Seeking a resilient, local, stable ‘viable economy’? The role of community business.

Café conversation: Wednesday 17th May 6.30-8pm – If you haven’t already, book Now

Lounge at Manchester Methodist Hall

Central Buildings, Oldham St, Manchester M1 1JQ

Do you wonder what kind of an economy we need to ensure community businesses can flourish and thrive? Are you involved in or interested in community business? What makes a community business successful? And able to keep going? Do you want to be part of a conversation about how can community business contribute to a more resilient, local, stable and ‘viable economy’ delivering what we all need: frugal abundance/true prosperity?

If any of these or other questions about community businesses and a viable economy are important to you, this conversation is for you.

There are many types of community business including shops, farms, pubs or call centres. They are businesses which are accountable to their community and the profits they generate deliver positive local impact.

Steady State Manchester believes an alternative approach to economic development in the city and region is essential so that all can live well and within planetary limits. We call this viable economics. Among other things viable economics involves:

  • Re-localising food and other production, providing decent green jobs and more income equality.
  • Localising money and using wealth for needed developments, for example energy efficient, affordable housing and investment in other local, green and ethical enterprises
  • Less exploitation of the majority world and open channels for communication and learning globally

This conversation will consider the degree to which community businesses need a viable economy and a viable economy will need community businesses. Come with your questions to discuss:

Book Now

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Designing a viable Greater Manchester?


Is now the time to grasp opportunities and make the best of them? The highly successful film  Demain  which a packed audience saw in Manchester on  Wednesday night  suggests just that. The showing was organised by the Kindling Trust and the University of Manchester. The filmmakers were desperate to show, in the face of the threats to us all,  emerging examples of  a world which is socially rich, environmentally sustainable and viable economically. It creates a much needed and wonderful picture of the multitude of things that are happening and the great potential of a good life.

These include abundant food growing in places as desperate as Detroit and as a basis for transforming Todmorden in Yorkshire, emerging complementary economies in all sorts of places including Totnes, Brixton and Bristol, democracy leading to high and low caste people living together in Tamil Nadu, India and education for a full and good life in Finland.

The film illustrates how essential it is to offer a vision of what we want to achieve; and very relevant to our elections, the possibility of designing cities for a viable economy; example – Copenhagen.

A recent presentation we gave, argues the need to design a safe, sustainable future.  In a nutshell, that we have a lot to learn from public health, a discipline with a wealth of experience of transforming norms and behaviour.   Over time, public health practitioners have learnt that influence and education can go so far but in the end what works is  making it as easy as possible for people to change what they do. So we need to  design a world where the ecological, viable choice is the easy choice. We are doing this already, to a too limited extent, an example is through recycling.

So can the new order of city-region devolution lead to the design of a viable Greater Manchester? Certainly it is no foregone conclusion that it will.  There will be lots of pressures on the new Authority to do precisely the opposite. But are there possibilities?

Marc Stears of the New Econmics Foundation recently said:

Everything we know about what is going on in our country today, tells us that fundamental change is not going to begin from (Westminster and Whitehall ) …The primary mechanism for change is working out who out there is rooted in the community, who actually can start this process going now be it a process of … community economic regeneration… or a newly elected mayor trying to think about pushing the boundaries of the authority that he or she has within that situation,’

We are delighted to see some of our policy proposals are in both the Green Party manifesto (including GM Carbon budget, Fossil Fuel divestment, re-localisation, complementary currency) and the Labour Party manifesto (including non-monetary exchange via points, climate change is a central challenge, greater ambition on emissions reductions, GM energy company).

More broadly, community input has been significant in shaping thinking prior to the election, including pledges developed by women via the Women’s Equality Party and  Divamanc,  publication of the Peoples Plan, Andy Burnham’s use of people’s ideas in his crowd-sourced manifesto and Jane Brophy’s co-production of the section of hers about young people with the youth NGO Reclaim.  And the power of community protest will now lead to a major re-write of the flawed, developer friendly, Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.

We celebrate all that is happening in Greater Manchester, not forgetting the vibrant, innovative community business sector, to create a viable future with and without the help of government organisations on which we can build.

Let’s insist on designing our way out of an economic and political system out to destroy us, in every way we can.

So the new region is an opportunity we have, at this frightening and challenging time. Let’s cherish, nurture and share the hope given by the many fabulous examples we have of viable living.  Lets build on these for a viable economy within Greater Manchester and beyond. I am sure most Greater Manchester residents reading this will  vote on Thursday; we are looking forward to working with you and your communities within and without the local state to design the future we all need.


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Policies for the City Region – serialised: Part 4, Fossil Fuel Divestment.

We continue the serialisation of our report, Policies for the City Region. In this short installment we explore the ethical necessity and pragmatic benefits of NW institutions dumping their investments in fossil fuel companies and putting that money to better use, for example in the local, social and/or low carbon economy.  And there’s plenty more to come!  But if you can’t wait: download it here. You can also see out policies page HERE and our publications page HERE.  The party manifestos for the GM mayoral election are out.  See how much overlap you can find with our proposals (hint: there is quite a bit in at least two of them).

