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Daily Mail rubbish

Jonathan Schofield discovers secrets and lies in the Council cuts debate

Written by . Published on February 17th 2011.


Daily Mail rubbish

Manchester Confidential read the Daily Mail on the weekend because of their council bashing article (click here) and smelt a rat. Which wasn’t that unusual.

But something about the article by Tozer and Amory didn’t seem quite right.

It had the longest title in journalistic history (Manchester Council is closing libraries, swimming pools and public toilets, blaming 'Tory cuts'. But what about the PC non-jobs they won't scrap?) and went on about politicking but couldn’t help doing exactly that itself. In spades.

So we went digging ourselves and found some facts and figures of our own. Manchester City Council has many faults, as does every large organisation, but at Confidential we felt that the one-sided attack from the Mail needed balance. This, in a way, is the city's right to reply as researched by us. Judge for yourselves.

So here are the Mail statements with our information about the same points beneath.

Daily Mail: Labour leader, Sir Richard Leese, has even authorised spending money on a poster campaign to blame central ¬government, arguing ‘the message we will put out is that the reason we are having to make these decisions is because of central government cuts’.

Manchester Confidential info: The supposed campaign is a myth, there will be no posters putting out that message. Nor can we find an attribution for the inverted commas quotation to back this up.

Daily Mail: Yet Manchester receives annual funding of £714 for every person living in the city, a very generous amount that is easily the highest in the region (it compares with a measly £324 in next-door Trafford). In total, the ¬council employs more than 23,000 people and has a whopping £1.65 billion to spend.

Manchester Confidential info: The council employs 10,000 people and spends around £650m not 23,000 people and £1.65bn respectively. Perhaps what the Mail have conveniently forgotten is that the costs associated with schools are never used when measuring council spending.

Daily Mail: But like many other local authorities around Britain, the city has an expansive, well-paid bureaucracy that could be pared back with no significant impact on basic services. Last year it employed 156 people on more than £50,000 a year. Chief executive, Sir Howard Bernstein, earned £232,000 including pension contribution — an increase of more than 30 per cent in the past five years — and nine other senior executives were paid more than £100,000.

Manchester Confidential info: There are 153 people on more than £50,000 - 1.5% of staff (staff on more than £100k represent 0.001%of the total wage bill). The Coalition have said that no individual in the public sector should earn more than 20 times that of its lowest paid member of staff. The city is within those boundaries. Nor is Sir H the highest paid Chief Executive in the country while he has proved one of the most effective, being lauded at home and abroad for helping direct the improvements in Manchester, certainly for business, in the last couple of decades. Given the industry standard then he's probably paid about right for his experience and his achievements. Still a gesture in the direction of a voluntary reduction wouldn’t be amiss in the circumstances.

Daily Mail: Indeed, if Mr Bernstein took a 10 per cent pay cut, in recognition of how much his pay has rocketed in recent years, and the other nine took a modest 5 per cent cut, almost enough would be saved to retain one of the five libraries facing closure.

Manchester Confidential info: According to the figures we’ve seen such a reduction might amount to 0.04% of the £109m cuts the council need to find this year, and of the £170m in 2012. The gripe about the wages is perhaps the only strong point – an emotional one - made by the Mail but the result would be tiny. As stated above the symbolism of a voluntary cut or at least a holding of the wages of Sir H and the others, would be impressive though.

Daily Mail: And councillors themselves, given that they are supposed only to be paid nominal sums for their work, are absurdly expensive to run. ¬Manchester has 96 members who last year received allowances totalling £1.97million — average £20,515 each. The highest was leader Sir Richard Leese on £55,400.

Manchester Confidential info: Given the faff, the committees and other duties they have and more importantly, the fact they represent local democracy then £20k average is not huge. The basic allowance is £15k. £50k plus is really very little given the responsibility for the well-being of almost half a million souls within Sir Richard’s remit.

Daily Mail: A cut of just over 12.5 per cent here could save one of the three leisure centres facing the axe.

Manchester Confidential info: It would make around 0.1% of the savings needed to make. The council make the valid point that the wage ideas from the Mail don’t even amount to a single percentage point of the cuts.

