24/3/11: Help with the census in Manchester

Kingsbrook Road and nearby streets

Got back a couple of hours ago from a meeting of the Kingsbrook residents’ association, which covers some of this area here:

Kingsbrook Road and nearby streets

It was only the second meeting and there were loads of people there to interrogate the councillors and so on, which is very encouraging!

Aside from said interrogation, the meeting included a quick talk by a member of Census staff, which apart from anything else reminded me that I still need to fill in my part of the Pallas/Fletcher-Hackwod household census.

However, she also mentioned that there are a number of drop-in sessions across Manchester for people who need guidance on completing the form. A couple of people in Fallowfield have asked me for help with this already – I’m going to see a couple of residents on Sunday to give them a bit of a hand – so I had a quick look when I got home, and the dates of the drop-in sessions are all on the Manchester City Council website. There’s a session in Fallowfield at 2-5pm on March the 31st at Fallowfield Library – if you know anyone who needs any help please point them in the right direction!

16/3/11: Cameron resigns!

I’ve been wanting to type those words for such a long time. And it’s true!

Unfortunately, as you’ll probably know if you’re from Manchester, I’m only on about John Cameron, Lib Dem councillor for Burnage ward (his website bio is a hastily-done mix of present and past tense, like the Wikipedia page of someone who may or may not be dead), who has announced he will be stepping down in May.

It’s the only good thing a Lib Dem has done for Manchester in quite a while. Not content with propping up the Tory-led government that has stunned our city with £109m of unfair cuts, Lib Dem ministers have been lining up to attack us over the last few days:

Nick Clegg accused Manchester Labour of making cuts for political reasons.

Danny Alexander accused us of hoarding reserves when we should be spending them on services.

And like the little kid in the playground who hangs around behind the bullies shouting “Yeah!”, Manchester Lib Dem councillor Martin Eakins forwarded Clegg’s speech full of lies to the Labour group, just to make sure we’d all seen it.

Let’s be completely clear: they’re talking rubbish. Manchester Confidential comprehensively fisked most of the right-wing claptrap flung at our city about the cuts last month, and I’d urge you to read their piece here. But to address the points made by Clegg and Alexander:

No, Manchester City Council is not ‘hoarding’ reserves.

There is no Scrooge McDuck-style swimming pool full of gold under the Town Hall for Richard Leese to go swimming in, compelling image though that may be. The council has had to make 2000 people redundant. And pay them all redundancy pay. That’s why we’re not spending the reserves on keeping the public toilets open.

No, Labour Manchester and Lib Dem Sheffield have not had to make ‘almost identical savings’. Clegg said himself that Sheffield is having to make 8% cuts. Manchester’s cuts are over 20%. Besides which – why, when the local government settlement has been made for 2011-13, has Sheffield’s Lib Dem council only made a budget for 2011-12? I’ll tell you why. Local elections take place in seven weeks. Have you seen the Sheffield Lib Dems’ majority? They don’t t want to take the flak for deeper cuts when they know they won’t be in power long enough to implement them. Seven weeks on Friday, they won’t be running that council. Seven weeks on Friday, the Liberal Democrats will be waking up to find themselves decimated in local elections across the country. John Cameron is getting while the getting’s good. If only Martin Eakins and Nick Clegg had as much sense.

And no, Manchester Labour is not ‘making cuts for political reasons’, and it is offensive to say so. I was at some of the meetings where the scope of these cuts was discussed: Labour councillors were in tears. What the Tories and Lib Dems do not understand is that we are proud of this city, and proud of what Labour has helped it to become. The best analogy I have heard for the cuts to Manchester was from Cllr Jim Battle, who said “It’s as if you’d built your house with your own hands, and lived there all your life, and then one day someone came along and said ‘You’re going to have to tear the roof off, smash the windows out, rip out the central heating and burn all the furniture.’ And then you have to carry on living there.”

You can not take £109m out of a local authority budget without affecting frontline services. You want Manchester City Council to cut the waste and the drinks receptions? They’ve done that. It didn’t save £109 million. Of course it didn’t.