Update: at the Greater Manchester Environment Hustings on Friday 28 April, all four mayoral candidates (Anstee, Burnham, Brophy and Patterson – in order of speaking) said they would call on Greater Manchester Pension Fund to divest its fossil fuel investments.

  1. 3 Divest from fossil fuels.Fossil Free logo

    Policy 3.1: The Greater Manchester Pension Fund (a significant financial “anchor institution”) redirecting a sizeable proportion of its £1.3Bn fossil fuel investments to the local economy, with emphasis on environmentally and socially beneficial areas that yield a return to continue its primary responsibilities of paying pensions.

    The thinking behind it:

    This policy focusses on the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF), the largest local authority pension fund (also providing pensions for some other employers). It has a portfolio of investments, used to fund its pension commitments, of which approximately 10% are in companies primarily concerned with the extraction, processing and distribution of fossil fuels. There are two principal aims of this proposed switch in investments.

    1. Climate change requires assertive action to leave most fossil fuel reserves un-exploited. Yet the fossil fuel companies continue to invest in exploration. “Engagement”, or efforts to directly persuade these companies to stop exploration, have not yielded any significant results. An international campaign1 is encouraging investors to move their money out of the fossil fuel companies, thereby sending a strong signal to the markets, reducing the money available for further climate damaging fossil fuel extraction and incidentally securing the value of assets against their being stranded as a result of global action on climate.

    2. The GMPF holds around £1.3Bn for potential re-investment. It can be directed to socially and environmentally positive, or at least benign, investment especially in Greater Manchester itself. A responsibly managed programme of divestment and reinvestment could have a catalytic impact regionally, especially if it was deployed to projects like pump-priming a regional public bank and to the (LCEGS) sector discussed under policy 1.41 above.2

    Policy 3.2: Other anchor institutions to divest from fossil fuels.

    The thinking behind it:

    Manchester Metropolitan University has already divested from fossil fuels but as we will see in the next section, there are other key institutions3 in the region that can have a significant impact on our society and economy. If fossil fuel divestment is needed then all institutions should be doing it, multiplying the environmental, economic and social benefit.

    2For a detailed briefing see Fossil Free Greater Manchester (2016) What councillors need to know about the Fossil Free Greater Manchester campaign for fossil fuel divestment.

    3Not least the University of Manchester which despite still hosting the world leading Tyndall Centre on Climate Change, has yet to divest.

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Policies for the City Region – serialised: Part 3, Food.

We continue the serialisation of our report, Policies for the City Region. We have long been interested in looking at Greater Manchester’s food systems as case studies for wider economic and social issues.  Here we offer some practical proposals for making our food chains fairer, more secure and less environmentally damaging.  it’s all part of our vision of a Viable Economy. And there’s plenty more to come!  But if you can’t wait: download it here. You can also see out policies page HERE and our publications page HERE.  The party manifestos for the GM mayoral election are out.  See how much overlap you can find with our proposals (hint: there is quite a bit in at least two of them).

2 A sustainable and affordable food supply and distribution network

Manchester City Council already has a formal policy1 that commits it to,

  • working towards Sustainable Food City status

  • develop a policy on health and take aways to support improvements in the diets and health of our residents

  • working towards reducing food waste in the city

  • working to alleviate the scandal of food poverty in the city

  • supporting sustainable food procurement through its own purchases and through its influence with other public sector organisations

It also noted the possibilities for job creation from a sustainable food growing industry.

This very much reflects our own thinking and we would encourage Manchester to build on this so that such an approach becomes the basis for all food procurement across the city. And we want to see this adopted across the whole region. But more still can be done, to address the areas that such a policy framework does not reach and we develop these ideas below.

Policy 2.1: Establish Food Boards in each borough and at GM level, drawing on Manchester’s model.

The thinking behind it:

To implement the above policy, Manchester set up a Food Board, bringing together a variety of stakeholders within an overall public health orientation. This is a good idea in principle, but the Board lacks “teeth”, being essentially a forum for sharing best practice2.

To achieve sufficient scale, the approach needs replicating by each local authority and there needs to be a strategic board at city regional level. The Boards should be awarded a status within the political and administrative hierarchies of local government reflecting the central importance of food in all our lives.

Policy 2.2: Influence supermarkets and market dominant food firms to work responsibly, source locally, reduce waste.

The thinking behind it:

If we are serious about healthy, low carbon, affordable food, then we need to deal with the systems that distribute the larger part of what Greater Manchester eats. The food we eat comes overwhelmingly through supermarkets and these companies exert a powerful, often malign, influence over the entire food supply system. Their supply networks are vulnerable to shocks and disruptions of all kinds3. Shoppers have come to expect ready access to a cornucopian variety of “perfect” fresh products at all times. This can only be achieved through significant over-production and therefore waste4. This also entails domineering relationships with suppliers. Consumption, imports and the use of energy-demanding refrigeration have all been increasing, in large part due to the clever marketing strategies of the supermarkets. “Imports grew by 51% between 1990 and 2005 by weight due to a combination of a 15% increase in consumption at the national level and a decrease in UK agricultural output”5. The establishment of large supermarkets drives smaller traders out of business and a “Friends of the Earth study of local food schemes found that on average just over half of business turnover was returned to the local economy, compared to as little as 5 per cent for supermarkets”6. Scotland and Northern Ireland have effective supermarket levies, returning value to the local economy7.

