Chapter Summaries

To expand these chapter summaries, please click on each chapter title below.

Chapter 1 Manchester’s Labour Party from 1964 to 1984
This chapter details the intricacies of the ‘broad church’ of politics on the Left – the left-wing and right-wing of the Labour Party, the Hard Left and the Soft Left, and how the policies changed as a new wave of younger socialists gradually took over the balance of power in Manchester City Council. The Left gained a majority within the Labour Group, but not in the Council, leading to a situation where the right-wing of the Labour Group could vote with the Opposition to block policies and recommendations agreed at the City Party. Read chapter 1.
Chapter 2 Campaigning (and not setting a rate)
This chapter deals with the period 1984 to 1985 when left-wing councils fought together against the Tory government and refused to set their rates as a protest about caps on expenditure, which in some councils resulted in councillors being personally surcharged, sent to prison and being barred from future office. The first part deals with issues such as how the left-wingers in control were able to find ways to support the miners’ in their strike, and implement policies relating to anti-apartheid and peace. It also covers how the Council opposed the deportations due to changes in the immigration laws by Thatcher’s government and supported Viraj Mendis, amongst others, in their fight to stay in the country. There is a lot of detail about the complexity of voting at the time of setting the 1985/86 budget for the Council. That detail is a lesson in how every vote counts when you have a majority of only 1 and there are multiple factions who align at different points, so someone being sick, or about to have a baby, can be critical. Read chapter 2.
Chapter 3 Abolishing the Lord Mayor
When the Left gained the majority after the local election on 3rd May 1984, the abolition of the pomp, ceremony and cost of the post of Lord Mayor was a way of asserting their political ideals. But there was a failure to recognise its symbolic role and the importance to the general public. Antagonism generated from the Manchester Evening News, mitigated against any possibility of building support for other more important measures.

Ending the practice of the Lord Mayor and family actually living in the Town Hall for a year, with attending servant, was not the issue, and was a wise cost saving measure. But the title and the chain of office are invested in such symbolism that the position was reinstated after a few years of turmoil. Read chapter 3.

