Local environmental campaign group Climate Emergency Manchester presented a 1,760 signature petition to Manchester City Council’s Resources & Governance Scrutiny Committee for the creation of a 7th scrutiny committee on Climate and Environment, on Tuesday.
Their demand was partially met, with the Council instead opting for a restructuring of the six existing scrutiny committees to change the focus of the Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee towards climate and environmental issues.
The Council still must vote on approving this measure, which is likely to happen on 31 March, during the meeting of the full Council, following the Constitutional and Nomination Committee, which also has a say in the creation and responsibilities of scrutiny committees. Climate Emergency Manchester’s spokesperson Chloe Jeffries said:
“We’re delighted that councillors recognised the weakness of existing climate scrutiny in Manchester, and that they were so broadly supportive of our petition. The recommendation is not exactly what we asked for, but today’s meeting moves us in the right direction. Much more needs to be done.”
Prior to Tuesday’s proceedings, Climate Emergency Manchester had expressed concern that progress on the climate emergency declared by the Council in July 2019 was not being adequately recorded or scrutinised. The Council’s approach of embedding climate policy into the work of all committees enables a holistic approach to reducing environmental harm, but without specific scrutiny arrangements there is no mechanism for measuring the impact of such policies. As Chloe Jeffries stated in Tuesday’s meeting:
“The One Manchester strategy claims that climate change is considered as a matter of course by all scrutiny committees. However, the results are scattered rather than embedded.”
Councillor Sir Richard Leese agreed that a separate Environment scrutiny committee is necessary:
“Where I fundamentally agree with Chloe is around the demands on the current neighbourhood scrutiny committee, and its ability to operate fully as an environment committee. And I say, as an environment committee I would not want to separate off climate change from, for example, waste and recycling, because I think that entire environment agenda does need to be seen as one.”
Leese went on to say, “We do need an Environment committee, but we can create that Environment committee by redistributing responsibilities to other scrutiny committees that do have the time to do that.”
In addition to climate change and emissions, the Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee is responsible for housing, highways, parks, refuse collection, recycling, fly-tipping, and overseeing planning and environmental policies – so it is already under a high workload.
What are the Council’s scrutiny committees?
The six scrutiny committees exist to hold the Council to account for its policies, procedures and decisions made by the Executive. Each scrutiny committee meets periodically throughout the year, on different schedules, to review the status and progress of Council business under its remit for oversight. While the scrutiny committees do not themselves make policies, they make recommendations that are forwarded to the Council and the Executive for further consideration and action.
All of these meetings are listed on the Council website, and can be watched live or on repeat, except for parts of meetings that are exempt from public viewing (this is stated in the meeting agenda, which is publicly available about a week before each meeting). The six current scrutiny committees are:
- Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee
- Communities and Equalities Scrutiny Committee
- Economy Scrutiny Committee
- Health Scrutiny Committee
- Neighbourhoods and Environment Scrutiny Committee
- Resources and Governance Scrutiny Committee
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Feature image: Climate Emergency Manchester