Of course, the Lib Dems’ Tory masters have had all the answers for Manchester since January. Grant Shapps, Eric Pickles and David Cameron himself slammed our council for wasting money on ‘non-jobs’ like a ‘Twitter Tsar’ and for paying the chief executive ‘more than the Prime Minister’, that magical figure. We don’t have a Twitter Tsar, unless it’s me (and I don’t charge). We have a staff member for online communications, like any 21st century organisation; and yes, we have some highly-paid staff, Howard Bernstein included. But guess what? So does Eric Pickles’ own government department. As Bolton Council agreed at their meeting earlier this month (sorry, I haven’t been able to find a link for this), requiring councils to publish their staff’s pay is all very well, if the same is going to apply to central government civil servants too.

Did you all see the real Nick Clegg found chained in Conservative Party basement story, mocked up by Greg Stekelman, earlier in the week? I found it hilarious and disturbing in equal measure. But I saw a lot of people commenting on it along the lines of “This would explain everything!” When it comes to Nick Clegg, I don’t believe there’s much to explain: he’s always been a Tory in almost every respect. He’s demonstrated this as clearly as can be by colluding with the Tories attacks on Manchester – first on our budget and then on our reputation. And I doubt the people of Manchester will let him forget it.

A happy Sunday afternoon around Platt Lane…

I was out door-knocking on Sunday afternoon for a couple of hours for our Rusholme candidate Kate Chappell, and ended in an unbearably good mood for the following reasons:

1. It was so sunny. I’m such a predictable creature. A couple of hours of sunshine and I find myself wanting to nip to Sainsburys for picnic food

2. I spotted this mosaic-thing on a wall on the Moss Side side of Parkfield Road – I’d never seen it before, and if I’m entirely honest with you, this entire blog post has been an excuse to show you this picture:

Isn’t that lovely?

3. Although we didn’t get the best response on the doorstep – everyone was out enjoying the sunshine, probably even more than we were – most of the people we did speak to were going to vote Labour. Lib Dem support around here is in freefall.

4. I walked home through the park and was accosted by a young lad offering me free tea and biscuits. Free tea and biscuits. If you know me at all, you’ll know how much these things mean to me…It turned out he, along with a group of equally lovely student-looking types, was from Holy Trinity Church on Platt Lane; and if I’ve read their website correctly, the tea and biscuits effort is part of Platt Students‘ regular Sunday ‘Godzebo’ project. Now, religion is not my thing, but I am a big fan of tea, biscuits and puns on the word ‘gazebo’, so I thought I’d give them a shout out. If you’re interested in their work you can follow them on Twitter; and if you happen to be lying around Platt Fields next Sunday to laze off a hangover, have a look for the Godzebo before they run out of bourbons.

Bear with me…

Just making some changes to the blog (as a way of prompting myself to use it again, for the first time since August *guilty face*) – I can’t imagine anyone’s reading it much at the moment but if you are, apologies for the layout going a bit weird while I’m fiddling with it. In the meantime, have a picture of me protesting the cuts in Manchester the other weekend 🙂

Don’t lose the Best Vintage on Oldham Street

This is never going to be a fashion blog – god, imagine – but if you follow me on Twitter you’ll probably know about my interest in (obsession with) the Northern Quarter’s vintage clothes shops. Junk specialises in reworked fashion; Oxfam Originals on Oldham Street is great for accessories; Retro Rehab did a ‘fill a bag for a tenner’ sale in May that still fills me with bags of joy when I think about it; Rags To Bitches sold me those beads I wear all the time for a pound…I could go on. That end of town is full of second-hand wonder.

However, just lately it’s also full of smoke, noise, and occasional showers of dirty water, as Bruntwood carries out the renovation of Afflecks. Delighted as I am that Afflecks was saved from closure a couple of years ago, the ongoing building work is making life difficult for other local businesses on Oldham Street – and I was horrified to discover that Best Vintage, the shop responsible for my most wearable unique vintage finds – a gorgeous batwing t-shirt I wear as a dress, numerous Mad Men-style skirts, a 70s-tastic red shirt, a rainbow-striped dress, a handbag the size of a small car, £18 Converse, a flat cap, stretchy belts, and those are just the first things to come to mind – is facing closure due to its unfortunate location directly underneath the Afflecks scaffolding.