Daily Mail: And then there is the plethora of non-essential jobs which mushroomed in number and salary under a decade of Labour. As we demonstrate above, many of the posts that have been - created appear dispensable in these times of austerity. If the council has to make 2,000 redundancies, surely it is these jobs that should be cut first.

Manchester Confidential info: This is a political point, one person’s pointless job is another person’s proof of a socially aware society. As for the job cuts, the City has a voluntary programme of redundancy and restructuring. Finally it should be noted that 41% of the jobs going will be in management.

Daily Mail: An analysis of jobs advertised and filled by Manchester in the last two years identifies sufficient potential savings to reprieve all the threatened libraries and swimming pools.

Manchester Confidential info: Even if this were the case, this analysis still amounts to around 0.5% of the cuts that need to be made.

Daily Mail: Does the city really need a - climate change officer, a Twitter and Facebook tsar, a nuclear researcher, a corporate lead officer on lesbian issues AND a corporate lead officer on gay men’s issues more than it needs librarians, swimming pool attendants and lollipop ladies?

Manchester Confidential info: Apparently there is no Twitter and Facebook tsar and never has been. There’s a small contribution to the nuclear free city jobs. The climate change officers roles includes lowering the cost of energy which is intended to deliver a substantial cost saving while the lead officers remit in gay and lesbian issues is only part of those officers' remits.

Daily Mail: The Tories allege that Manchester City Council doesn’t want the cuts to seem manageable. First, they say it would make the Coalition’s political point for them, proving that there is plenty of fat in the public sector that can easily be cut.

And second, the bureaucrats charged with making the cuts will never abolish their own jobs and those of their close colleagues until every other option has been taken.

Manchester Confidential info: Again, with 41% of the cuts from management, this is an argument that quickly falls down.

Daily Mail: Neighbouring Trafford Council — which is Tory controlled — is showing how cuts can be sympathetically implemented. They are also being forced to make dramatic savings this year, but 83 per cent of their cuts will come from efficiencies that have no effect on front-line services.

Manchester Confidential info: This is a strange comparison as Manchester is the fourth-poorest council area in the country, Trafford is 238 places higher up – Manchester is so low because it is in effect the expanded inner urban area for Greater Manchester as a whole, largely comprised of poor wards.
The council has pointed out the following two points to us, the first of which is political.
‘1) Manchester's Supporting People grant, which helps the most vulnerable people in our society stay in their homes - thus meaning they cost the state less - has been cut by central government by 35%. That represents £12.6m. Why has it been cut? Because the government is redistributing the Supporting People money and giving more money to more well-off councils. So while Manchester is being cut by 35%, Trafford is getting a 4% increase - that's almost a quarter of a million pounds extra.
‘2) Trafford has followed Manchester. We have made £55m efficiency savings over the past two years. Trafford recently recruited a director of transformation (whose job it is to drive efficiencies within the council).’

Daily Mail: They are cutting back managers, using volunteers to deliver some library services, and even selling the Mayor’s personalised number plate.

Manchester Confidential info: The facts once more, 41% of the jobs going will be management. Since 17% of the council's staffing is management, it needs to cut 25% over the next two years. The core functions such as back office, finance, HR, communications, are being cut by 35%, so in both management and the back office the cuts are proportionately much higher.

Daily Mail: Manchester, by contrast, won’t even consider saving money by sharing some services with neighbouring councils (unlike more ¬innovative local authorities around Britain) and has flatly refused to countenance selling Manchester City Football ground, which it owns, to the fabulously wealthy premiership club for upwards of £200 million.

Manchester Confidential info: Manchester is appears has often led the way in sharing services and, in fact, does all the procurement for Greater Manchester authorities because it has a reputation as a good deal breaker – within a council context. Legal services are shared with Salford. Further sharing and the setting up of the infrastructures that allows such sharing – the council argues – have been victims of the cuts and their front-loading.

Daily Mail: That single sale could have delivered all the savings being asked of the city, but its council stands accused of deliberately damaging its services to m¬ake a political point.

