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The Grouch’s Business Column

NWDA praised and fried, Co-op goings away, jet-washing and flag-waving

Published on July 22nd 2010.


The Grouch’s Business Column

NWDA you star, you’re fired
This week, the government has praised the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) as ‘strong’ in its response to the economic downturn – three weeks after it announced plans to shut the agency down.

An Independent Supplementary Review (ISR), carried out by the National Audit Office (NAO) on behalf of the government, praised the agency for being “proactive and fleet of foot” in re-prioritising its work, and adopting a “collegiate and consultative” approach with partners across the region.

Which is sort of like being patted on the back with one hand and smashed in the face with the other by Dave and Nick’s Big Society™, where we’re all expected to do our bit to make Britain great again while the government sacks, erm, everyone.

Such an idea suggests that Dave and Nick simply think we’re collectively spending our days playing Playstation and waiting for repeats of Jeremy Kyle instead of trying to juggle the pressures of holding down a job and some sort of family life during a recession which has, quite frankly, been a massive pain in the arse.

The problem with Big Society, of course, is that it already exists. Charities do what they can on limited resources, but now the funding structures they rely on are being abolished. The same goes for start-up businesses who will see the grants they need disappear before their very eyes. So the innovators and entrepreneurs must shelve their ideas and get in the queue for Dragon’s Den. Or X Factor. Or possibly both.

There is room to trim the bloated quango culture that exists within Manchester and the rest of the UK – that’s undeniable.

But dressing up the removal of everything our taxes are supposed to pay for as an expansion of our liberties isn’t fooling anyone.

If Dave really is committed to Big Society, I expect to see him doing a couple of weeks on the bins, before covering a few shifts as a duty nurse at Salford Royal and taking a couple of history classes at Whalley Range High School for Girls.

Otherwise, the idea will quickly turn into a Big Waste of Time.

Jet-propelled alarm call
On a semi-related note, I’d like to personally thank Salford City Council for jet-washing the alley at the side of my house at 8am on a SUNDAY MORNING. Poor jetwasher bloke, who had the complaints number ready to hand out on a laminated card and a look of resignation etched across his face, claimed it was “the only time the council say they can do it.” Another cracking example of Big Society in action. If you have any more, do send them in.

Bridge to beer
I hear plans are afoot to link the MEN Arena and the former Boddington’s Brewery site through a new footbridge. Plans are believed to be at an early stage and are being led by Ask Developments and Realty Estates, which owns the Boddies site. Development Securities recently picked up the MEN Arena and is planning to improve the food and drink offering in the venue. Ask and Realty are keen to lure more operators to one of the city’s key sites (it’s part of the Northern Gateway, the city’s innovative new name for Cheetham Hill), so watch this space.

Co-operative slims at the top
Nearby, at the Co-operative – arguably Manchester’s biggest business – it’s been an interesting couple of weeks. Linda Shillaw (click here), head of property, and Patrick Allen, director of marketing, have both left the firm, leaving two very important roles – overseeing the new headquarters and brand respectively – vacant. Allen’s departure was rather sudden and a bit of a surprise, with no time for a leaving drinks do or the traditional carriage clock. It’s thought his role could take at least three months to fill but there should be no shortage of interest in both jobs. Shillaw, as head of the Co-operative Estates, was overseeing what will be the largest commercial property development in Manchester over the next three years.

City’s flagging ex-striker
On to football – and former Manchester City striker Bernardo Corradi. Remember him? Well, I can exclusively reveal that he’s found new fame as a flag waver at the Palio De Siena in Italy, the twice-yearly spectacle where ten horses charge bare-back around the town square controlled by jockeys wearing only pyjamas for safety. One in the eye for health and safety legislation and possibly the best thing I’ve ever seen. It never really worked out for Corradi at City, but he was waving his team’s flag around like a demented linesman as part of a five-hour parade before the main race. Corradi, originally from Siena, is turning out for Udinese as well, in between flag duties, where City fans may not be surprised to hear that in 19 games, he’s managed a grand total of no goals. Best stick to the flags, Bernie.

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sewer ratJuly 23rd 2010.

The Coop's Project Managers of the new HQ development are also 'restructuring'. Is there more to this story?

DrakeJuly 24th 2010.

Nice idea to have a business column but not sure the first piece demonstrates much knowledge of either politics or economics, Simon.
'Dressing up the removal of everything our taxes are supposed to pay for...' Well, don't know about you, but I think taxes should pay for defence, education, police and judicial systems and large infrastructure projects and THAT'S IT. They certainly don't exist to prop up massive bureaucracies, pay for ludicrous employment 'rights', support numerous levels of management consultancy, or finance sectoral bubbles that benefit one's own constituencies.
As for the 'big society', one of the delights of the last few weeks has been watching lefties finding themselves having to attack the idea of the voluntary sector

James11364July 25th 2010.

I can see why Grouch doesn't want to be woken up by his street being washed on Sunday morning. But why is the Council doing it? Surely in Cameroon's Great Society he and his neighbours should/will be doing it themselves for free and enjoy the pleasure that goes with this, of doing something for their small community.

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