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Tory report blasts Manchester

Jonathan Schofield considers Iain Duncan Smith’s report singing the blues for the city

Written by . Published on November 8th 2007.


Tory report blasts Manchester

Hell is a City was released in 1960 starring Stanley Baker. It was the best British film noir of its era and was set in Manchester. According to Iain Duncan Smith’s new report on UK cities, hell is a city called Manchester.

Oh dear, get a load of this lot, and these are just a few of the gruesome stats. We are near the bottom for truancy, fourth worst for school exclusions, worst for lone parent families, we have double the rate of teenage pregnancies, more than double the national rate for men ending up in hospital with booze problems, and of course bad crime figures. In otherwords we have social breakdown like no other place in the nation.

The truth is that much of Manchester is composed of areas which have seen the only reason for their creation, industry, disappear. Manchester, hemmed in by its surrounding towns, has felt this more than most.

Yet as the flaccid former leader of the Tories also notes, Manchester has the fastest growing economy in the UK of any city outside London. And despite the shocking nature of the report's findings there is a lot of work being done. Away from the shiny city centre the city council is very active. There are plenty of initiatives, such as New East Manchester, working hard to build communities as well as houses.

The statistics reflect a demographic problem which is uniquely Manchester's. The report looks at the administrative area of the City of Manchester rather than reflecting the situation of the wider city - most of the time anyway. In a way, it fiddles the figures, providing a statistical measure of a relatively poor administrative area. This is what our article argued last week (click here). Most of Manchester's middle class and rich now lie outside the city boundaries. Using these figures is a distortion of the true city, it's taking a slice through the City of London and then going east for several miles and saying that it represents the whole urban area of London.

The report also puts a distance between say the good burghers of Broadway in Cheadle and those of Moston Lane in Harpurhey. Let's hope that people who dwell technically outside the boundaries but are still part of the city, people from Hale perhaps, or Bramhall, don’t feel smug about the Tories' report - although you can guess some of the dinner party conversations this weekend.

The truth is that much of Manchester, and the North for that matter, is composed of areas which have seen the only reason for their existence, industry, disappear, and only now in the service industry world are finding some sort of relevance. Manchester, hemmed in by its surrounding towns, has felt this more than most. The population of East Manchester after WWII, for instance, fell from over 100,000 to 30,000 (although it’s starting to grow once more). Yet the population of Greater Manchester has remained relatively stable for decades at 2.5m.

Still, the report makes for grim reading. Those left behind in this regional diaspora were inevitably the stubborn or the less well-educated and thus less able to realise their aspirations. That’s why the social deprivation stats are so high. It's these people who need to be re-integrated into the future of the city - if they have the desire to be so.

Education and employment are the key of course. Part of the former must include building pride in Manchester, giving kids a sense of identity. How many Manchester schools teach how significant this city has been, how many bring kids into the city centre, teach them pride in the achievement of people who succeeded who were just like them: show that there’s a Manchester of tremendous potential outside the twenty streets within which they move?

Immigration is also a vital component in change. More than any other UK city aside from London, Manchester has always grown through immigration, both internal and international. Immigration might create tensions, especially when closely identified with religion, but it also creates tremendous dynamism. When populations get old, they get whingy, in the UK the rich moaners get second homes in Spain and carp about the UK, the poor stay and do the same. Immigration means people arriving with a desire to succeed. Literally fresh blood. Immigration and Manchester go together hand in hand.

A re-adjustment of the city’s boundaries, encouraging immigration and new educational initiatives, alongside the work already taking place, can all help ensure that a Doomsday of social breakdown doesn't happen. Manchester's problems are no worse than those in other urban areas of the UK, they are merely magnified by the way the city and the region has developed. It's one of the characteristics that makes us stand out alongside a reputation for being bolshy, maverick, radical. It seems our birthright to be the benchmark of one extreme or the other.

As Jim McClellan wrote about Manchester in the late nineties, repackaging sentiments used over the last 200 years: ‘Manchester’s size makes the social processes more visible. You can see how things are developing. Where they might end up is another matter. Perhaps it’ll be the first place to show us if our new cities work.'

One final thought, let’s hope there’re no politics at play in this Conservative report. Manchester has been used as an example by Labour of urban regeneration, they hold their conferences here, they seem to have fallen in love with us. There are no Conservative councillors in the city. To attack Manchester works so well for the Tories in so many ways.

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

ktfairyNovember 8th 2007.

I agree with Cat - I lived in a nasty part of Cheetam Hill for a while and that place certainly motivated me to work damn hard to get promotion so i could afford to move out!

AnonymousNovember 8th 2007.

Two issues here. The first is that Manchester does only indeed always rank bottom in these reports because of the way we are organised. No other City other than London has all of its more prosperous boroughs organised into other administrative centres thus contributing nothing to city coffers. As long as this continues, Manchester will always seem light years behind other cities in these reports. The second point though is an important one. The Tory report is absolutely correct to highlight that there is still a long way to go in many areas of our city. On matters of extreme poverty, poor education, lack of opportunity and aspiration for our young, Manchester still feels like the Victorian place Engels described. Manchester has come on immensely over the past 20 years and is now somewhere we can rightly be proud of. But we are no where near done. While the buildings are now shiny and impressive (in parts!), a even greater effort needs to be made on these crucial social matters. We cant even start to pat ourselves on the back about this City until greater progress is made in these areas.