Local government can use its soft, place-making and convening power to bring supermarkets to account for their local impacts on diets, incomes and ecological footprints. Local sourcing of products is one element of what’s needed8. One model would be Enfield council’s practice of inviting companies operating in the borough to discussions as to how they can discharge their moral responsibility to local people that comes with the “licence to operate”9. Sadly, up to now, local government has seen supermarkets as aiding economic regeneration, a short sighted and naïve view10.

Policy 2.3: Strengthen the emergent “alternative” food production and distribution network (e.g. community-supported agriculture/horticulture schemes) and the city region’s significant food processing industry.

The thinking behind it:

Manchester has two rather different sectors concerned with food. There is a small, energetic “alternative” network with community-farmer links, co-operative retailers, fresh produce distribution to retailers and caterers, and educational projects (for example on cooking) and food waste reduction and re-use initiatives. Associated with this activity has been work on policy development11. There is a much larger, industrial food processing industry in the city whose aims and ways of working have been very different. This is a significant element of the economy, worth £1.06Bn and employing 19,900 people in Greater Manchester in 2014. Researchers at CRESC, University of Manchester identify this as one of the sectors of the “Foundational Economy”, that “…. sheltered sector of the economy that supplies mundane but essential goods and services such as: infrastructures; utilities; food processing, retailing and distribution; and health, education and welfare. The foundational economy is unglamorous but important because is used by everyone regardless of income or social status, and practically is a major determinant of material welfare.12 The food industry, like other foundational parts of the economy is relatively resilient since people have to eat, whatever else happens13.

We suggest that there should be scope for achieving a greater scale for the innovative, “alternative”, food sector while improving the quality and sustainability of the mainstream food processing and manufacturing industry, thereby contributing to food security, reducing environmental impacts, improving population health, while protecting and increasing jobs. This will require a strategic approach bringing together the five elements of government/public sector, private business, universities, active citizens and the organisations of civil society14, something that a GMCA with a clear orientation to the Viable Economy could make happen.

Policy 2.4: Work over the medium term for the replacement of charitable food banks with user-run food coops.

The thinking behind it:

Recent years, in the context of government folly in pursuit of austerity in public expenditure, have seen increasing numbers cast into precarity and destitution. Civil society has responded with the growth of food banks, making available a basic basket of foodstuffs and other necessities on a charitable basis. This has been an admirable response but it has its limits, casting poor people into an essentially passive role as recipients of charity, with the concomitant feelings of shame, anger and gratitude 15. Whilst many food aid initiatives are important spaces of caring and solidarity16, and some run food purchase coops at the same time17 they nevertheless fail to address the underlying causes of household food insecurity. A shift from reliance on charity to deal with food aid is needed in order to uphold the right to affordable access to food and good nutrition. DEMOS has proposed community supermarkets as an alternative to charitable food aid18, suggesting that co-operatives might be one way of delivering these, funded by a Government ‘conversion fund’ for those food banks willing to convert to an alternative, longer term form of affordable food initiatives. Indeed the conversion of food banks to food co-operatives has been shown to work elsewhere19, enabling people to regain power over their situation and establishing alternative economic relations for the distribution of food20.

… be continued, or if you want it now, download here:

You can also see our policies page HERE and our publications page HERE.


2See Report to: Manchester City Council, Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee – 15 December 2015 (item 5)

3ESRC (2012) Global Food Systems and UK Food Imports: Resilience, Safety and Security.

4World Wildlife Fund (2008) Environmental impacts of the UK food economy with particular reference to WWF Priority Places and the North-east Atlantic.

5WWF (2008) ibid.p. 29

6Cited by Another Stirchley Is Possible (2008) What’s Wrong With Supermarkets?

7Sustainable Food Cities (2013) Supermarket Levy (campaign announcement)

8Corporate Watch (n.d.) Supermarket local sourcing initiatives: the benefits of local food.

9Froud, J., Johal, S., Moran, M., & Williams, K. (2012). Must the ex-industrial regions fail? Soundings, 52(52), 133–146.

10Steady State Manchester (2014) Supermarkets, levies and the social franchise (blog post).

11Feeding Manchester and Oldham Food Network (both Sustainable Food Cities network member entries).

13Our previous working paper includes a discussion of the relevance of the Foundational Economy and the need to go beyond it

14Björk, F. (2015) Penta helix: Conceptualizing cross-sector collaboration and social innovation processes. Urbinnovate blog, University of Malmö.

15Van der Horst, H., Pascucci, S., Bol, W. (2014). The ‘dark side’ of food banks? Exploring emotional responses =of food bank receivers in the Netherlands. British Food Journal, 116 (9), 1506-1520.

