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‘Sometimes all we need is a hug’

Simon Binns assesses the city cuts and where we go from here

Written by . Published on February 10th 2011.

‘Sometimes all we need is a hug’

Parting is such sweet sorrow, and Manchester City Council officially mourned the loss of millions in funding at a sombre meeting yesterday morning.

The mood in the town hall chamber was akin to a wake. Sir Richard Leese, council leader, called the cuts – which will strip £109m from the city’s coffers in 2011 – ‘the worst news Manchester had ever had.’

Cllr Bernard Priest, chief bean counter at Manchester HQ, said the city would be ‘devastated’ by the cuts and plunged into a ‘desperate’ situation. It was ‘a list of disaster.’ And all this before 8.15am.

The assembled crowd was full of voluntary sector workers who have suddenly realised there is simply no money there for them any more. Several trade union reps aired their concerns as the council laid out the cuts one by one.

You can see them in the twitter feed from my time at the meeting here.

One bright moment, when the fire alarm went off during the Powerpoint presentation into how much money we don’t have. “Don’t worry,” said Priest. “We haven’t decided to burn down the town hall as part of the cuts.”

So, what do we know? Manchester is the fourth most deprived local authority in the country, and among the worst five hit by the cuts. The council needs to shed 2,000 jobs, although Leese was hopeful there’d be no compulsory redundancies based on the number of applications received so far.

The council reacted to a newspaper piece that said it had £108m, ‘sloshing around’ in reserves, saying it was a ‘convenient myth’ and although cash was there, it would largely be used to pay for the redundancy programme and pay other bills. Only £20m was uncommitted.

Want some more bad news? We don’t even know what the government is expecting to lay down for the council’s 2013/14 budget. So in 18 months time, we may have to re-jig everything again.

So, Manchester is grieving. There are five stages to that process.

1. Denial and Isolation
At first, Manchester blocked out the presence of a Tory/Lib Dem government. We can do business with anyone, we said. This is a defence mechanism, a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain.

2. Anger
This is where we are now. The government is being unfair; it doesn’t know what it’s doing, or it does and it’s out of order. This is the outpouring of emotion that we struggle to control. According to some website I’ve just found, ‘anger may be aimed at inanimate objects,’ so if you see a council manager shouting at phone box, this is a likely explanation.

3. Bargaining
The need to regain control. How does Manchester do this? We get the private sector to build stuff, hopefully. We press ahead with ideas for the city region, for AGMA, for new development funds and LEPs. We spend in the shops, bars and restaurants and support our local economy.

According to that website again, ‘secretly, we may make a deal with God or our higher power in an attempt to postpone the inevitable.’

Hmm, not sure about that. I’ll probably just cancel Sky Plus.

4. Depression
‘Sometimes all we really need is a hug,’ it says here, which sounds quite nice actually. Maybe the city council should organise a massive civic cuddle? But not ‘an all pile on’. That would be dangerous.

5. Acceptance
‘This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm.’ This may take some time, approximately the same length of time as one term of coalition control over central government, or until the next time we book a holiday.

There are side issues, or course. Sir Howard’s £200k salary, however deserving he/we may feel it is, is starting to become an issue, especially the reluctance to take a pay cut, as other council chief executives have.

The Tories are also back in Manchester for their conference this year, in October. Should be interesting, although I witnessed Leese himself publicly goading Conservative rivals in a fringe meeting last time around, saying that the Tories ‘would never get anywhere near Manchester city council’ because they were so far behind the Lib Dems, who were miles behind Labour themselves. Perhaps that makes it less of a surprise we’ve been marked out. Maybe our political confidence has come back to haunt us.

Whichever way you look at it, if ever Manchester felt moved to prove its resilience, it’s now. We’re all in it together? Maybe. Some more than others.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going for a free wee before they shut all the public toilets down.

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

John HarrisFebruary 9th 2011.

I'm baffled by this comment:

"The assembled crowd was full of voluntary sector workers who have suddenly realised there is simply no money there for them any more."