AnonymousNovember 8th 2007.

Let's face it the city is a tip. The immediate centre, yes, is great, but take a trip into the suburbs and the areas are dirty, streets filled with rubbish, burnt out cars, closed shops due to the threat of violence. If this is what Labour has achieved in the last decade what do we have to look forward too in the next few years? Oh yeah, congestion charge!

GET TUFFNovember 8th 2007.

THE TORIES ARE ACTUALLY QUITE RIGHT TO ATTACK MANCHESTER ITS A SHITHOLE LARGELY AND IM A NATIVE. AND IF YOU ACTUALLY LOOK INTO THE HISTORY OF IT - IT WAS THE TORIES WHO KICKED OFF REGENERATION PROGRAMMES IN MAJOR CITIES: GLASGOW, NEWCASTLE, MANCHESTER ETC ETC WHEN THE COAL INDUSTRY AND OTHER MAJOR INDUSTRIES WERE NOT COMPETING EFFECTIVELY IN THE MARKETPLACE. HENCE THATCHER PRIVATISING EVERYTHING. WE WERE UNCOMPETITIVE IN THE GLOBAL ECONOMY AND SHE DID WHAT WAS RIGHT IN HER MIND FOR THE COUNTRY. AT LEAST SHE HAD THE BALLS TO ACTUALLY MAKE A DECISION AND STICK TO IT! THIS ARTICLE IS OBVIOUSLY BIASED AS USUAL! LABOUR ARE ALL TOO COMPLACENT IN THIS CITY AND ALWAYS HAVE BEEN. ALL THEY CARE ABOUT IS GETTING ACCOLADES FOR THE CITY AND LIP SERVICE TO THE PEOPLE, I'VE HAD NOISY NEIGHBOURS FOR 5 YEARS AND THEY ARE STILL THERE FFS! WE STILL HAVE SOARING CRIME/DRUGS AND IMMIGRATION (A HUGE MAJORITY OF SCROUNGERS AND CHANCERS THAT COME HERE COS THEY KNOW ITS A SOFT TOUCH COUNCIL - SEE THEM IN PICCADILLY FOR YOURSELF DEALING/STINKING OF WEED) GET RID OF THIS SMUG SELF-SATISFIED COMMUNIST LOT AT THE TOWN HALL AND FOR THE FIRST TIME IN A VERY LONG TIME (SADLY) GIVE THE TORIES THE REIGNS TO SORT THE SCUM OUT - MAYBE THEN MANCHESTER MIGHT BE A NICER PLACE TO LIVE IN. APARTHY IS IN THE AIR. THEY'LL SORT THE ISSUES OUT IM SURE. TIME TO GET TOUGH WITH THE TORIES!!IF LABOUR LET THE ROMANIANS/BULGARIANS IN YOU'LL SOON SEE THE CRIME RATE ROCKET! ITALIANS ARE DEPORTING THEM ALREADY! MANCHESTER CANT KEEP LETTING PEOPLE IN AT THIS RATE - IN SOME RESPECTS THE CITY IS NOW A VICTIM OF ITS OWN SUCCESS AND IS NOW BECOMING OVERCROWDED AND UNPLEASANT SADLY....

KenNovember 8th 2007.

Hell is a city - I remember that flick. They had a budget of about a fiver, so the scene where the policeman, played by Stanley Baker, is leaving his house was actually shot at baker's own home. He lived on Oldham Road, almost opposite Werneth Convent.

superdog500November 8th 2007.

As much as we would all like to believe that the regeneration of Manchester is helping anyone you only have to head out to many areas of east and north Manchester to find out otherwise. There is still much work to be done to bring much of the city up to the standard of affluent South Manchester.

ChrisNovember 8th 2007.

Time for a change, get the Tories in!!

GET TUFFNovember 8th 2007.

sadly ktfairy and cat are missing the point and using xenophobia as a weapon to stop further debate about the growing uncomfortable problem of rapidly rising immigration, which just isnt sustainable, thank god i dont live in London or Lincolnshire (which has expanded by 20% over the last two years!) its madness, people are starting to speak out though (have you not seen the news???) and despite the "racist" tag too, which does annoy me and shows feeble lack of proper debate, i suggest he/she actually have a walk around the ghettos of Manc (or is that now beyond them now they've "moved on") and see how bad it is in some areas. Compare Longsight to Heaton Moor? even the city centre where i live now is bursting to the seams and keeping flats ridiculously high. We dont need workers that much that we have to salvage them from abroad surely? It stops us investing in our own people and creating opportunities for them be they disadvantaged or whatever. Charity always should begin and end at home and if theres any leftovers fine....but consult the people first. Would we get the same treatment in europe/elsewhere? No! cos they all put their own first as we now should. Whos the "racist" ones really eh? The Spanish and French and Italians certainly are! Manchester has been labelled multiethnic and multicultural for a reason: Spin! to attract even more and more investment into the city, but what do we get back? even more coffee shops (which we dont need!) more firms of solicitors/banks housed in plush office blocks oh and property developers.....how does all this benefit us really? Its just high fliers cutting multi million deals with the council......getting richer and richer with no control over how our city is run or developed.All animals are equal but some are more equal than others springs to mind........VOTE CAMERON! and get this state run communist government out before they do any more damage.

ktfairyNovember 8th 2007.