Manchester Confidential info: Any sale of Eastlands would result in an 86% payback to Sport England who paid most of the original building work. The council would also lose the £3m a year they are guaranteed from City. Also estate management in Eastlands would have to be paid out. The result would be a cost to Manchester.

Daily Mail: The real tragedy of all this cynical politicking is that it achieves nothing but to inflict suffering on ordinary taxpayers — the very people Manchester Council is supposed to represent and protect.

Manchester Confidential info: Well it would be cynical politicking if it were all true and the ‘facts’ the Daily Mail unearth were all grounded in reality. As they aren’t then it would seem most of the politicking comes from the Mail with its constant tone of affronted hackery and its reference to the one nearby Tory council of Trafford – who may or may not have wanted to be compared and contrasted with Manchester in this way.

The journalists here were plainly told by the editor to get a story that attacked Manchester City Council, a Labour council, and they did. Shame that most of their facts don’t hold up, or their suggestions when added up amount to a drop in the ocean.

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38 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

HBiffFebruary 15th 2011.

Good work ManCon, facts rather than propaganda. Who gives the public better value for money - Richard Leese on his 50k or, millionaire Samantha Cameroon's personal stylist, Isabel Spearmen?

Mancunian Exile in SalfordFebruary 15th 2011.

Brilliant. Best thing I've read in a long time.
Now you just need to send this to the Mail and see what their response is.

Mancunian Exile in SalfordFebruary 15th 2011.

Just to clarify, when I said "best thing I've read in a long time", I don't mean just on ManCon, I mean when compared to a lot of output on other websites and newspapers.

Jonathan Schofield - editorFebruary 15th 2011.

Mancunian exile - I'm currently on to them most days asking the question why do they hate the BBC move to Manchester region so much, don't they want their NW readers to share London jobs?

Hero
George PoultonFebruary 15th 2011.

This is an excellent piece of journalism

GuidoChampionFebruary 15th 2011.

More of this stuff please

Christopher BryanFebruary 15th 2011.

Great piece. Councils and others who are attacked without balance should have a permanent outlet for responding to this tripe. Unfortunately this isn't there at the moment. I hate to think how much time and expense the Council will have gone to, in order to answer all this too.

Speak Up ThenFebruary 15th 2011.

So how come we haven't seen Sir Richard Leese on the "national" media (BBC Newsnight etc) DEFENDING Manchester from these supposedly erroneous allegations (direct from the heart of Tory central office, presumably) then? Where is he hiding?
Well the BBC, Sky & ITN devote enough air-time to Boris Johnson interviews, don't they?

JimFebruary 15th 2011.

Very nice piece. However, a couple of questions--
'Twitter Tsar'. I know the official line is that there isn't one, but MCC DID advertise for a 'Media Communications Manager' who had as their main job managing social media. One might argue this is important in the modern world, but its not that far from a 'twitter tsar' so denying the existence of one is slightly disingenuous.

Secondly, on the jobs. Where do you get your figure of MCC employing 10,000 people from? In 2008, according to their then Comms Manager, they had 26,000 employees:
www.idea.gov.uk/idk/core/page.do?pageId=7831769…
The figure mostly quoted now is 24,000. Where does your figure come from? There's some interesting number-manipulation going on here so the council can make a political point (they claim 17% of employees to go). I suspect the 'arms length' workers (in housing for instance) and the teachers aren't being included in the lower figure. However, as long as the comparison with Traffod is like-for-like (ie also including these arms length workers and the costs associated with them), your correction is an attempt to massage the stats, as the comparison is valid.

To be strictly accurate, rather than 'ManCon info' you should have used 'MCC response'. Excellent to see this analysis however.

Hero
Smyth HarperFebruary 15th 2011.

Jim, happy to give some clarity on the fantasy Twitter tsar role.

The council did not advertise a media communications manager whose main role was to manage social media. It is simply not true. We have never advertised such a role, and don't have such a role.

We do have a new media manager, but then most organisations do. His primary responsibility is the council's website, which is important as it saves us an absolute fortune for people to carry out transactions with us online rather than face-to-face. The average online transaction is a couple of pence. The average face-to-face is something like £15.