Why do voluntary workers need public money? I thought the essence of voluntary work is that it's, you know, unpaid?

As someone pointed out yesterday, a charity that relies on state funding is a charity in the same way that a prostitute is a girlfriend.

Eddy BullingdonFebruary 9th 2011.

There is no incentive to go easy on Manchester. It is meaningless to the Tories. Im sure they would gladly see it floated off into the Irish Sea and sunk. These cuts were done out of spite and have nothing to do with deficit reduction.

AnonymousFebruary 9th 2011.

NO 6 Gordon Browns massive uncontrolled spending that left us in this Monster Mess!

Eddy MulderFebruary 10th 2011.

And what proof have you got of that? Or are you just basing it on opinion?

AnonymousFebruary 10th 2011.

Anon, the council has saved £55m over the past two years, and was planning to make £96m of savings over the next two years. The Lib Dems and Tories have nearly doubled that. Gordon Brown really has nothing to do with it.

Richard NashFebruary 10th 2011.

www.hm-treasury.co.uk/national-statistics.htm… will show you that the last government was borrowing 1 pound for very 3 that it spent and one Ed Milliband was Gordon's secretary at the treasury and now bleets like a sheep like many on this site about the justified cuts , do you research and find out , thats why the good people of the UK sacked labour !

M30February 10th 2011.

A novel way for Manchester City Council to raise additional revenue would be to levy a £100 Dining Tax for for each person dining at San Carlo, and imposing an additional £100 tax on entry into Panacea.

Secret SquirrelFebruary 10th 2011.

Don't the owners already do that M30? Oh wait no they apply a big service tax don't they, and still expect us to tip the staff.

AnonymousFebruary 10th 2011.

Are they as rude to all the customers at the new place across the road?

John14798February 10th 2011.

I see that, unsurprisingly, part of the Council's "cunning plan" to raise more revenue includes increasing both the cost and the charging period for parking. This will, of course, damage city centre businesses even further. This doesn't seem to occur to this car hating council, though they only hate people other than themselves using cars as some animals are always more equal than others.
The cuts will, naturally, hit real services such as libraries while the dead wood that is council management will magically reappear in other positions after trousering redundancy payments.

DescartesFebruary 10th 2011.

Why don't they convert the council's private free parking road into pay and display spaces?

It's a central location - and surely that would benefit the city by providing both revenue to the council but also convenience for those of us that end up parking there.

TomegranateFebruary 10th 2011.

Volunteer staff don't get paid for their work, but even people who work for free need to be able to pay for materials, venue hire, utility costs, services, and so on. Your ignorance is annoying - perhaps try educating yourself before bothering to comment?

D KesslerFebruary 11th 2011.

Just read the Council's Capital Budget Programme: £120m for BSF, £104m for central library & town hall project, £20m for Co-op public realm, £19m for Corner House/ Library Theatre relocation, £14m for St Peter's square public realm... crisis, what crisis?

ADFebruary 11th 2011.

Charities use paid managers to co-ordinate the volunteers they have. So one paid co-ordinator might be able to organise 30 volunteers who deliver a service for free.

John HarrisFebruary 11th 2011.

Tomegranate, I was just making the point that if it's paid for by public funds it ain't a charity. Charitable donations can be money as well as time.

And I couldn't give a tuppenny f*ck if my "ignorance" annoys you. Personally I get infuriated by right-on idiots who think there is an unending supply of other people's money to pay for their prejudices

TomegranateFebruary 11th 2011.

No, you weren't 'just' making that point, you were also talking bollocks about whether volunteer work requires funding. "I thought the essence of voluntary work is that it's, you know, unpaid?"
Clear shite.

So much for trying to express oneself mildly and respectfully. If you insist on lowering the tone, allow me to respond in kind: from your posts I think you're an arrogant, ignorant prick who litters this site with your ill-informed, caustic 'contributions' add precicisely naff-all to every story. f*ck off, and don't come back till you've got a clue.


