The first Greater Manchester budget has just appeared. We need some time to digest it, but having seen the MEN reports (here) and (here) this is yet more orthodox thinking – a mixture of wishful thinking and denial.
Here is our initial response to the first of those MEN articles. Why not add your comment on their site (unfortunately you have to sign in with FaceBook – why?).
Well I suppose that’s what you expect from a “body that represents the city’s lawyers, accountants, bankers”. There are some things to support of course, more public spending, investment in housing. But overall these people are climate change denialists and economic fantasists: more roads, more flights, an economy increasing by 12% in 2 years (see the other MEN article on this budget). Won’t happen and shouldn’t happen.
Let’s look at aviation in particular: it is already highly subsidised (almost no taxation on fuel) and they want to add another subsidy – making society pay even more for its diseconomies. Already in Greater Manchester some 12% of our total carbon footprint is caused by personal aviation (not to mention the impact of air freight. Yet the aviation sector only accounts for 1.3% of the economy. In other words it costs us dearly, it costs people in the Global South dearly (hurricanes, droughts, coastal flooding), and it will cost us even more as we get older, not to mention our children and grandchildren.
Postscript 20 March
Since this quick reaction we’ve had a chance to look at Prof Ashcroft’s Budget for Greater Manchester (you can find it on the Manchester Business School website). The MEN oversimplified the proposal – he is suggesting (following the Chamber of Commerce, whose recommendations he reproduces as chapter in his report) that there is an exemption made just for business travel. How ever would you do that? Looks like the slippery slope to me.
The report (rather sloppily written and presented we’re afraid) really is a mix of sensible proposals (keep a low VAT rate for green technologies, invest in local transport infrastructure) with the seriously wrong grey Keynesian thinking that helped get us into this mess (along wth the even more malign neoliberal thinking – and not just thinking…) – more roads, more flights…. But the report mostly focuses on what central government and its co-managers should do to stimulate the GM economy. Right issue, wrong formulation, and wrong recipe. “Ask not what the world should do for Greater Manchester but what Greater Manchester should do for the world” as JFK once said (but was we think misquoted).