16Goldstraw , K. and Diamond, J. (2016). A Good Society: A collaborative Conversation. Ormskirk, I4P and Webb Memorial Trust ; Lambie-Mumford, H. (2015). Addressing Food Poverty in the UK: Charity. Rights and Welfare. Sheffield, SPERI

17Lambie-Mumford, H., Crossley, D., Jensen, E., Verbeke, M. and Dowler, E. (2014) ‘Household Food Security in the UK: A Review of Food Aid,’ Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) [SEG 1205]

18Paget, A. (2015). British Aisles. London, DEMOS

20Caraher, M., & Cavicchi, A. (2014). Old crises on new plates or old plates for a new crises? Food banks and food insecurity. British Food Journal, 116(9). also ANDES network (n.d.) Social and Solidarity Stores

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Achieving a viable economy – is community business the answer?

Next cafe conversation about community businesses and a brief report from our AGM…

Wednesday 17th May 6.30-8pm

Lounge at Manchester Methodist Hall

Central Buildings, Oldham St, Manchester M1 1JQ

There are many types of community businessess including shops, farms, pubs or call centres. Are you running or supporting a community business in Greater Manchester ? Interested in an economy which works for people and planet! If so, this conversation is for you. Book Now! It follows and will key into the lively and valuable March Café Conversation –  Towards a retrofit Garden City’

This Café Conversation will ask your burning questions and:

  • How can a community business* approach community business approach to local economies in GM, support achieve a more viable economy? **
  • What are the issues?
  • How might we get there?
  • How might community businesses be part of a retrofit Manchester Garden City

Book Now

* Community Business: There are many types of community business. They can be shops, farms, pubs or call centres, among many other types of business. What they all have in common is that they are accountable to their community and that the profits they generate deliver positive local impact. They are locally rooted, trade for the benefit of the local community, accountable to the local community and have broad community impact. (paraphrased from Power to Change).
** A Viable Economy will address the perilous state we are in ecologically, socially and economically. Its proposes a path to a resilient, more localised, stable economy that delivers what we all need: a frugal abundance or true prosperity. (Paraphrased from the Viable Economy).

Greater Manchester Retrofit Garden City – our vision of a viable economy

Our AGM on  1st April was a great opportunity to talk to a couple of members who want greater involvement; to appreciate our first full year as a membership organisation; the potential of our bigger and more diverse collective and the work we have done with others in recent months. In particular contributing to the debate about what kind of Greater Manchester we want with devolution; the launch of our cafe conversations; around Universal Basic Income; the sharing economy and with Fossil Free Greater Manchester. We started talking about our strategy for the next 12 months. Our most recent cafe conversation explored the idea of a Greater Manchester Garden City; which we discovered has great potential as our  vision for a viable Manchester and has links with almost everything we do.  We are excited about taking that forward alongside current projects and other new ones. Let us know if you would like to know more about or contribute to our work.

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Policies for the City Region – serialised: Part 2, Energy.

We continue the serialisation of our report, Policies for the City Region.  This installment is about Greater Manchester using considerably less energy, and the transition to clean energy.  It is a long installment but we thought it best to keep all this material together, rather than breaking it up.  Future installments will be shorter, but just as exciting!  But if you can’t wait: download it here. You can also see out policies page HERE and our publications page HERE.

1. An energy transition: less energy, clean energy.

Climate change is the central issue of our times. It is true there are other extremely serious and urgent challenges, but it is climate change that has the capacity to sweep all before it. With mean global surface temperatures near 1.25 degrees C above the pre-industrial level and with the symbolic threshold of 400 ppm. of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere it seems likely that we are at or near the point of no return for runaway global warming with no more than 5 years left of carbon emissions at the present rate if a 50% chance of a 1.5 degree rise is to be averted.

It is not surprising then that there is some mention of environmental sustainability and climate change in many strategy documents and discussions now. However, in most cases the issue is a subsidiary one, subordinate to economic “growth” (itself the chief cause of global warming1), and the measures put in place to deal with it are typically characterised by inadequacy and wishful thinking.

Some orthodox economists do argue that climate change needs to be central. Lord Stern argues that this will save money in the long run while boosting economic growth2. We have exposed the limitations of that view3 and instead take a different approach: serious attention to both preventing and responding to climate change must become central to the economic strategy of the city region. That means a managed reduction in the material size of the economy and a particular focus on energy demand reduction and the replacement of fossil fuels. The logic of this approach extends into all areas of economic and social strategy.

We therefore begin with an emphasis on the conurbation’s energy use with a view to reducing our impact on the environment, especially the climate, while creating local prosperity through wise investment and enterprise in the local economy.

1.1 A Carbon Budget for the region

Policy 1.1: GMCA to set a total carbon budget for the GMCA economy.

A Regional energy demand reduction plan (energy descent) with targets for domestic, industrial, transport and embedded energy use. This will mean agreeing plans with large organisations and publishing the results every year. It might be possible to pilot a resource input cap, or cap and share scheme as part of this.

The thinking behind it:

The key to our impact on the climate is our energy expenditure. For Greater Manchester it is roughly equally spread between the categories Transport, Homes and Business. It is not enough to just switch to renewables because,

  1. some energy sources (transport especially) are difficult, although not impossible, to replace, and

  2. replacing the current levels of fossil fuel energy will require a very demanding renewables infrastructure with impacts on land use for farming, recreation, and “eco-system services” including carbon sequestration and biodiversity.

