Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Council Leader runs away from Green scrutiny

The Leader of Manchester City Council Richard Leese today used an excuse to leave the Council Chamber rather than stand up to scrutiny by Manchester's Green Councillor Vanessa Hall.
Cllr Hall used the Council meeting to ask several questions including one to the Leader of the Council regarding the plan to expand business flights at Barton Aerodrome turning it into a "city airport".
Barton Aerodrome is owned by the Manchester Ship Canal Development Company, which is in turn owned by Manchester City Council and Peel Holdings.

The Leader declared an interest as a Director of the Ship Canal Company but failed to make provision for one of his deputies to answer the question, despite them both being present and him receiving the question last Thursday.
Councillor Hall asked the question anyway, then commented in her supplementary question that as he'd had nothing to say for himself she must assume that he is in agreement with her on the issue of business flights and then on as assumption that he would have said something about economic growth, reminded the chamber of the seriousness of the impact of climate change both globally and in this country, which she is sure that Richard Leese is aware of and asked, Why he continues to put economic growth above survival?

This question, like the previous one was left hanging in the air as Manchester Labour clearly don't seem to have the answers.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Any old iron - well copper actually..

Steven and I were just leaving the Monton Estate residents meeting last night chatting to some residents when one of them spotted a fire on the site of the former Whitworth School.
Steven and I jumped on our bikes and cycled over there.
We went through the gap in the fence to find a small fire and saw 2 lads (approx 12 yrs old, wearing dark clothes with their hoods up) running off.
I quickly spotted a section of copper cable several metres long and realised that the fire was for burning the rubber off the copper cable to be able to go and cash it in.
The price of scrap metal has gone up a lot lately which is why we are seeing a spate of thefts of cabling and also the lead flashing off the walk-up flats such as Bentley House and Northdown, Southdown and Grenham in St Georges.
We phoned the police, who were going to take an hour to come out, the lads were still hanging around at a safe distance waiting for us to go presumably to come back for their copper.
So, we took matters into our own hands and after asking a local resident to call out the fire brigade if the fire got any worse (it was small and looked safe to us), we headed off through the estate with 3 residents to take the copper to the police station.
We ignored the phone outside the police station as we knew it would be useless telling a call centre in Wigan that we were outside Greenheys with some copper and were just about to chuck it over the fence when someone came out and took it off us and agreed to call off the patrol as it was no longer needed.

It just goes to show, you should always expect the unexpected in this job!

I must also add that I really appreciated the kind words from Alice at the residents meeting who thanked me for my contribution in my last 5 years as a Councillor. The Monton estate is a great community, their passion and neighbourlyness stands out. Thank you.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008


I was really shocked earlier today when I heard that Michael Todd, GMP Chief Constable had died whilst walking on Snowdon. He died at Bwlch Glas, which is the top of the PYG Route, ab0ut 80 ft below the summitt of Snowdon. Exactly where I was less than 24 hours earlier.

I was going to put up a blog post with some of my photos anyway, but now this post is a tribute to all walkers and climbers who have lost their lives on the mountains.

Long may we love the mountains, climb them, and come back safe.

Looking NNW from the Summit - this is the way the weather is coming in from, very windy and slippy underfoot because of the snow and ice.

This is my favourite photo - equally wild and beautiful.

Crib Goch from just below the Summit, you can see the PYG Route zigzagging up the hill and the lakes in the distance.

Next morning from Pen-y-pass, after hearing the wind howling in the night, the other side of Crib Goch and the first part of the PYG Route, taken in between showers of rain.

The day before you could see the top from this side and no snow!

This was my first time up Snowdon, but I don't intend it to be my last.

Until next time....

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Biofuel - savvy

Today asked the following question of Cllr Neil Swannick, the Executive Member for Environment at the Council Meeting in the Town Hall:

How will Manchester Council inform residents that whilst Biofuel from waste (vegetable and animal) oils can be sustainable, Biofuels crops (either in this country or the global south) are not sustainable and can produce up to 10 times the emissions of the fuel that they seek to replace?

Neil's first response went into some detail about the current developments in Biofuels and the new legislation due to come out in April. He disputed the figure of "up to 10 times the emissions" and mentioned the Council's use of Biofuels in it's vehicle fleet. He seemed to be saying that the jury was still out on the issue of Biofuels.

For more information on Biofuels see:

This is a really good introduction to the subject:

There are more reports at:

including "Biofuels : an unfolding disaster", which contains the following quote:

However, fuel suppliers are only required to report
50% of their biofuels in 2008-2009. So Palm Oil,
creating up to 9 times the greenhouse gas emissions
than diesel, may be hidden in the unreported 50%.

In my supplementary question I explained that whilst I currently believe that Ebony Solutions who supply the Council's Biofuel are (reasonably) sustainable and that this was obviously a complicated issue, there are what can be simply described as "bad" Biofuel and "good" Biofuel and I asked if this could be explained within the Council's Environmental Campaigns information.
Before I had finished asking the question, other Labour front benchers were shouting "yes", so they seem keen to get the message out there (actually I think they were just keen to get out of the meeting). Cllr Swannick also stood up and said yes, so I look forward to Council campaign information including Biofuels.
I wonder if I might need to remind them...

Come back next week to see a write-up of the other 2 questions I asked and my uncontested budget speech!

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Happy Mothers Day!

Happy Mothers Day to my Mum and mothers everywhere.

When people ask me how I became an environmentalist, I explain that I think it started with my Mum when we watched Blue Peter together and she got me into recycling milk bottle tops. So thanks goes to my Mum for being an inspiration. She also taught me to care for other people and was a great introduction to that which I now call "random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.."
I think both of these qualities have given me both the motivation and the empathy for the job of a Green Councillor, where I often find myself acting as "Counsellor" as well as "Councillor".

Cheers Mum and thanks for a lovely lunch and afternoon together today.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Critical Mass was awesome!

Critical Mass on Friday was great! Considering the weather was really windy and wet at times the turnout was amazing. After a varied route around the city centre we cycled through Hulme and then came back into town down the Princess Parkway, with a lap of honour round the roundabout at the end. Lots of friendly pedestrians and even some friendly motorists. Only one or two idiot drivers but overall a good, safe and quite fast ride around the city ending at Cafe Saki in Rusholme for a brilliant Benefit night.
It makes me proud to be a cyclist!