The primary responsibility for social media lies with the press office - which is why I'm posting this comment and not our new media manager!

On staffing, MCC does employ, roughly, 10,000 people. This does exclude schools, but any sensible discussion about local government roles and financing does exclude schools. Their budgets and staffing are ringfenced. The 2,000 job losses, for example, apply only to council employees and not school workers. I can confirm that the comparisons with Trafford used by Mancon are like-for-like. They are also correct.

Speak up then - off the top of my head, I know that Sir Richard has over the past week conducted broadcast interviews with: Sky News, BBC News Channel, BBC News at Six, BBC North West Tonight, BBC Radio 4 PM programme, BBC Radio Five Live Drivetime, ITV News, ITV Granada Reports, Channel 4 News, BBC Radio Manchester, Key 103, Wythenshawe FM and Real Radio. There are probably others, so he hasn't been quiet! Newsnight didn't ask. Other members of Manchester City Council's executive, including the finance lead Cllr Bernard Priest have also conducted several broadcast interviews.

Hope that's of help.

Smyth Harper
Head of News
Manchester City Council

JimFebruary 15th 2011.

Thanks for that Mr Harper.

Two points. If you didn't ever advertise for a 'Media Communciations Manager', how does a quick google reveal from a tech jobs site...
http://bit.ly/dJugfi

Someone obviously advertised the role.

But thanks for confirming that the Mail's comparison WAS valid. Of course schools and teachers shouldn't be included, but when making a comparison between councils, having the base-figures being consistent is what's important.

And shows Trafford spends at(including teachers) half per head of population the level that Manchester does. And that Manchester (again including teachers) has one council employee for every twenty residents.

Hero
Smyth HarperFebruary 15th 2011.

Respectfully Jim, what you said was that we advertised for a media manager whose main role was social media. This is incorrect. We never advertised for such a role. The role you refer to in your second post is the same one I am referring to in my post - our new media manager.

Patrick SudlowFebruary 15th 2011.

Manchester City is one of the most deprived areas with high rates of truancy, teenage pregnancy and unemployment after over a decade of a Labour Government and decades of a Labour controlled council. It has been the constant misspending of the council which has resulted in this deprivation and hundreds of empty flats, retail units and office blocks. As for the Climate Change Manager reducing energy, look around at night at council property and you can see the waste.

Pirate BearFebruary 15th 2011.

Nice article. The Daily Mail is a paper for life-hating boggle-eyed idiots who wear Nylon trousers and driving gloves. It has as much interest in the truth as Kerry Katona has in nuclear physics.

Speak Up ThenFebruary 15th 2011.

Thanks Smyth.
Yes I was referring to (having a pop at) the London centric "national" TV news media (not the local media, plus interviews, not snippets) – and in particular wanting to see Sir Richard DEFEND Manchester from these "supposedly erroneous allegations" that Shapps, Pickles, Tory central office (even Cameron yesterday) and the Tory right wing press are "still" putting about.
But if you're saying he's done that, then I must have missed those “national interviews” and apologise. I did see the Richard Kemp, Grant Shapps piece on Newsnight – but can´t understand why they wouldn´t "now" have Sir Richard Leese on (live) to answer these "continuing" Tory allegations directed against Manchester?? (Heck, Paxman's buddy the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is regularly interviewed on Newsnight about sod all really.)

AnonymousFebruary 15th 2011.

My wife is currently one of the many council staff having to reapply for their jobs, which is a shame after 30 years service to the council. I must say I was suprised when she told me the last question she was asked in her interview was "what department do you work in at the moment?" How the hell can you interview someone who has worked for your organisation for so long and not even have checked their personnel file? If this happened in the private sector there would be hell to pay. From what I can gather this whole shake up of the staff is being grossly miss handled with many long serving and dedicated staff members being left to feel totally unvalued and depressed. This is not the Con/Dems fault-its the fault of inept handing of the situation by council staff!

D KesslerFebruary 15th 2011.