It is therefore necessary to both “power down”, reducing energy demand, and “power up” – switch to renewable sources4. This requires a coherent plan, with clearly quantified targets and actions for all sectors of the economy.

Most current approaches to energy and carbon emissions management involve “after the event” interventions (carbon trading, carbon taxes, etc.) while what is needed are ways of preventing excessive energy and carbon bearing fuels from entering the economy in the first place. The city region could experiment with setting resource input caps, on an indicative basis at first, with a view to seeking powers to make them mandatory. This might be combined with a scheme where citizens get individual carbon-cap-related allowances which they can trade – a redistributive mechanism5.

Investing in the two elements of “power down” and “power up” could create considerable employment6, the wages for which would also be spent locally into the regional economy – the “multiplier effect”.

1.2 Fossil fuel replacement

Policy 1.21: Replace, within 5 years, 50%, and in 10 years, 100% of electricity used in the city region with alternatives that are, a) zero carbon, b) locally produced, c) community owned.

The thinking behind it:

Electricity generation accounts for 37% of Greater Manchester’s carbon emissions7, so by “powering up” clean, renewable energy, business, public and third sector organisations can make a huge impact by preferentially sourcing their electricity from these sources.

  • There are already options in the existing energy market, but more can be done to stimulate these replacement power sources through establishment of local power generation (wind, solar, geothermal and micro-hydro).

  • Already there are community owned initiatives such as Stockport hydro and the installation of solar panels on social housing but the examples of Germany and Denmark show us that there could be far more installation and crucially that this could be owned and managed by communities, returning the profits to the local economy.

  • There have also been schemes for the collective tendering of supply contracts for domestic consumers, facilitated by local authorities but these have been limited in ambition, concerned solely with price reduction. There need to be innovative tariffs that disincentivise higher levels of consumption.

  • There is already a proposal to establish a local supply company (along the lines of the Nottinghamshire model8). This could go hand in hand with the review of existing contracts of public sector with dominant energy companies, and help for community energy schemes to access affordable start-up finance and a market.

See also section 3 below, Divest from fossil fuels.

Policy 1.22: GMCA to work with organisations across GM to plan the replacement of fossil fuels in accordance with its climate commitments.

The thinking behind it:

Fossil fuel consumption also needs to be phased out in other sectors of the region’s activity. Greater Manchester has committed to the Compact of Mayorsvoluntary action to reduce the carbon footprint and make the most of the area’s energy and resources”. As Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, GM Lead Member for Environment put it,

There is no time to waste, our area and planet must be protected for future generations.9

Yet while cities like Copenhagen plan to be carbon neutral by 202510, Greater Manchester lags behind, not having gone beyond the scientifically inadequate national goal of 80% by 2050 and the very vague “40% reduction between 2005 and 2030”. Nevertheless, 7 of Greater Manchester’s authorities have committed to eliminating fossil fuels by 2050 as part of a 100% clean energy pledge11. Taking into account the lower starting point, in comparison with Copenhagen (we have little District heating and primitive cycle infrastructure, for example), GMCA could nevertheless reasonably establish an ambitious target to eliminate fossil fuels over the next 15 years. In addition to contributing to the avoidance of yet more severe climate change, this would have a major impact on the region’s air quality. An IPPR paper on a Zero Carbon London provides some pointers12.

1.3 Affordable low energy housing

Policy 1.3: An ambitious programme to refurbish, extend, re-purpose, rebuild social and affordable, low energy housing.

The thinking behind it:

Elsewhere13 we set out the following principles for housing in the viable economy:

  • Everyone should have secure access to adequate, truly affordable housing throughout their life, providing the basis for living well through promoting stability, physical and mental health, and strong communities. Adequate housing has sufficient space and amenities and is free from damp or structural defects.
  • In order to stabilise housing markets and promote equitable distribution, new housing should be built only to meet housing needs and not as investment.
  • New and existing homes should be designed to be carbon neutral during construction and use, and residents should empowered to use energy as efficiently as possible.
  • Wherever possible, better use should be made of existing buildings rather than building new homes. Agricultural land, green belts and flood plains should be protected from development.
  • Everyone should be able to live in neighbourhoods with a healthy environment and good access to public transport, services, work opportunities and green spaces for recreation and production.

With regard to the retrofitting and refurbishment of existing housing, a good place to start is the GM Housing Retrofit Strategy, prepared by Urbed and Carbon Co-op14. It proposes a target of 17kg CO2/m2. As Carbon Coop propose in their response to the GM Spatial Framework, this strategy should be formally adopted by GMCA. A key recommendation is that “90% of housing stock to be at Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating B, and 17 kg/CO2 per m2 by 2035. with the remaining 10% of homes achieving a minimum of EPC band C.”

1.4 Strengthen the Region’s Green Economy

Policy 1.4: In keeping with the official economic model, promote and support the development of the green economic sector, especially renewables and energy saving products.