John HarrisFebruary 11th 2011.

Guess we're agreeing to disagree then :)

tomegranateFebruary 11th 2011.


EARLE OF DIDSBURYFebruary 12th 2011.

Maybe the .52 percent of GDP we give in "foreign aid " amounting to 5.5 billion per annum that the british people where never consulted on could be used in the UK for our voluntary sector ?

CEKFebruary 12th 2011.

I think Johnthebrief has some sort of point albeit expressed rather provactively! The Voluntary Sector (or the 'Third Sector') in which I have worked for some time has grown into quite a monster and for many (not all) is a cynical career path choice starting with volunteering for an organisation and then going on to well paid employment within it. We deal with client referrals relating to substance misuse from Criminal Justice, the NHS, GPs, Social Services, self, etc and a our city council supplies much of the funding. We provide a useful service on the whole but are probably an unaffordable luxury as budgets are slashed. Voluntary services should enhance, not replace, state services and be there to provide brief interventions or signposting to 'professional' help.

John14798February 12th 2011.

I worked in a Barnados shop for a while, the unpaid, voluntary staff were lovely however, the salaried "area manager" was an arrogant moron with no clue how to run anything. The charity sector has been hijacked by these tossers, if I give to Barnados I want my contribution to go to looking after children not paying a wage to the otherwise unemployable

John14798February 13th 2011.

So Manchester Council believe that their £110 million cut is politically motivated against the Northern labour council just like the identical cut in Conservative run Suffolk, er, just a minute...
Perhaps it has more to do with Manchester Council's desire to have such vital roles as a Corporate leads officer for lesbians' issues?
Surely it's time for an Egypt style revolt?

no brainerFebruary 13th 2011.

£100m for central library! there's your money...

TickleFebruary 13th 2011.

John, do you have any proof that such a position exists or ever has done?

John14798February 13th 2011.

Tickle - the Sunday Times seem to think so

AnonymousFebruary 13th 2011.

JOHN 14798 is spot on. I also read the ST article. These ridiculous 'posts' were part of a massive cosmetic exercise to create jobs paid for out of shrinking public funds, it's simple and everyone with a shred of honesty will admit it. Of course there must be cuts. Has everyone forgotten the state this country was in before the con-lib coalition. It couldn't go on forever.

CEKFebruary 13th 2011.

JOHN 14798 is spot on. I also read the ST article. These ridiculous 'posts' were part of a massive cosmetic exercise to create jobs paid for out of shrinking public funds, it's simple and everyone with a shred of honesty will admit it. Of course there must be cuts. Has everyone forgotten the state this country was in before the con-lib coalition. It couldn't go on forever.

John14798February 13th 2011.

I just wish that people could get it through their heads that all this nonsense about councils "creating" jobs is just insane. Public bodies don't have money, it's OUR money that they're spending on employing someone to become a disabled elephant liason officer.

time fliesFebruary 13th 2011.

Has it occured to anyone that these 'elephant liaison officer' jobs were created for a purpose? Everyone knew the cuts were coming, the private sector had them TWO YEARS AGO! All the council had to do (TWO YEARS AGO) is inflate the budget to take the expected cut thereafter. They had TWO YEARS!!!

AnonymousFebruary 14th 2011.

Manchester Council are using the excuse of the budget cuts to get rid of swimming pools and leisure centres (plus libraries) that they probably earmarked to get rid of years ago (one in particular being Levenshulme which they wanted to get rid of when they got rid of Gorton Tub)! Notice they are planning on getting rid of any of those in the South of Manchester! Once again Richard Lees decimates facilities for those with the least!

QUESTION THE LEFT?February 16th 2011.

Same old Labour they want more money to waste and now the govt are rolling back their overspending they hate it , cut the fat first !

Simon TFebruary 16th 2011.

The new Tories; big society, small minds. "Once again Richard Lees decimates facilities for those with the least!" even if this was true; when was the last time he did this? "A disabled elephant liason officer"; John 14798, you're hilarious.

