4 Proposals from Steady State Manchester To Manchester Council

Four detailed proposals from Steady State Manchester presented to Manchester City Council today.

These proposals are based on the recommendations from In Place of Growth. They are consistent with the aim of rebalancing the local economy to help make it more just, safe and sustainable. Jobs, well-being and ecological safety are the common concerns.

Proposal #1 A DASHBOARD OF THE CITY’S SOCIAL, ECONOMIC and ECOLOGICAL WELL-BEING

Issues

What would enable the council to make more decisions that are evidence based and in the safe operating zone for a just, safe, sustainable, low carbon future? The limitations of traditional measures of economic progress are now well known. In order to track progress on the overall status of the city, and to help make decisions, there needs to be a small set of key indicators to watch, that together cover, social, economic and ecological well-being. Our consultation with councillors, officers and academics suggests building on data already collected, possibly conceptualised along the lines of the Oxfam model of the ‘doughnut economy’i.

The city already uses a fairly comprehensive set of measures, and the development of the Manchester Intelligence Hub, with its use of open data builds on this. However, there are some significant omissions, including measures of wealth retained in the city, local capital formation, local production in key areas such as food, and more comprehensive measures of population well-being, including cultural dimensions. On the ecological side, measurement of direct and indirect emissions needs integrating together with other measures, such as local estimates of carbon sequestration and of loss and gain in biomass and biodiversity.

Proposal: Improve the Dashboard

Building on the State of the City and State of the Wards reports, establish a working group to design a Comprehensive City Well-being Dashboard with sections on,

1 The proportion of money that is retained in the local economy, drawing on work by New Economics Foundation on the local multiplier effect of money that is recirculated locally. (Not yet available);

2 The degree of income inequality in the city and in its various sectors (Partially available now);

3 The unemployment rate (Available now);

4 The level of personal well-being (including health) as experienced by citizens, using a combination of subjective and objective measures. (Partially available now);

5 Ecological indices including direct and indirect (total carbon footprint) emissions of the city and its sectors, material use, energy use, ecological footprint, waste production and the proportion of it recycled locally. (Partially available now).

Partners

Economic Development, Public Health, Council informatics staff, interested outside people from Universities and civil society organisations.

Proposal #2 RETROFIT SKILLS AND YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT

Issues

31% of Manchester’s direct carbon emissions come from housing. Some 90% of homes need to shift from efficiency band D to band B by 2035. A start has been made but progress is slow: 5,000 homes are targeted for insulation retrofitting in Manchester by 2015 but this would still leave about 180,000 homes needing improvementii.

There is government support available through the Green Deal and ECO schemes and some landlords are prepared to make some contribution since reducing fuel expenditure can reduce rent default and voids.

Youth unemployment is high at 5,115 (31% for more than 6 months, 17% more than 12 months)iii with associated high expenditure on benefits for this group, who are more likely to become long term unemployed and pose wider issues of generational unemployment, poverty, lack of aspiration and rise in anti-social behaviours and lack of community cohesion, together with physical and mental health consequences.

Proposal: Link Youth Skills & Employment with Retrofit

To link the retrofit agenda with youth skills and employment by building on the framework of National Apprenticeships but extending this for young people aged 18-24 (a group differentiated by Jobcentre Plus).

According to the Work Foundation (June, 2012) the cost of youth unemployment over the next decade has been estimated at £28 billion. It is recognised that the longer a young person remains on benefits, the less chance they have of getting off benefits entirely and therefore the greater the negative impacts on them and the economy. As such this proposal is structured around a fundamental restructuring of government expenditure for apprenticeships now. This might be funded within the City Deal arrangements by a drawdown of future projected expenditure on ESA for this group that will be saved as a result of supporting young people into sustainable jobs and off benefits. As an example, the annual cost of ESA for a young person is £2953.60 compared to the annual wage for a young apprentice of £5200 which leads to skills required to meet our carbon reduction targets. Matching apprenticeships with the retrofit agenda means that there are adequate employment opportunities for qualified apprentices thus diverting them from a dependency on benefits.

There may be opportunities to link this with wider issues such as the bedroom tax by ‘matching’ spare rooms with young adult apprentices to assist them to be more flexible to move to take up apprenticeships where there are real retrofit projects taking place.

This could work by offering spare rooms for a rate which covers the bedroom tax plus a % additional income (and in respect of the tax free earnings and benefits cap) and which is below market rate for private accommodation – thus affordable for apprentices.

Partners Low carbon hub / Manchester is my planet, Carbon Coop, social landlords, Manchester College, Skills Funding Agency and the National Apprenticeship Service, Jobcentre Plus and installation companies.

Proposal #3 FOOD AS AN ECONOMIC ISSUE: INCREASE LOCAL FOOD PRODUCTION AND PROCESSING 

Issues

Currently only an estimated 0.25% of our food is sourced within 50 milesiv. Long supply chains have already been implicated in the horse meat scandal and this is likely to be only the tip of an iceberg. Long supply chains mean large carbon emissions as so much food is freighted in. Food prices, quality and security are all threatened by rising oil prices, competition from biofuels and emerging economies, and climate-based shocks to global production. Meanwhile central government’s austerity policies are causing significant food poverty in the city.