The thinking behind it:

We have advocated for a “Replacement Economy” – the new or expanded sectors that would take the place of the most environmentally and socially damaging sectors. However, this idea also aligns with the GMCA’s current Priority 12, “Seizing the growth potential of a low carbon economy”. We turn the idea on its head. Rather than promoting the low carbon economy in order to facilitate economic “growth”, it is vital that this is done for its own merit. In so doing, there is scope for re-establishing the region as a manufacturing centre, which in itself will contribute to climate risk reduction by reducing shipping emissions. We are not against growth in these sectors of the economy, so long as the overall material scale of the economy is scaled down to a sustainable scale15. It will also help provide good quality jobs for Greater Manchester’s people.

The recommendations in the foregoing policies will all contribute to this aim, as will some of those below. Greater Manchester’s low carbon and environmental goods and services (LCEGS) sector made sales worth £5.4billion in 2013. However, to expand on this requires clarity about the sectors that will provide the best returns, not just in terms of profits (essential as they are for viability) but for incomes and environmental impacts. Some work has been done on the opportunities for what is the UK’s third largest regional LCEGS sector16, but more needs doing, in the context of competitive production in low wage economies, to prioritise this area and support the industry, especially its SME’s17 (which give a greater return to the regional economy than big corporates).

1.5 Contain and reduce aviation and private motoring.

Policy 1.51: Freeze the expansion of the airport and flight numbers, set aviation reduction targets by phased reduction of flights and setting a date to close one of the two runways.

The thinking behind it:

Unregulated carbon emissions from the aviation sector are the fastest growing source of the greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to global climate change18”. For the UK, emissions from aviation made up some 6% of total emissions in 2014. Since 1990, aviation emissions have doubled. As the Committee on Climate Change notes, “It is important that decisions about UK airport capacity are consistent with the UK’s commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050, as set out in the Climate Change Act.“19, but expansion of aviation will make it very difficult to meet even the inadequate 2050 emission reduction targets20. As Manchester climate scientists, Larkin et al. have shown21, “Limited opportunities to further improve fuel efficiency, slow uptake of new innovations, coupled with anticipated rises in demand across continents collectively present a huge challenge to aviation in cutting emissions.” They also draw attention to the risk of aviation investments becoming “stranded assets” should serious climate change mitigation action be taken. Our proposal is for minimum actions required if the city region is serious about playing its part in reducing climate change.

Policy 1.52: Make plans to reduce the economic dependence of GM local authorities on revenues from the Manchester Airport Group. Initiate an award and incentive scheme for not flying.

The thinking behind it:

The airport makes a contribution to the City Region’s economy. While that contribution is usually overstated22, with, for example, income from the airport contributing maybe 1% to local authority funding, there is a condition of dependency on aviation because of the many jobs provided by the airport and by associated industries, even while the airport acts as a conduit for financial flows out of the region23. A comprehensive framework therefore needs to be drawn up to replace aviation as a key link in the region’s economy, involving re-purposing of land and buildings, and harnessing the developing replacement economy to provide part of the alternative. We can learn from the failure to plan for industrial alternatives in previous phases of sectoral decline and fall (for example the cotton and mining industries) and from proposals to create alternatives to the extractivist sectors in the Global South24.

Outline of the steps to reduce Greater Manchester’s reliance on aviation and its aviation emissions footprint. Solid red arrows = sequence of steps; dashed Red arrows = economic pathways; Blue arrows = emissions reduction pathways.

Policy 1.53: Radically reduce the use of private cars in urban areas.

The thinking behind it:

This could involve a car parking levy on employers, taking car parks out of use, congestion charging and using the proceeds to fund public transport and pedestrian/cycle infrastructure, work with employers to establish inverse mileage allowance tariffs (e.g. more money for smaller cars, no payments for short journeys, decreasing rate as mileage increases).

…Greater Manchester is a car-dependent city. …. The current dominance of drive-to-work commuting is obvious, even if we focus on radial commutes into Manchester City from the outer boroughs….But [excluding Salford-Manchester] 60-70% of the commutes in to Manchester City are by car.”25

The result is a city and region choked by cars. Suburban centres and residential areas are choked. Cycling is unpleasant due to having to share with cars and lorries. Air quality is poor and greenhouse gas emissions are high. Public transport is poorly coordinated and suffers poor investment. Investment choices have been questionable: while convenient for those areas that have it, Metrolink was probably not the best choice to bring clean efficient transport quickly to as many people as possible and it has made little or no impact on non-radial travel. Moreover fares are prohibitive for a significant part of the population.

To make a real difference there needs to be a combination of wise investment in cost-effective and low emission public transport and infrastructure to encourage cycling and walking, together with strong incentives to switch from car use and disincentives to use cars. At the same time there needs to be action to reduce demand to travel. Our proposals illustrate some practical steps that can be taken26.

1.6 Help people make low carbon choices.

Policy 1.61: Offer structured help and incentives so people can choose lower carbon options for heating and travelling.

The thinking behind it:

This could be via subsidised energy survey and supplier accreditation services or by brokerage of job swaps across the region to specifically reduce commuter time and miles.

