investors around the world are already ditching underperforming fossil fuel stocks, the fund risks becoming an investment dinosaur.”

“As local residents we’ll be calling on the Greater Manchester Pension Fund to stand on the right side of history and divest from fossil fuels.”

Greater Manchester Pension Fund member, Nigel Rolland said: “I am glad to be here today to tell Tameside Council and the Greater Manchester Pension Fund that I have been a pension fund member for over 25 years and I don’t want our money invested in fossil fuels. The fund claims to be investing in our future, but they are investing in the past. Fossil fuels are a dinosaur industry destroying the planet.”

This is the first time that the £231 billion of public money invested by local government pension funds has ever been broken down and released publicly, and their exposure to fossil fuels quantified.  The data shows that overall the 192 councils in the UK have £14 billion invested in fossil fuels via their pension funds.

Three quarters of these direct fossil fuel shareholdings are in only ten companies, headed by BP and Shell.A third of all oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80% of current coal reserves need to remain in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change, according to a study by University College London. [6]

Consequently, there has been growing concerns about the long-term financial risks of fossil fuel investments, a ‘carbon bubble’ that risks taxpayers being forced to bail out public pensions in the future. [7]

A recent analysis found that California’s public pension funds, CalPERS & CalSTRS, incurred a combined loss of over $5 billion in the last year alone from their holdings in the top 200 fossil fuel companies. [8]

This data, available at, offers the residents of Greater Manchester the information they need to ask why the Council is choosing to invest in risky coal, oil and gas.  Instead, the fund could reinvest this money into building new homes, clean renewable energy or public transport.

Oxford and Bristol City Councils have already taken a lead in making fossil free commitments, joining 40 cities internationally and larger institutions like the Norwegian Government Pension Fund. There are 389 institutions globally – including universities, faith groups, health groups and governments – that have committed to divest. [9]

Local residents who would like to join the local campaign to convince the Greater Manchester Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels can sign a petition at [10]

Notes to editor

1. Data, including spreadsheets for each pension fund with a breakdown of investments, can be accessed at

2. The data was sourced by, Community Reinvest and Platform through Freedom of Information Act requests to the 101 administering pension funds.

3. This data is released as part of an ongoing campaign through Fossil Free UK to secure fossil free divestment commitments from local governments.  A divestment commitment is a principled commitment to wind down exposure to the Carbon Underground top 200 fossil fuel companies over a 5 year period.

4. Fossil Free Greater Manchester is part of the Fossil Free UK grassroots network, which itself is part of a growing international movement calling on institutions to divest (sell their shares) from fossil fuels to take action against catastrophic climate change.

5. The Greater Manchester Pension Fund is the largest local authority pension fund in the country, with total investments of over £13 billion.  Its members work for the 10 local authorities in Greater Manchester, and a whole host of other organisations such as local colleges and Citizens Advice Bureau.

6. See

7. See


10.  The Fossil Free Greater Manchester petition will go live on Thursday 24th September at

11. The 2014 Law Commission clarification on fiduciary duty concluded “that there is no impediment to trustees taking account of environmental, social or governance factors where there are or may be, financially material” and that environmental concerns may also be taken into account as a non-financial factor so long as there is there is no “significant impact on returns” and “trustees have a good reason to think that scheme members would share the concern.”

12. In March 2014, following a clarification from the UK Law Commission on the interpretation of fiduciary duty, the Local Government Association (LGA) (England & Wales) published a legal opinion on how fiduciary duties affected the scope for a Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS), concluding that “the precise choice of investment may be influenced by wider social, ethical or environmental considerations, so long as that that does not risk material financial detriment to the fund.”

– See more at:

Mayor Tony Lloyd responds to our Open Letter.

We have now received a response from Tony Lloyd to our open letter about DevoManc. In that letter, which received a lot of interest and support, we did two things. First we shared ideas about how to begin addressing the democratic deficit in Manchester’s devolution arrangements, its combined authority, and mayor. Secondly we highlighted the flawed economic model of the scheme with its assumption of ecologically suicidal endless growth and the trickle-down of its results, its eclipse of important areas of the economy and society, and reliance on huge cost savings from welfare reform and dependency reduction.

Here is Tony’s response (reproduced here with his agreement).

Dear Mr Burton,

Thank you for your letter. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you.

I was interested to read your letter and grateful for the suggestions you make. As you rightly point out I am concerned that the public involvement in the processes that have increased powers to the Combined Authority and introduced the role of the Mayor has been extremely limited. I am currently leading discussions with Local Authority leaders about how engagement both with the public and local councillors can be improved through regular meetings and enhanced scrutiny processes.

Improvements that will be introduced very soon include live streaming of Combined Authority meetings and the launch of a new user friendly website.

I think that many people right across Greater Manchester would echo your question about what devolution and the Mayor role will bring to the conurbation. The delivery of economic growth is undoubtedly an element of the work of both the ten local authorities and the GMCA but the focus of all our work is how it can improve the lives of people in every part of the conurbation. We have got to prove that the work the Combined Authority does on health, housing, low carbon, infrastructure and all our other projects can make a real difference to the people we represent. I hope that in the coming weeks and months we are able to make real progress on this.


Tony Lloyd

We welcome this response, so far as it goes. It is good to know that the democratic deficit is a concern to Tony and that he is discussing “engagement both with the public and local councillors can be improved through regular meetings and enhanced scrutiny processes” with the council leaders (the other members of the Combined Authority). It is also good to know that he sees the need to prove the worth of the Combined Authority in improving the ecological, economic and social well-being of Greater Manchester’s population.

However, it is a little disappointing that there has not been engagement with the substance of our letter, which was not a set of unfounded assertions, but (as evidenced by the many hyperlinks) supported by a substantial body of work, not just from ourselves but from the policy and research community. We should understand the sensitivity of negotiations about increasing democratic accountability, especially with leaders who have been used to making decisions in today’s equivalent of the “smoke-filled room”. For this reason, we should watch carefully for any indication that more will be put into operation than “live-streaming” and a scrutiny function at GM level.

But on the economy, our point is not that economic growth must improve the lives of people in the conurbation, but that given its impossibility in a finite world, and its dubious contribution to social and economic well-being, we desperately need to find another route. For that reason we asked whether,

increased regional autonomy [could] instead support a different kind of economic and social development, that increased economic, social and ecological resilience as it built up co-operative and collaborative economic and social structures to provide authentic and durable security for citizens?”

In this vein, our letter discussed those relatively hidden areas of the economy that, while creating value, do not figure in the official narrative about Manchester’s devolution: the large, mundane and relatively resilient “Foundational Economy”, and the “economies outside the economy” of informal, non-monetised exchange and mutuality, and the civil economy of collaboration among public, private and voluntary sectors, as well as community activists and scholars. We are not alone in these calls, our own Open Letter was followed by one from leaders in Greater Manchester’s community and voluntary sector.

In conclusion, we feel that Mayor Tony is open to some of our thinking, and is genuinely concerned that DevoManc does accountably benefit all of Greater Manchester’s people. But we do need to keep up the pressure on the fronts of both democracy and a viable economy for true, resilient economic, social and ecological well-being. Meanwhile we continue to work on various levels to bring about this change of direction.

The Steady State Manchester collective.

Of related interest – see Tony Lloyd’s Question and Answer session with Stockport councillors