SIr Howard Bernstein, Chief Executive of Manchester City Council, has just published a piece in Guardian Professional on the new Greater Manchester Combined Authority.In it he identifies the advantages of Manchester’s model of co-ordinated planning and action across the conurbation. But he couches all this in terms of the advantages in promoting economic growth. Yet every advantage that he mentions is also an advantage in helping us move to a post growth, steady state future. Proper co-ordination across the region (and actually this needs to mean a wider bio-region, taking into its scope the rural hinterland) will be essential in making a reality of the practical policies and actions Steady State #Manchester is to propose in its forthcoming Beyond Growth report.
Perhaps the most interesting passage in Sir Howard’s article is this:
Working in a co-ordinated fashion means we can be not only strategic but also, crucially I believe, imaginative – coming up with new ways of doing things which challenge orthodox thinking.
One fundamental theme of what we are setting out to achieve, which points to the future in times of dwindling public resources, is greater self-sufficiency.
Yes, yes, yes. But that is exactly what Steady State is about! But sadly Sir Howard’s best example of this, the Earnback deal, while allowing the council to recoup a considerable sum of tax from government, is dependent on achieving levels of economic growth. So local autonomy gets locked in to the orthodox, damaging, unsustainable addiction to ever-increasing resource throughput – a.k.a. depletion of non-renewable resources, destruction of ecosystem supports, destruction of livelihoods in the majority world and ever-increasing emissions (greenhouse gases, acidification of oceans, etc., etc.). But it could be so different, an alliance of public authorities committed to genuine ecological prosperity for the people of the region, and not at the expense of the earth systems that make life possible.