It is generally recognised that the transition to a lower energy and zero carbon alternative will require a combination of public policy and action from all sectors (public, private, civil) and from citizens themselves27. However, it is a fallacy to think that the transition is in the hands of individuals. People can and will make ethical choices if those options are available and are attractive to them. For some products and services (for example domestic heating and energy-saving) the decisions are not straightforward but require surveys, analysis and appraisal of options28. For other decisions, people need help to make relevant contacts and the support of organisations that employ, house, or otherwise serve them (as in the example of swapping similar jobs to reduce travel time, costs, demand on transport and emissions).

To be continued – but if you can’t wait: download it here. You can also see out policies page HERE and our publications page HERE.


2He has reiterated this argument 10 years on from the original report: Where we do agree with him is in the emphasis on the critical role of cities in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

3See our work on this issue here:

4See Centre for Alternative Technology. (2013). Zero Carbon Britain: Rethinking the Future. Wales: Centre for Alternative Technology Publications. Retrieved from

5Davey, B. (Ed.). (2012). Sharing for Survival. Dublin: FEASTA. Also

6Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group (2014) One Million Climate Jobs: Tackling the Environmental and Economic Crises.

7Based on data from, GMCA (2016) Change and Low Emissions Implementation Plan (2016-2020). p. 17

8Nottinghamshire Community Energy.

9GMCA (2016) Greater Manchester has come together with cities around the world to join the fight against climate change. Webbsite news item.

10Gerdes, E (2013) Copenhagen’s Ambitious Push To Be Carbon Neutral by 2025 Yale Environment 360.

11GMCA (2016) Change and Low Emissions Implementation Plan (2016-2020). p. 19.

12IPPR (2015) Zero-Carbon London: a plan for the next mayoral term.

14URBED / Carbon Co-op (2016) Greater Manchester Low Carbon Housing Retrofit Strategy (Discussion Draft).

15Steady State Manchester (2013) Good and bad growth. (Blog post.)

16See Pro-Manchester web page on the Green Economy. and Seagrave, H. (2014) Powering Greater Manchester: how will we fuel our future? . New Economy Working Paper NEWP 010.

17Steady State Manchester (2016) Are small firms getting a good deal in Greater Manchester? (blog post)

18World Wildlife Fund (2014) Nobel Prize Winners to ICAO: Carbon Emissions Have a Cost. (Press Release.)

19Committee on Climate Change (2016) UK aviation emissions must be consistent with UK climate change commitments, CCC says. (News release).

20The Aviation Environment Federation (2015) Infographic: Why airport expansion risks the UK’s climate change commitments.

21Bows-Larkin, A., et al. (2016). Aviation and Climate Change-The Continuing Challenge. In R. Blockley & W. Shyy (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Aerospace Engineering (pp. 1–11). Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. AND

22Steady State Manchester (2013) The supposed economic benefit of aviation expansion. (blog post)

23Wood, F., Bows, A and Anderson, K. (2012) Policy Update: A one-way ticket to high carbon lock-in: the UK debate on aviation policy, Carbon Management, 3:6, 537-540,

24Gudynas, E. (2012) Hay alternativas al extractivismo: transiciones para salir del viejo desarrollo. [There are alternatives to extractivism: transitions to exit from the old development {model].] CEPES/RedGE, Lima.

25Folkman, P., Froud, J., Johal, S., Tomaney, J., & Williams, K. (2016). Manchester Transformed: Why we need a reset of city region policy (CRESC Public Interest Report) (p. 61). Manchester: Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC), University of Manchester.

26Further and more ambitious suggestions can be found at Burton, M. (2009). A Green Deal for the Manchester-Mersey Bioregion: An Alternative Regional Strategy. Manchester. p.10-12.

27See e.g. Manchester Climate Change Agency

28London’s “Green Homes Concierge” scheme is a good example

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How many homes do we need in Greater Manchester, and where?

It has been argued that Greater Manchester has a choice. Either build on the green belt and have more high-rise in the city centre, or have insufficient new homes for an expanding population. Let’s examine this claim.

View this as a pdf.

The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) suggested that there was a need to build 227,200 new homes over 20 yrs or 11,360 per year (according to its favoured “Accelerated growth scenario”).

The CPRE commissioned an independent demographer who concluded, having corrected for errors like double counting, that “The Housing Target should be 9,894 dwellings per annum, 197,885 over the 20-year plan period. This includes a 5% buffer and is in line with past delivery and within the ten Local Authorities’ current five year land supplies.”

So here is the GMSF projection:


Total Requirement

Average Annual Requirement

Houses (%)

Flats (%)



















































Total for GM





GM Spatial Framework: Table 8.1 Housing requirement

A simple revision of the above table to the CPRE projection, with population estimates corrected would be as follows.


Total Requirement

Average Annual Requirement

Houses (%)

Flats (%)



















































Total for GM





What about empty homes? The current number of vacant homes in Greater Manchester: is more than 11,000. This would still suggest a need for new build to keep place with demographic change.

Since in GMSF, 72% (163,584) of new home construction is on brownfield sites, therefore 63,616 on Greenfields, these CPRE figures would imply 34,301 on Greenfield sites, other things being equal (i.e. using the figure of 163,584 built on Brownfields which GMSF believes feasible).