If you’re at all interested in reworn clothes then I’d urge you to get yourself to Best Vintage while you still can. It’s one of the most user-friendly vintage shops around – without the cutesy cupcakes-and-antique-dressing-tables decor of some of the girlier shops, but also avoiding the scary where-to-start bulging racks of bigger stores. It’s big on menswear. It’s high-quality stuff you can reasonably afford; the staff are friendly (not a given, even in Manchester); and the music alone makes it worth a visit. (You haven’t lived until you’ve tried on skirts to a bass-heavy Beyonce soundtrack suddenly interrupted by the Glee version of Don’t Rain On My Parade…) Oh, and they’ve got a 25% off sale right now. Get down there.

‘Til Cameron’s gone

Had a lovely day yesterday – my friend Tom visited from York, we went to the People’s History Museum*, we drank a lot of tea. Lovely.

Tom is rather excellent at presents, and turned up at my flat with a wristband for me, to match his:


After quite a bit of interest in these from Twitter, I discovered that the geniuses behind them are on Twitter, at twitter.com/tilcameronsgone – and, from there, that they’re looking for people to distribute them. If I bought them in massive quantities, who’d buy one offa me for £2 or so?

On a related note, Adam Ramsay is considering a badge binge. I’ve already put my name down for as many as I can fit in my flat, and I’d urge you all to do the same…

*if you’re Labour and you’ve not been yet, you must go. Immediately. Coming to Manchester for annual conference this year? Come a day early and spend it there. Stay with me. Seriously. It’s a must-see.

Manchester helping Pakistan – and how you can too

On Saturday I spent a couple of hours at Inspired Sisters in Longsight – an amazing organisation, have a look around the website if you don’t already know of it – where they were collecting clothes and blankets to send to survivors of the floods in Pakistan.

When I turned up I was impressed by the number of donations already made: but that was nothing. People were turning up with cars full of bulging bin-bags – even a couple of loaded vans. Fantastic generosity.

I think Inspired Sisters have finished collecting for now, but if you want to support the relief effort in Pakistan you can donate to the British Red Cross here. You can also donate goods to a Red Cross charity shop and specify that you want the proceeds to go to the Pakistan appeal.

Sign the Living Wage petition

Last week, Ed Miliband wrote to leading business leaders, calling on them to adopt a Living Wage.

This campaign is what inspired me to support Ed. What is more fundamental – more Labour – than the idea that if you work, you should not be in poverty?

Hundreds of people have already signed our petition on the Living Wage – join them here.

Don’t let the coalition abandon equality

One of the good things about having free Saturdays, now that I’ve sadly left the CAB, is that I can get more involved with Manchester Labour Women’s Forum. This is what it says on the tin – an opportunity for Manchester Labour’s women councillors, candidates and activists to campaign together, to encourage more women to stand and to support one another.

At our meeting earlier this week we agreed to support the Fawcett Society’s legal challenge to the emergency budget. The basis for this is simple – under the Gender Equality Duty, the government is legally required to assess how its budget will impact on women differently than from men. The government didn’t do this – despite Theresa May’s perfunctory reminder to George Osborne that they should – but the truth is that women will be massively disadvantaged by the coalition’s cuts. Fawcett says:

‘Even a top line assessment of the budget measures show 72 per cent of cuts will be met from women’s income as opposed to 28 per cent from men’s. This is because many of the cuts are to the benefits that more women than men rely on, and the changes to the the tax system will benefit far more men than women.’

Have a look at the Fawcett Society website for more (and why not join? You get a free t-shirt). If you’re a Manchester woman and want to get involved with the campaign then let me know.

Labour women in the Manchester area might also be interested in attending the Women’s Summit at this year’s annual conference, which will be outside the secure zone in the Town Hall, on Sunday 26 September from 10am-12.30pm.

The Labour Women’s Summit was started three years ago to give Labour’s elected women representatives, peers, leading trade unionists and activists a chance to take stock of the progress we have made and to identify our key future policy and campaign objectives going forward. The Summit will also include a presentation on how women voted at the general election.

If you want to be there, confirm your attendance by email to sarah_mulholland@new.labour.org.uk or by telephone on 020 7783 1381. Places are limited so book early!