Good article ManCon. But I have got to raise one point: if the annual 'lease' of Eastlands is a mere £3m, but in the books it worth say £180m, then something's not right with the rent/value ratio...any chance of just increasing their rent?

Citizen Eddy KaneFebruary 15th 2011.

Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Kevin peelFebruary 15th 2011.

Great to see ManCon sticking up for Manchester against this onslaught from the right-wing media (fed by the government) who are - outrageously - trying to claim that Labour councils are politicising these cuts. When you're being forced to cut £280 million in 2 years, there are no choices.

Excellent work ManCon!

Chris PaulFebruary 15th 2011.

Excellent piece ManCon. The COMS question is very interesting. This was raised by a Greater Manchester MP who is a Lib Dem and a Blue with some ridiculous numbers attached to it. In the Daily Mail league of inexactitudes. I don't know where the £180M book value, if true, comes from but this MP - who has a glorious track record of inexactitude - said £300M. Perhaps the figure encompasses more than stadium itself and/or is the result of some calculation based on the lifetime of the lease (about 191 years to run!). The revenue stream of £3M for just the stadium equates to a much lower capital value even with top ups from cup runs and events. The site cost £80M to develop for the 2002 Games. Which incidentally the opposition tried to stop! It is patently obvious that, as with the Airport, it would be very wrong to sell this asset particularly given the clawback which would go to the very people forcing these unfair cuts on our fair city. Incidentally the other opposition big idea - of 5% wages cuts all round - would end up taking £10 per week from hundreds and hundreds of low paid workers, being frontline workers and workers on whom the greatest cuts - concentrated in higher grades - will not fall. In fact one senior manager going may save about 200 workers from this regressive Lib Dem tax.

Get it signed! http://manchesterpetition.org

Sid Vicious was innocentFebruary 15th 2011.

Daily Hail

AnonymousFebruary 15th 2011.

MCC could raise even more money from COMS if it was in sunny Sydney Australia - like the one in your photo. Just shows its not just the Daily Mail that gets simple stuff wrong - Doh !! EDITORIAL: Oops, changed now. We were perhaps a little to excited. Thanks for letting us know.

AnonymousFebruary 15th 2011.

Got to laugh at that yes come to think of it it doesn't look a lot like Eastlands!

And are we still paying for this "nuclear free city" thing? What's that got to do with local services?

James UFebruary 16th 2011.

Good piece. That the Mail distorts is no news, that so many people appear to believe it is where the horro kicks in

GMSFebruary 16th 2011.

It's good to see that the wheels for so much public & private investment were set in motion before these enforced cut backs.

Media City, The Metrolink extension, the new Co-op H.Q., half a dozen hotels under construction, the Town Hall Extension with Central Library, Whitworth Art Gallery Extension, Maine Place in Moss Side and many others.

These will be tough times, but Manchester is well placed to ride the storm and the City Council deserve considerable credit for this. The Hate Mail will be writing plenty more drivel for the next few years. I'll personally stick to using it as a wee matt for my pet labrador.

Burt CodeineFebruary 16th 2011.

The mail is indeed a viscous, spiteful paper (check out the Media City bile) even if a handful of things mentioned are not a million miles from the truth (I don't personally know).
Yes, I seem to remember the Lib Dems opposing the commonwealth games too. Complete wind up of an idea by Leech (his he a buddy of Bruce Whitaker at Peel?). Of course, there is something happening over at Eastlands which will completely overshadow such daft 'options' (and something else which will help the City ride this storm)...

QUESTION THE LEFT?February 16th 2011.

I Wander why MCC are sat on 100 million pounds of council tax payers money? and the town hall fat cats led by the leader on 232.000 !!! with their super size bureaucracy is still in place ? MANCON never seem to question these things , a shoddy piece of daily mail journalism seems to take priority over the real facts, the fact that the gravy train is coming to end for Manchester CC and many others across the UK , only China is more over governed that the UK, its about time we slimmed back these Councils and its a bit time they looked at where the fat needs to be cut instead of making excuses and playing politics with services and low paid jobs , ditch the daily mail folks get on the internet do your own research and ask your councillor the real questions that they don't want to answer, you know the ones i mean!