Chapter 4 Tackling the Bureaucracy
Changing the culture of the Council required a big restructure of the mechanisms of decision making. The goal was to get the officers and councillors working more closely together, but with the elected Members in control rather than rubber stamping the advice of chief officers. This chapter details the complex restructuring of the committees, sub-committees, working parties and departments to serve them. Read chapter 4.
Chapter 5 Equal Opportunities
Progressing the Equal Opportunities agenda was a priority for the Left who gained power in 1984. On some aspects progress had already been made by the previous administration, but there was a lot further to go. Consultations took place with groups oppressed on the basis of race, gender, sexuality and disability, but setting up the committee and staffing structures was by no means simple. This chapter covers the initial steps and the difficulties encountered. Read chapter 5.
Chapter 6 Neighbourhood Services
Following the example of Islington Council, Manchester’s Labour Group aimed to devolve decision-making and delivery of services to a local neighbourhood level. This chapter outlines the steps taken to do this, creating new committee and staff structures, finding suitable sites for building new offices, the consultations with the public and the negotiations with the chief officers and trade unions. Read chapter 6.
Chapter 7 Police Monitoring
The way in which strikes and peaceful demonstrations were policed during the 1970s and 1980s and the many recorded incidences of brutality towards black people, trade unionists, homosexuals and others was a key concern for left-wing activists. When the Left took control of Manchester in 1984, monitoring the police was one of the four new policy initiatives, involving a creation of a sub-committee and unit of council officers. However, the Police Authority was the responsibility of Greater Manchester Council (GMC) not the City Council so the Police Monitoring Unit had difficulty finding its role and having any effect. This chapter touches on clashes with the Chief Constable, James Anderton, and policing of protests during this period. Read chapter 7.
Chapter 8 Regeneration
This chapter deals with how the steps in the early 80s in relation to spending and the organisation of the Council impacted upon the economic development and regeneration of Manchester. This covers the policy working parties of the local Labour Party, what was included in the 1984 Manifesto and the early conflict of interest between the environment and transport, or between Graham Stringer and Arnold Spencer, that leads into those covered in chapter 25. There’s mention of the development of the Museum of Science and Industry, the Salford and Manchester partnership, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, Manchester Airport, the Council’s opposition to government initiatives of Employment Training and the Youth Training Scheme, plus implementation on the ground of things such as cycle paths and statues. Read chapter 8.
Chapter 9 Poundswick: 1985 City-wide Teacher’s Strike Provoked by Graffiti
An incident in 1985 of graffiti by a group of pupils and ex-pupils at Poundswick High School triggered a series of events leading to strike action in schools throughout Manchester. The school at the centre of these events was closed for a whole term and the pupils in the critical exam years lost a vital term of their education. The issue challenged the Left administration being on the opposite side of the negotiation table than they were used to, and left scars on the Education Committee councillors for many years. Read chapter 9.
Chapter 10 Burnage: Race Related Murder of a School Boy
The findings of the Macdonald Inquiry into the death of 13 year old Ahmed Iqbal Ullah, after being stabbed by a fellow pupil at Burnage High School on Wednesday 17 September 1986, were published in 1989 with the title ‘The Burnage Report: Murder in the Playground: Report of the Macdonald Inquiry into Racism and Racial Violence in Manchester Schools’. This chapter refers to summaries from that report, but primarily aims to focus on the impact of the events on Manchester City Council and its implementation of new policies. A culture of violence in the school and racial tensions were the precursors of the attack, but how the incident was handled inflamed racial tensions more and had repercussions for a long time after.  Read chapter 10.
Chapter 11 1987: A Terrible Year
Labour lost 9 council seats in the May 1987 local elections. Budget decisions were made for 1987/88 in the optimistic hope that a Labour government would win a general election, but when this was called in June 1987, Thatcher disappointingly won a third term. Further resignations of Left councillors and then subsequent loss of 2 more seats in by-elections in August 1987 eroded the Left’s balance of power. A strategy change was championed by Graham Stringer trying to balance making the required cuts with protecting jobs and services. This chapter gives an insight into the machinery of local politics, how critical the numbers can be and how difficult it was trying to implement a left-wing agenda when the country was controlled by a right-wing government. It also goes into a lot of detail about divisions within the local Labour Party and the relationship between the City Party and the Council Labour Group. Read chapter 11.
Chapter 12 Splits on the Left
As the title suggests, this chapter mostly covers the conflict, splits and deals between different parts of the Labour Group on the Council and the City Labour Party in the period 1988 to 1992. This covers clashes with and intimidation from the Militant Tendency. Police were called to council meetings because of fear of violent clashes, with protests about cuts being made and the approach taken seen as capitulating to the Tory government. There was a strike in June 1988 in Cleansing Services. Ten councillors led by Sam Derby were expelled by the Party for consistently voting against the whip. The Left ended up doing a deal with the Right of the Labour Group in order to keep control of the important committees and overall keep Labour in control of the Council and reducing the influence of the rebels in the middle. Read chapter 12.
Chapter 13 Budget Crisis and the Poll Tax
The Community Charge, commonly known as the Poll Tax, was introduced in England in 1990, having been trialled for the previous year in Scotland. It was a fixed rate of local tax, charged per adult to fund local authorities, replacing the previous domestic rates charged per property. There was widespread opposition to this way of taxing, with protests, riots and people refusing to register and pay it. Ultimately this tax led to the downfall of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister, and it was soon abolished once John Major took over, although the implementation of the replacement Council Tax wasn’t until April 1993.

The Left administration in Manchester found itself caught in a difficult position. Refusing to implement the new tax and set a level for it would simply end up with the Council being forced to do so by the Secretary of State. Yet local Labour Party supporters were actively campaigning against the Poll Tax, with slogans such as “Don’t Collect! Don’t Pay!” The trade unions and councillors were concerned if they didn’t collect the Poll Tax, the budget would be massively short, meaning job losses and cuts to services for Manchester people. Either way the people who were worst off would suffer. Meanwhile some chief officers were not co-operating with the councillors in trying to identify how the organisation could be restructured and cuts made without entailing forced redundancies. Read chapter 13.

