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Manchester becoming ‘like Life on Mars’

MBS professor claims job cuts are taking the city into a time warp

Published on January 15th 2011.

Manchester becoming ‘like Life on Mars’

A professor from the Manchester Business School claims the 2,000 jobs being axed by the council will leave the city looking like ‘Life on Mars’.

Prof. Colin R. Talbot, professor of public policy and management at the school, said in the Telegraph that poorer Labour controlled areas had lost out, while prosperous Conservative or Lib Dem towns and cities had been given an easier ride.

He also said the fulfilling the council’s claim of no compulsory redundancies would be ‘a big ask’, as it faces up to a £110m budget deficiency.

‘Last September I had dinner with Sir Richard Leese, and at that stage MCC were clearly confident they could weather the impending cuts storm without too much problem,’ he wrote.

‘They had a clear strategy for making the expected cuts, which included a strong involvement of the Unions and staff. They planned to cut back on numbers, but also to invest in the staff that remained to create a more flexible and intelligent workforce.

‘They hoped this and various reorganisations would enable them to protect frontline services, even in the face of an expected 20-25% cut in central government funding.

‘So what has gone wrong? Well, three things. First, the overall cuts package in central government funding to English local authorities turned out to be higher than expected – 29 per cent over four years.

‘Second, cuts to local government have been “front-loaded” – instead of about 7-8 per cent a year for four years, most of the cuts have been squeezed into the first two years, with over 12 per cent cuts in the first year alone.

‘Third, in the name of “localisation” Whitehall has fiddled with the funding streams in a way that alters the distribution of money between councils.

‘So places like Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Richmond, Wokingham, West Sussex and Hampshire all have cuts that amount to only 2-3 per cent in the first two years. Whereas places like Barrow-in-Furness, Burnley, and Bolsover face nearly 20% cuts in the first two years.

‘The Coalition government argues that this is either an accidental effect of changes to the funding allocation mechanisms, or a correction to distortions introduced by Labour.

‘Either way it is objectively true that the losers are mainly councils in poorer, mostly Labour, areas where as most of the relative winners are in more prosperous, mostly Conservative or Lib Dem areas.

‘Intentional or not, the political fall-out could be very bad – especially for the Lib Dems in areas where they are fighting Labour for control of local government.

‘So back to Manchester – according to the city council the expected cuts in 2011-12 of £50m have leapt to £110m as the result of the changes above.

‘The job losses have jumped from 1,200 to 2,000. All their carefully laid, and agreed, plans have gone out the window. The unions are hoping mad, having signed up for a deal that is now in the dustbin.

‘The council say they will still try for no compulsory redundancies, but with 17 per cent of jobs having to go in one year this is a big ask. They also say they can still protect services, but is hard to see how.

‘I left Manchester 30-odd years ago in the last period of prolonged austerity in public finances, and came back just only fairly recently. It’s starting to feel like stumbled into an episode of “Life on Mars”.’

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Auf Wiedersehen PetJanuary 14th 2011.

Same old story boom and bust...

Jason HargreavesJanuary 15th 2011.

Not sure about this prognosis, I think the underlining strength of Manchester's economy should see it through especially with the boost of the BBC visit.

AnonymousJanuary 15th 2011.

Jason, the arrival of the BBC in Salford is a measure of just how bad things are. When the government starts shifting public sector jobs to an area you can be sure it is in a bad way and is probably going to remain in a bad way.

The North East is the best example of this. It is an economic basket case propped up by a huge proportion of public sector employment.

Brian CJanuary 15th 2011.

Professor Talbot sounds like a drama queen. How can he say that after looking at Manchester 30 yrs ago and just coming back recently. That is like TV's'Life On Mars'.
If he cannot see what has been ahieved and soak up the vibrancy. He has no role here.

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