Climate Emergency Manchester (CEM) has called on councillors tipped to replace Sir Richard Leese as leader of Manchester city council to act decisively on tackling the climate emergency. The councillor’s have been unable to respond due to restrictions put in place by Manchester Labour Group.
In an open letter written to the four councillors who have been nominated as potential replacements for Leese, the climate campaigners call on Manchester council’s future leader to take a series of actions in their first 100 days in office to demonstrate leadership on the issue.
“Manchester is massively off course with the climate emergency actions it needs to take,” the campaigners write in the letter.
“In the just three years since setting up a carbon budget, Manchester has burned 40% of its allowance for the entire 21st century.”
The new council leader, to be elected by Labour Group on the evening of Tuesday, 5 October, “can hit the reset button” and “lead by example”, the group writes.
Climate activists said CEM’s demands are constructive and commensurate with the urgency of the climate crisis.
“The proposals put forward by CEM are exactly what needs to happen to have any chance of Manchester hitting its targets and we are ready to support any councillor that is ready for the challenge – or hold those accountable who are not,” Adam Williams, speaking on behalf of campaign group Greater Manchester Labour for a Green New Deal, told The Meteor.
“For us, this is a climate election, and whoever is the next leader must make the climate emergency their number one priority – not a caveat to be stuck on the end of things.”
Climate Emergency Manchester has addressed the letter to the four candidates standing to replace Leese. According to Manchester Confidentials journalist Lucy Tomlinson, the four candidates are Burnage cllr Bev Craig, Longsight cllr Luthfur Rahman, Old Moat cllr Garry Bridges and Hulme cllr Ekua Bayunu.
The Meteor contacted each of the four candidates to comment on CEM’s demands. One of the candidates said they could not respond because they had been given clear instructions that the rules of the contest meant no interviews or public comment.
Cllr Pat Karney, Manchester Labour Group secretary, provided a response on behalf of the candidates:
“Climate change is a top priority of the Council and the Labour Group. We have ongoing arrangements in place to progress this agenda … All requests about our climate change work needs to go to [cllr] Tracey [Rawlins] who was elected by the Group to lead on this priority.”
When pressed to provide the rules in writing, cllr Karney said that “arrangements for the leadership elections” had been “agreed by the Labour Group,” and that these are “Labour Group decisions recorded by me.”
Ancoats & Beswick cllr Marcia Hutchinson alleged last month that the rules governing Manchester Labour Group are unwritten, giving the Whips Office (the councillors who discipline Manchester Labour councillors) a “ludicrously wide remit in deciding what the rules are.” Campaigners are calling for greater transparency around Manchester Labour Group’s leadership election process.
Mark Burton of Steady State Manchester said it was “puzzling” that cllr Karney had ignored the request to indicate the relevant rules that supposedly prevent candidates from commenting.
“It is reasonable that candidates make known their positions on these questions of great public interest. Climate change and the council’s leadership on it are not simply an internal matter for the labour group but something that will affect all citizens.
“Since this is an election for the leader of the council, citizens deserve to be informed of candidates’ responses to the reasonable questions from CEM. That doesn’t mean they have to agree to everything, but that they should make their responses known.
“As councillor Karney points out, Manchester has a strong policy position on climate change in which the council has a key leadership role with other bodies. However, performance, to put it charitably, has been weak, with most worryingly a large overshoot on the agreed carbon budget for the city. The kind of complacent statement that cllr Karney made does not give great confidence that the case of Manchester’s leadership is any different.”
Climate Emergency Manchester urges the city’s residents to share the letter with their local councillors, and to “add their own thoughts on what the new leader, whoever he or she is, should do.”
Chloe Jeffries from Climate Emergency Manchester said: “A new leader can change that, with determination, honesty about the scale of the challenge and a commitment to listening to people throughout the city. We call on the new leader – and in fact all councillors – to do much much more.”
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