Chapter 14 Compulsory Competitive Tendering
Graham Stringer coined the phrase Enforced Tendering (ET), and this was the term generally used in Manchester when referring to the process of Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT) that came about as a result of the 1988 Local Government Act. This emphasised the fact that it was being forced upon local government throughout the country. The Conservative government believed the private sector would deliver services more efficiently and cost effectively. The Left believed what would be lost would be quality and pay and conditions for workers, and public money would be going toward profits at the expense of the workers. This chapter details the sequence of services that were subject to competitive tender and the outcome that all but one of the contracts were won by the in-house bids, the process being spread from 1989 to 1995. Read chapter 14.
Chapter 15 Progress with Equal Opportunities
This chapter follows on in topic and chronologically from chapter 5, detailing how Equal Opportunities policies were implemented in Manchester City Council from 1987 to 1994. This includes disagreements between ‘oppressed groups’, and restructuring departments and sub-committees to adapt to both budget constraints and changing priorities. In some matters Manchester was leading the field and sharing experience at a national level through Khan Moghal’s attendance at Association of Metropolitan Authorities meetings and the European Local Authorities Network. In other matters, the Council sought to learn from the successes in other local authorities. The chapter includes the setting and monitoring of Global Equality Targets for the Council’s employees to reflect the population they served, in relation to gender, race and disability. There was less success in achieving a balance in the political representation and positions of responsibility. Read chapter 15.
Chapter 16 Establishing Neighbourhood Services Offices
This relatively short chapter documents the process of setting up offices to allow Manchester City Council services to be delivered at a local level, which was a priority of the Left administration that came to power in 1984, as explained in chapter 6. The initial target of 50 Neighbourhood Services offices was not achievable, because of the high capital cost of the desired new buildings and the number had to be scaled down. Once the first new buildings were complete, it was the staffing, and more to the point the negotiations with the trade union, that delayed opening by many months. When the first set of offices were finally opened in 1989, it took a year or so for ways of working to settle down smoothly, by which time there was a change of political priority for the overall plan. Read chapter 16.
Chapter 17 Joining Up Children’s Services
Improving services for children, protecting them and creating new local children’s centres, along similar lines of the neighbourhood services offices, was a strong manifesto commitment from 1984 through to 1987. This chapter describes the development of the children’s centres, and the organisational structures bringing the dispersed responsibilities for different aspects of care of children under the age of five into one division of the Council. This required complex changes to committee structures and staffing. Some of the changes that then are described through to 1996 were in response to national legislation and recommendations, other changes of plan were driven by the budget crises. Read chapter 17.
Chapter 18 The All-Powerful Budget Review Working Party
The Budget Review Working Party (BRWP), formed in May 1989 and wound up in June 1996, consisted of all the committee chairs, plus the Chief Executive and City Treasurer, and had the purpose of scrutinising every budget item in every department (on a rolling programme) in order to identify possible savings. This chapter is long and has a lot of detail about the Council’s finances. For someone involved in local government finance, this level of detail may be of interest. For the layperson, it can be hard to follow, but does give a sense of how complicated the budgets are and how managing a council to keep things on track is a very complex business. The blow by blow level of detail comes from Kath being a member of the BRWG for 5 of the years covered, first in her year as Chair of Personnel Committee, then for four years in the role of Chair of Education Committee. Read chapter 18.
Chapter 19 Reviewing Services
This short chapter is an introduction to the following four. It outlines the thinking behind, and the working of, the Service Review and Information Sub-committee, which had three roles:

  1. Acting as client for the Compulsory Competitive Tendering process
  2. Monitoring improvements to the quality of services
  3. Overseeing the centralised awarding of grants to the voluntary sector

Read chapter 19.

Chapter 20 Housing
The Local Government and Housing Act 1989 brought in requirements for the local authority to establish a Housing Revenue Account (HRA) that ring-fenced all housing income and expenditure, and prevented any subsidy to or from any other parts of the Council’s budget. In 1990 a mistake was made in the submission for the HRA subsidy, which meant a £14m loss. In 1993 Steve Mycio was promoted to Director of Housing and the Housing Committee combined with Environmental Health.

The process of transferring housing stock to housing associations was led by Claire Nangle, Deputy of the committee, who then became Chair in 1995, when Dave Lunts stepped down because of the conflict of interest of him working for the Housing Association that won the transfer deal. Under Claire Nangle’s leadership, pioneering work on probationary tenancies, led to senior housing officer Bill Pitt’s secondment to advise the 1997 Labour government, and the national introduction of ASBO legislation. Read chapter 20.