QUESTION THE LEFTFebruary 16th 2011.

Your bang on John 14798 the councils , quangos , all of the big state loves to create stupid jobs nobody needs with our hard earned money and that includes the nhs too , its time to pay the nations credit card off Labour that clocked up and roll back the big state and their high wages , its was on this site only months ago that told us they had employed a facebook tsar, i suggest to MCC that one of their 153 people earning over 50,000 per annum should update their facebook site for them!, these silly jobs dont exist in the private sector , these companies are struggling to pay their taxes and deal with all the red tape that the UK and Brussels heaps on them!

Simon TFebruary 16th 2011.

There's no facebook czar, OK??? Why create a straw man to knock down or whatever the phrase is? The amount of money the Government has taken from the Council's budget equals £136 per man, woman, and child in this city. If I came to your house "Question the Left" or whatever you're really called, and said "Oh, there's been a banking crisis, not your fault, but we've come for £136 from you to help pay for it" surely you'd be aggrieved? No, you're apparently applauding, keen to see an end to "silly jobs". What's a silly job? The world is full of silly jobs; what's your job, something so important you can spend all afternoon on ManCon?

QUESTION THE LEFT?February 16th 2011.

While your on the Manchester confidential home page , tap the words facebook boss into the search engine and you will see the facebook boss article, i suggest you read it and find out where these tax and spend socialists spend our money at Manchester town hall(apart from their nice salaries), I pay council tax in this city and i'm fed up paying for stuff like this and if i want to say so i will, and as for the debt crisis it was caused by New Labour and hugh unrestrained spending , and the banks ? well Labour have been in power for the last 13 years SIMON T if you hadn't noticed and they are supposed to regulate the banks , Gordon Brown the Chancellor Gordon Brown the PM , Ed Milliband Assistant to the Chancellor , check the facts and stop talking left wing rubbish, we ain' buying it pal!

Simon TFebruary 16th 2011.

The Facebook czar was a spin put on the job of "new media communications manager". Not a silly job; new media is vital, and as part of the new media world, Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites are important means of communication and interactivity. Did they not just aid a revolution in Egypt!? "As for the debt crisis it was caused by New Labour and hugh (sic)unrestrained spending". Certainly not helped by, but undoubtedly not "caused by". The words "sub prime mortgages" mean anything to you? Or the name Kaupthing? Or Landsbanki? Or Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

QUESTION THE LEFT?February 16th 2011.

I suggest Simon you educate yourself on the UK national debt , its causes and implications on our nation and people and why out of control spending can't go on and the why the debt needs paying off prompto. Checkout http://www.debtbombshell.com and you might learn a thing or two and not end your love affair with failed socialist policies.

Simon TFebruary 16th 2011.

Thanks for the pointer. I've just been on the site, run by someone who is employed in "online marketing". Silly job! All capitalist countries run a deficit, it's the same way many successful businesses run an overdraft. Sure the deficit has grown since 1997, but look at the graph. At what point does the deficit spiral during the Labour years??? 2008; the bank bailout year. We'd have had a workable deficit if the banking system hadn't collapsed. In addition, I suggest that faced with a deficit of the UK's size, there are choices a government can make in order to reduce it. At the moment the Government's policies seem to be killing growth, destroying jobs, and targetting the poorer parts of our nation with cuts.

MR COMMON SENSEFebruary 17th 2011.

So we are paying a 120 million a day in interest? how much does Simon T want to pay 500 million a day , a billion a day? each penny in interest is a penny that can go on schools education , housing etc , its gottta stop somewhere ! Even The worlds most powerful man and socialist has realised he's gotta start to cut the debt and this week has announced some first small but important steps to cut americas 14 trillion of debt , lets have some nasty medicine now , cut the debt , we can get those interest paymets down then reduce vat and tax in a few years and hopefully have some spare cash to build some new homes , you get plenty of new homes for 120 million (a DAYS interest payment on the UKs debt today)

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