AnonymousFebruary 16th 2011.

Can I just point out that a high proportion of the front line services which may be cut go to a transient population who never have and probably never will pay council tax or indeed any tax.
I'm all for helping the vulnerable but the council can't continue to provide services effectively when the target is constantly moving.

daily mail = poisonFebruary 17th 2011.

I;m surprised that the mail didn't manage to squeeze in something about "immigrants taking our jobs" or Princess Diana.

It's a damn poisonous newspaper. Well done ManCon for this excellent article.

John HarrisFebruary 17th 2011.

While the Mail does indeed like to find an anti-immigrant slant to its stories, it is the Express which has the Diana-fixation.

How do you confuse a Daily Mail reader? Tell them that asylum seekers kill paedophiles

AnonymousFebruary 17th 2011.

Can't stand the Daily Mail a nasty piece of work.
Can't say that if they closed down the toilets I'd see much change though, where are they?
Distinct lack of in city centre.

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2011.

The Mail is spot on when it comes to Manchester Council's terrible record on wasting money on non-jobs.

It is a disgrace that the council is sacking useful staff when so many better paid people doing pointless things PC things are allowed to stay on.

The £50,000 plus wage is a red harring. Councils, including Manchester, have hired thousands of people in the relatively omfortable £30,000 to £50,000 wage range over the New Labour spendfest, and most of them are doing nothing useful at all. They are all 'advising', 'planning strategies', or 'facilitating' and the like. We didn't need them pre-1997 and we don't need them now. But they won't be sacked in the same porportion as lower paid council staff, some of whom do actually perform useful tasks.

Like all councils, Manchester council has become a way of providing jobs for the middle class in order to keep them quiet and reasonably happy while lower paid people are treated like dirt.

Simon TFebruary 18th 2011.

Would like to know what the jobs are "doing pointless things PC things (sic)" and what the jobs are that Anonymous considers "useful tasks". Be specific, and don't make up jobs that don't exist. Give us some examples please.

keiththeblueFebruary 18th 2011.

Re: Eastlands - don't forget that City EXCHANGED their Maine Road stadium for Eastlands and the terms of the deal were that they only paid rent on the portion of the crowd over Maine Road's capacity at the time of 35,000 - hence the reasonable rent

I Love the Mail....February 19th 2011.

You really have to love the Mail. It has such a twisted view on the world I actually find it entertaining. Their attempt to categorise (scare us witless on) the topic of cancer is a particular treat! The link below shows the heroic efforts the Mail have gone to in the interests of baffling and misleading. http://kill-or-cure.heroku.com/

AnonymousFebruary 19th 2011.

Simon T, I could give you names of people at Manchester Council who earn good wages but have a workload that is a fraction of what the private sector would expect for the same money.

But I won't.

Let's just say that as someone who worked in the public sector after a long time in the private sector I was appalled at the waste, the underemployment and the culture of entitlement to a laid back and amenable working life in the offices. I was disgusted that I, and most other private sector workers, had worked very hard for years to keep such council workers in an easy life, and that far from being grateful all they did was moan about hard done by they were.

As the partner of a teacher in one of Manchester's many ultra-grim secondary schools I know that many public sector workers work very hard for their cash, but council offices are overstaffed, inefficient and full of time servers with next to nothing to do.

United_We_StandFebruary 21st 2011.

Excellent piece of Mail-rebuttal. We had discussion here at work about unequal battle, big Mail circulation of 2m-plus vs yourselves, but actually you claim 340,000 website hits, not bad at all at all! All Mancs should educate themselves in the facts and figures, knowledge is power, esp if coupled with Egypt-style mass protest, Fight The ConDems and their propaganda-rags!

martFebruary 22nd 2011.

Born and raised in Manchester I'm well aware of the councils MANY faults. Members of my family and friends have worked and some are still employed by the council. I grew up with first hand accounts of waste and crazy the spending of Manchester City Council.
HOWEVER, this is just proganda by a right wing rag and should be dismissed with the contempt it deserves.

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