Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, has a blog where he regularly posts his news and thoughts. His latest is a vindication of the Greater Manchester Strategy and aviation-led economic growth, greatly dependent on China’s economy it seems.
Mark Burton of the SSM collective has posted a response. Others might wish to join the debate. As Mark indicates, it is not easy to think and plan our way out of the parlous state that our local economy is in. An emphasis on good jobs for the many is understandable but it is questionable that this is the way to deliver them. And we all know (don’t we) just how damaging aviation emissions are: a strategy that stands to increase them makes a mockery of the city’s challenging carbon emissions targets. Here is Mark’s response:-
It is difficult to know where to start with this (deliberately provocative?) post. I don’t for a moment doubt the commitment to improving the well-being and prosperity of Manchester and its people, but this is the wrong path. The first problem is that the GMS is a fundamentally flawed strategy on its own terms. It seeks to position Manchester in an international ‘beauty contest’ for investment, trying to win a game of global competition that it can’t (and indeed shouldn’t since do we really have the ethic of being winners in a zero sum game – we should be more internationalist than that and aim for a world without losers). The evidence that Manchester can’t win is clear enough – the region is slipping ever further behind London and the South East – even if that slippage is less than for even less favoured regions like Wales and the North East. The airport city / HS2 nexus is not going to change this but risks supporting the continuation of that parasitic service economy that has not significantly trickled down to the city’s most deprived populations and neighbourhoods. Moreover the implied dependence on China is itself dubious since that economy is not guaranteed to continue its spectacular growth, based as it is largely on collusion with debt-fueled consumption in the USA.
To be fair, it is not easy to imagine a viable alternative, and to do this in a way that approaches the scale of change needed (rather than remaining marginal development in the alternative, green and social enterprise sectors) , but that is the serious conceptual and practical work we need to do in Manchester, focusing on the day to day economy that’s left after decades of neoliberal de-industrialisation, growing those sustainable (ecologically, socially and economically) sectors and reducing the parasitic (and ecologically dangerous) sectors. That would include properly planned investment in rail infrastructure, by the way. That’s the project Steady State Manchester embarked on last year – but there is a long way to go yet.
Other commentators will no doubt expand on the obvious fact that the Faustian pact with aviation will do nothing to meet Manchester’s challenging carbon emissions reduction targets, and will indeed make the hill to be climbed far steeper.
In sum, the airport city is, on social, economic and ecological grounds, the wrong way to develop our economy and we would expect better from a leadership that took social justice and climate risks seriously.