Platform. The everyday portal for sharing knowledge and intelligence on sustainability across Greater Manchester.

Just city?

Turn Up the Volume: Towards a Just Manchester

Event: Urban Forum - Manchester: Towards a Just City?
Venue: Anthony Burgess Foundation, Chorlton Mill, 3 Cambridge Street, Manchester M1 5BY 
Date: Tuesday 18th June 2013
Organisers: cities@manchester
Like many cities, Manchester is a place of increasing economic and social inequality. In  Manchester: Towards A Just City? cities@manchester's Urban Forum brought together a panel of four stakeholders to explore the issue and discuss what needs to be done to make the city-region more just.  John Holden (AGMA), Allison Foreman (GM Pay & Employment Rights Advice Centre), Clive Memmot (GM Chamber of Commerce) and Neil McInroy (CLES) talked to an audience of around 50 academics, practitioners and activists about Greater Manchester's (GM) growth strategy, the problem of in-work poverty and the creation of an economy for people. 
According to John Holden, the Deputy Director of Research at New Economy, the main problem is  economic inequality.  He said figures for educational qualifications, income inequality, crime and social cohesion indicate positive developments; but, deprivation and polarisation by ward are both on the increase.  In his view, GM needs to stick with its growth strategy and give people the skills and education required by the labour market.  For him, the challenge is to secure more funding and more decision-making powers from central government.
Allison Foreman is the Project Development Coordinator, Greater Manchester  Pay and Employment Rights Advice Service.  She agreed that there is a problem with economic inequality, but argued that the main challenge is in-work poverty, not skills and education for work.  She said that the problem is getting worse because support for the in-work poor and their communities has been reduced, leaving an under-resourced voluntary sector to pick up the pieces.  In her view, GM needs more funding and an economy that provides living wages.

The financial crisis has exposed a problem of economic justice that neo-liberal theories, practices and policies cannot and will not address

Clive Memmott, Chief Executive of GM's Chamber of Commerce, reinforced Holden's view.  For him, the main challenge is worklessness, especially among young people.  He said that GM needs to provide people with skills and experience so that they can contribute to growth and share in its benefits. For him, that means creating a better, more decentralised and more intelligent skills system, which matches skills with jobs over time and space, drawing on the knowledge and expertise of both the private sector and third sector, including small and medium-sized enterprises.
Neil McInroy, Chief Executive of Centre for Local Economic Strategies, took a different view, arguing that we need to create an economy for the people of GM, rather than people for the economy.  The financial crisis, he said, has exposed a problem of economic justice that neo-liberal theories, practices and policies cannot and will not address.  GM's local authorities have done well, but they can do better.  They need to embrace theories, practices and policies that protect vulnerable workers, businesses and other groups from aggressive and extractive business practices. 
In short, the panel presented two views of injustice in Greater Manchester.  One view - let's call it the deficit view - is that the problem is rooted in worklessness and a lack of necessary skills and education.  An alternative view is that the neo-liberal UK economy fails to address the interests and latent capabilities of a large number of people, including those in work.  According to this view, GM needs an economy for its people and for all of its people, without prejudice.  It suggests that no amount of skills and education will reduce inequality in GM without a fairly radical change in the UK economy - what it does, how and for whom and how it is governed. 

Find out more:
"Turn Up the Volume" is a learning log of debates and events around Greater Manchester. It forms part of the Greater Manchester Local Interaction Platform’s aspiration to raise the visibility of alternative forms of sustainable urbanism, see Turn Up the Volume.