I agree that it seems there is a Troy agenda going on here - i do not think the diffenrence between the rich and poor of Manchester can be as large as the gap in London created by inflated City wages/bonuses.

JamesNovember 8th 2007.

Classic Tory bollocks, they were the ones who wrecked the inner cities in any case.

CountryboyNovember 8th 2007.

Dont knock the messenger for delivering some unpalatable home truths. The biggest of Manchester's many problems is having nearly a quarter of it's employable population without jobs and on benefit. Unless that figure is drastically reduced, there will not be enough money to fund the regeneration programmes needed.

Iain LindleyNovember 8th 2007.

What a bizarre article Jonathan.The CSJ report does not "blast Manchester". Indeed, the tone of the event on Thursday was relentlessly positive about the future of Manchester.In any case, the CSJ analysis - if not the policies that stem from it - barely differs from Manchester City Council's "State of the City" report. If IDS is running down Manchester, then so is Sir Richard Leese - but that wouldn't suit your narrative, would it?You are right, of course, that the Manchester City Council area is very different from the wider Greater Manchester area. However, the Breakthrough Britain report is primarily concerned with the inner-city areas, and the problems and solutions identified in the report apply just as well to (for example) inner-city Salford and Trafford as they do to Manchester.

its a dumpNovember 8th 2007.

lived in Manchester for 50 years,I;m the son of a Jewish immigrant.strangely I feel no affinity with Manchester its just where I Live. My children all went or go to school in Manchester and dont want to move, they like it here ,me I hate the architecture of Manchester I hate the fact that its limited in its ability to attract more theatre , its got a two night a week provincial mentality where the printworks and deansgate is buzzing friday and saturday night but the rest of the week its dead.No manchester for me never happened, given the chance I'd move tomorrow,but where to ? its not just Manchester that is dead the whole of the UK is suffering from the same problem.What difference would Tory Management of our city make-NONE!

CatNovember 8th 2007.

Some erm interesting points made by GETT TUFF, unfortunately overshadowed by the ever so slightly xenophobic ending. Part of why I love this City, is the rich and diverse mixture of nationality and culture. Immigration isn't the reason Manchester is deprived in certain areas, it's a completely separate issue. Manchester certainly does not have the monopoly on social deprivation, it’s a countrywide issue! I lived in Lincolnshire for 8 years, not far from Grimsby. For every beautiful, leafy and affluent area with good schools and shops that had windows intact, there was another area to match it, with streets strewn with litter and random shopping trolley's in front gardens. You know the type of place - where you have to slow down for a speed bump every 25 yards. The sad fact is, there always has been and always will be areas like this. I should know because I grew up on an estate in Greater Manchester that wouldn't win any Neighbourhood of the year awards. Here's the thing though. I don't live in an area like that anymore because I listened at school, got a decent job and continued to work hard (ish) all my life so that I never would again. This country and our City in particular, are full of prosperity and opportunity. You just have to get off your backside and seek it out, rather than expecting some miracle cure from your local council or Central Government. The people in Cities and Towns drive the economy. So you can have as many regeneration projects as you like, but the most important thing is to have residents with a decent work ethic, that want to improve their lives and surroundings. Apologies if that last sentence sounded a bit Norman Tebbit, circa 1981.

when the going gets tuffNovember 8th 2007.

Phew! GETTUFF finally worked out how to turn his caps lock off! Well done.

NickNovember 8th 2007.

No different to London in that regard. Canary Wharf is in Tower Hamlets, one of the most deprived boroughs in the Country, its neighbour Newham is similarly poor. Other than lower paid jobs, how many people in the surrounding areas benefit from the "Regeneration" of the city centre? It may make for a nicer environment at lunch time and evening for the office workers (and push up rent) but let's not confuse that with regeneration in the areas which actually need it. If the government really wants to regenerate the poorer areas of Manchester it will mean changing attitudes and equipping people with the skills they need.

JJNovember 8th 2007.

I have lived in Manchester for about a year now and I absolutely love it. It has a hell of a lot more to offer than any other city I have visited and I feel really at home here, but the report is right it needs masses of improvement. Just driving from one side of the city to the other you can see that there are major extremes of wealth - from the very rich to the incredibly poor - great areas overlap not so great ones and to put it in simple terms it is just so unfair.... It's not all about getting a good job either. A friend of mine is in the Police and he has worked up here for a few years and the storeis he tells are so frustrating - their hands are tied and he can't wait to get back down South. I don't know what the solution is - but I am pretty sure that our current Governement can't deliver it.

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