Chapter 21 Social Services
During the 13 years from 1984 to 1997, despite the need for continuity in such an important area of service provision, there were six chairs of the Social Services Committee and no-one in post of Director for 14 months between the departure of Irene Walton, who was pushed out by the Labour Group leadership, and the succession of Mike Bishop, who was previously Director of Social Services at the headlining Cleveland County Council. This chapter covers those changes and the responses to failing standards in the Council’s elderly persons’ homes (EPHs) and the requirements of the Care in the Community legislation. Read chapter 21.
Chapter 22 Education
Given that Kath was Deputy Chair of the Education Committee for a year (1989/90) and then Chair for four years (1991-95), this is the most personal chapter of the book. The three main issues were Local Management of Schools (LMS), inclusion in mainstream schools of children with ‘extra support needs’ (ESN), and the high capital costs of repairs to school buildings because of their age. This was the case across the country not just in Manchester. These three issues involved a lot of time and effort in consultations with parents, teachers and the Party, and campaigning to lobby government for more borrowing power. Read chapter 22.
Chapter 23 Leisure Services
The portfolio of Leisure Services covers a wide range of things that are often highly valued by the public. Manchester City Council owned and was responsible for parks and gardens, public baths and laundries, sports halls and leisure centres, public halls, including the city’s major concert venue, the Free Trade Hall, plus libraries, art galleries, museums and theatres. The Committee also had responsibility for allotments, cemeteries and crematoria and the organisation of a range of festivals and events.

In the period 1984 to 1997 that this chapter covers, the services were the subject of numerous changes to the management and committee structures, driven in parts by CCT and the overall budget cuts required. Repair and maintenance needs, beyond the funds available, led to closures and public outcry and protests. The protests for Victoria Baths were particularly well organised. The chapter also has a large section about Heaton Park, the franchise for the golf course proving particularly challenging on a political level, but also initial proposals being objected to strongly by the public. Read chapter 23.

Chapter 24 Relationships with the private sector
This account covers the relationships forged by the leadership of the Labour administration with the private sector that enabled significant projects such as the Trafford Centre and Bridgewater Hall to be built. The unwelcome imposition of the Central Manchester Development Corporation by the Conservative government, nevertheless brought government money into the city and actually there was a partnership working to achieve key projects that the Council aspired to and had been working towards. The City Challenge programme, another government funded scheme, enabled the problem area of the Hulme crescents to be redeveloped into low level housing. There were clashes when the principles of the design guide for Hulme were to be applied across the city, which ended in the resignation of the Chief Planning Officer. Read chapter 24.
Chapter 25 Stringer and Spencer Clash on Environmental Issues
This is an account of continued conflict between Arnold Spencer and Graham Stringer (and also Cath Inchbold). Arnold Spencer as a champion for the environment favouring bikes and pedestrians and wanting clean air. Graham Stringer seeing cars as necessary for a thriving economy and jobs, and so wanting to have improved motor access into the city centre, not restrictions on it. Cath Inchbold as Chair of Highways and Cleansing Committee opposing a scheme that would restrict parking and traffic flow on Wilmslow Road. The battles were inflamed perhaps by press coverage from leaked information. Stringer and Spencer were in agreement in relation to trams, though, and co-operated when putting in place measures to demonstrate that Manchester was working towards an action plan for Local Agenda 21, so that it made a credible host for Global Forum ’94, which was the follow up to the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit. Read chapter 25.
Chapter 26 Manchester’s Olympic Bids
This relatively short account covers the period from 1984 onwards, when the first idea of bidding for the Olympics came up, through lessons from the unsuccessful bids for the Olympic Games to be held in 1992, 1996 and 2000, leading to the successful bid for the 2002 Commonwealth Games. The major sporting facilities that Manchester gained of The National Cycling Centre Velodrome, Manchester Aquatics Centre Olympic Pool, Manchester Arena and Manchester City Football Club’s ground, the Manchester Stadium, are a testament to the vision of the people who persevered through the many setbacks. Read chapter 26.
Chapter 27 Change of Leader and the IRA Bomb
This short chapter covers the period in 1996 when there was a change of leadership of the Labour Group. Graham Stringer was selected as parliamentary candidate and Richard Leese was elected as Leader of the Labour Group and the Council. Just 6 weeks after he became Leader, the IRA exploded a bomb in the centre of Manchester. The experience in the immediate aftermath of this terrible event and then how the city recovered is also covered. Read chapter 27.
Contents List Introduction Chapter 1

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