But are other things equal? “Previously local authorities across Greater Manchester achieved between 80%-90% brownfield development.” (CPRE) Applying this range to the GMSF target would mean 181,760 to 204,480 on Brownfields and 45,440 to 22,720 on Greenfield sites.

Assuming that these higher levels on brownfield sites could be achieved (and there is evidence of under-identification of brownfield sites) and then applying them to the downwardly revised total target this would mean a Brownfield shortfall of 16,125 units (at 80%) or a surplus of 6,595 homes (at 90%).

None of this takes into account the option of increased medium-rise development. This is a “missing element” in UK cities, which sprawl considerably more than their continental counterparts. See Stuart MacDonald’s discussion (video and slides from 1hr:36m) at Manchester council for this argument. The “missing in-between” is a key flaw in the argument put forward by Manchester’s leader Sir Richard Leese, that there is a simple choice between high rise in the city centre or green belt sprawl.


If we combine,

1) corrected population projections,

2) feasibly higher levels of brownfields construction,

3) more medium rise construction (i.e. greater density, both new build and building up from existing stock/foundations),

then there is likely to be no need to build on green fields.


CPRE (2017) Response to the Draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.

GMCA (2016) Draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.

Manchester Evening News (14 October, 2016) More than 11,000 empty homes in Greater Manchester.

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Policies for the City Region – serialised: Part 1, setting the scene

Here we begin a serialisation of out report, Policies for the City Region.  This installment explains what we are trying to do, and the essentials of our Viable Economy approach.  It also gives a preview of what will follow.  But if you can’t wait: download it here. You can also see out policies page HERE and our publications page HERE.

Policies for the City Region

This is a contribution from Steady State Manchester to the debate about policies for the city region.

We are a group working out how best to respond here to

  • environmental challenges including climate change, resource depletion and damage to the environment
  • deep-seated social problems including poverty, social deprivation and fragmentation
  • economic problems including debt, unemployment, austerity and instability

These issues need to be tackled nationally and globally as well here in our region where we can “take back control” and devise our own solutions.

It’s a huge task and we don’t have all the answers. We’ve borrowed and built on ideas from Manchester and all over the world. We do know that we can’t carry on with business as usual. Economic growth, as conventionally understood, is part of the problem, not part of the solution. The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) plans contain some good ideas but will not create the fundamental shifts we need to reduce our massive carbon footprint. Nor will they put local people in control and reduce inequalities.

These practical proposals for Greater Manchester are relevant to the new GM Mayor and the local authorities but perhaps more so to everyone who lives or works in Greater Manchester. They cover money, work, enterprise, housing, caring for each other, democracy, inequalities and the strengths of communities as well as energy and the environment. We set out specific policy proposals here, and also refer to other documents we have produced setting out detailed policies, or in some cases those of other organisations. In every case we explain our thinking.


A Viable Greater Manchester

The Policies: Treading lightly for shared prosperity

1. An energy transition: less energy, clean energy.

2 A sustainable and affordable food supply and distribution network

3 Divest from fossil fuels.

4. Anchor institutions

5. Economic localisation

6 Finance

7 National redistribution

8 Jobs and income

9 Community

A Viable Greater Manchester

We base our approach on our framework, The Viable Economy1, which identifies an alternative set of values and principles for a seamless economic, social, political, cultural and ecological framework.

Key features of the Viable Economy:

Economically viable

  1. An economy that is resilient in the face of bubbles, crashes, supply chain interruptions and the whim of National governments.

  2. More money staying local and more democratic and local control over savings and investment.

  3. An economy that delivers (and measures) what we need rather than growth for growth’s sake.

  4. A balanced economy without the hyper-development of some sectors (e.g. financial speculation, armaments).

  5. An economy that does not have to keep expanding, although where some sectors will grow,(e.g. renewable energy) and some must shrink (e.g. fossil fuels).

  6. Where needed investment comes from within rather than from exploitation of other peoples or as profit-seeking from external investors.

Socially viable

  1. Control over the economy rather than the economy controlling us.

  2. An economy that relies on and builds equality, solidarity and cooperation among people, here and elsewhere.

  3. An economy that rather than increasing inequality, progressively becomes more equitable.

  4. Less exploitation of the majority world while keeping open channels for communication and learning globally.

  5. An economy founded on stewardship of human and social capital, that does not waste people’s energies and talents, that includes everyone.

  6. With an increased space for non-commercial transactions: the collaborative or solidarity economy.

Ecologically viable

  1. Radically reducing both the exploitation of finite resources and the emission of pollutants, including greenhouse gases: a one-planet economy.

  2. Based on production and consumption for need: a frugal abundance.

  3. More security for us all because the environment is protected from further destruction.

  4. Resilient to climatic and other ecological shocks.

  5. An economy that practices stewardship of the natural world that we depend on.

The Policies: Treading lightly for shared prosperity

This diagram gives a snapshot of

  • our key themes (section titles outside the circle in bold) and
  • how we want to pursue them (inside the circle).


… be continued, or if you want it now, download here:

You can also see out policies page HERE and our publications page HERE.

1 Steady State Manchester (2014) The Viable Economy.

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