Local food production, processing and distribution could contribute to the local economy and create jobs, initially largely in supported sectors (e.g. people recovering from mental ill-health)v. This will also require education and training. Food growing is an increasingly popular activity both at a household and community level. It has wide ranging benefits: it can significantly improve the quality of people’s diet while reducing their food expenditurevi, increase physical activity, and improve mental wellbeing with other individual and community benefits from community involvement. A strategy could also tackle waste at source.

Proposal: Link food growing, employment, resilience and mental health

1) Investigate supply chains for food provided by council and its contract partners, with a plan to increase year on year the amount of foodstuffs produced within 50 miles of the city boundary.

2) Offer land owned by public sector and other organisations rent free to any group that is prepared to cultivate food. This is done to some extent on a short term basis but could be greatly extended. This could be under a usufruct or peppercorn rent arrangement with the requirement that the land is used productively. Integrate this production with council and other public sector catering. Consider offering favourable ‘microcredit’ arrangements for purchase of tools and other inputs.

Partners

Food futures, Universities, NHS Trusts, Manchester Farye, Kindling Trust.

Proposal #4 WORKING HOURS

Issues

Long hours for some means unemployment for others. Along with Malta the UK is the only country in Europe that allows employees to ‘opt out’ of the EU Working Time Directive in relation to maximum working weeks of 48 hoursvii. Other EU countries such as France have reduced the maximum number of permitted to 35 hours per week with no ‘opt out’ allowed.

UK workers in full time employment work the third longest hours in Europe on averageviii. Alongside this the UK also has the lowest number of day’s annual leave per year. Working longer hours has negative physical and mental affects such as stress, heart disease, diabetes and depression. The longs hours culture also contributes to consumptive habits and gives people less time to focus on their well-being by exercising or by cultivating more sustainable life styles by cooking and growing their own food.

Proposal: A strategy to share out the work.

1.Work with the Council, Trade Unions and Citizens Advice Bureau to increase awareness of the fact that the ‘opt out’ of the 48 hour week is not compulsory. Approach and work support Citizens Advice to launch campaign to ban the ‘opt out’ option in the UK.

2.Extend Council policy of capping maximum numbers at 35 hours per week to all contract partners and public sector organisations in Manchester. Encourage Council preference for ‘Living Well Partners’ at tendering exercises.

3.Campaign targeting local businesses to become ‘Living Well Partners’ highlighting benefits of reduced working hours to the community. Points to highlight will include benefits of less sick days and better work performance. Also advocate that reduced hours per person will lead to job creation in the community as a result of the spare hours created.

4.Launch a cultural change programme to make unpaid overtime unacceptable (beyond reasonable levels of flexibility for senior staff).

Partners 

Council, Trade Unions, local pro – employee law firms, Citizens Advice Bureau, Health and Safety Executive.

iRaworth, K. (2012). A safe and just space for humanity: CAN WE LIVE WITHIN THE DOUGHNUT? Oxford: Oxfam. Retrieved from http://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/dp-a-safe-and-just-space-for-humanity-130212-en.pdf

iiData from Manchester a Certain Future (2013), LGA: Greater Manchester Case Study (M O’Doherty, MCC) (Nov. 2012), Census 2011 – First Release:Household estimates, New Economy (n.d)

iiiReal Time Economy Dashboard, March 1013

ivBased on study of ASDA: other large retailers are likely to show similar levels.

vIn the rather different circumstances of Havana, urban agriculture now accounts for 7% of employment.

viGrowing Urban Agriculture: Equitable Strategies and Policies for Improving Access to Healthy Food and Revitalizing Communities http://tinyurl.com/bjra2pt

viihttp://www.citation.co.uk/employment-law/working-time-regulations

viiiOffice for National Statistics, Hours Worked in the UK Labour Market 2011, 08 December 2011.

About arwafreelance

Freelance journalist based in the UK with an interest in the Middle East, environmental issues, Islam-related topics and social issues such as regeneration.
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4 Responses to 4 Proposals from Steady State Manchester To Manchester Council

  1. Pingback: Food and Green Index: Manchester Council To Look Into SSM Recommendations | Steady State Manchester

  2. Pingback: Small Steps Towards A Steady State & Equitable Manchester | Steady State Manchester

  3. Pingback: Revitalizing local economies will require: messages that are positive, legitimate and tailored, proving real sources of well-being and using sources of empowerment and motivation as well as accountability. | Steady State Manchester

  4. lee paterson says:

    Over the last 3 months I have researched symbiotic growing systems to the point that i am now gathering equipment to start a greenhouse hydro-ponics system. With a few good crops over the year and edible fish produced I hope to gather data to scale it up to a useful local veg and fish producer. I find it very heartening to see the proposals for cheap or free land or property for producers, let’s not forget the majority of bad farming is heavely subsidised and this playing field should be levelled and then some. Also it is also of importance that these new employment opportunities are used to support people recovering from any of the many problems todays environment create. The pleasure and fulfilment of growing food and just spending your working time in green space is better for recovery of self worth than any pills, and most counseling. Great sensible proposals, best wishes for now action to come.

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