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An early Christmas gift: levelling up funding rolls in
Plus: A great festive concert and Man City's owner is buying the Telegraph
Dear Millers — we hope you had a wonderful weekend and you’re ready for a surprisingly unrainy winter week (don’t hold us to that). Today’s briefing features news of levelling up cash rolling into Greater Manchester, a festive concert at the cathedral, and a very cosy cottage on the edge of Bolton that you will want to move into before Christmas. Oh and Manchester City’s owner seems to be buying the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator…
But first! Stop what you are doing if you or someone in your life is currently on the hunt for a Marketing and Events Assistant job. Yes, very specific, but that is the job we are hiring for and the application deadline is midnight tonight. It’s a role helping us with social media, growth, organising our members’ events and generally getting the word out about The Mill and our sister titles. Click here to apply. If you tragically miss the deadline and apply by lunchtime tomorrow, that’s no problem.
For some reason — perhaps because we had a record-breaking September — our membership growth has been a bit slower recently and we need a bit of a boost to hit our targets this month. If you’re not a member yet and you are enjoying our journalism, please hit that button below to join us for just £7 a month. Our 2,591 wonderful members are the bedrock of everything we do, and we need more of them in order to grow the team while keeping our finances sustainable. Jump aboard.
Our weekend read was a deep dive into one of the biggest talking points in some parts of south Manchester: students. Or, more specifically, the number of them living in areas like Fallowfield, Withington and other areas near the universities. As Jack noted in his piece, there were just over 121,000 students enrolled in higher education in Greater Manchester in 2021, up from just over 96,000 in 2014. That’s 25,000 extra students, many of whom want to live within walking distance of a few pubs on Wilmslow Road. How is the city supposed to respond?
As so often under our stories, the comments section added some really interesting perspectives. We’re very lucky that Millers post such thoughtful and detailed comments that often make our stories a starting point for a broader discussion, which is what good local journalism should be. Here’s a flavour of the conversation:
“The biggest problem, really, is noise,” wrote Withington-dwelling Mill member Charlotte. “You’ll go weeks with everything being fine and then on a random Wednesday you’ll be kept up until 4am by a load of people stood outside a house party.”
A member called Diane felt the language of the piece was too anti-student (“‘flood’ is a word that takes the humanity out of students,”) and wrote: “It is lovely to live in an energetic city with a relative young population! I say the more the merrier.”
A member called Sue made the point that adding an extra 2,000 students “into an already unbalanced community” doesn’t seem to align with the council’s Age Friendly Manchester Strategy. Sue continues: “Our community contains many older people and people with disabilities, whose voices have not been heard in the development of the Owens Park plan.”
This week’s weather
Tuesday 🌥️ Mostly dry with sunny spells occasionally breaking through largely cloudy skies. Feeling chilly in a northerly wind. Max 10°c
Wednesday ☁️ Turning breezy with mostly cloudy skies overhead. Still dry for many, but thick cloud may produce drizzle locally. Max 11°c
Thursday 🌦️ Windy with mostly cloudy skies and a few showers. Max 12°c
Friday ☁️ Breezy, cloudy and chilly with a few light showers. Max 9°c.
Weekend 🌦️ Turning colder and remaining cloudy at first with showery rain.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook.
From today’s sponsor: For some, the Christmas markets may herald the start of the festive season — even if they do pop up in early November. For others, it is hearing Handel’s glorious Messiah performed at Manchester Cathedral, a recent tradition that brings together the Cathedral Choir and the superb Manchester Baroque chamber orchestra, who play on historical instruments for a truly authentic sound. This year’s concert is now less than three weeks away — on Saturday December 9th — and you can book your tickets with a 20% Millers’ discount by following this special link where the offer is pre-loaded. See you there.
📨 This Briefing is going out to 39,506 Millers. Do you want to reach them? Our newsletter sponsors pay to promote their events, businesses and initiatives — driving massive awareness across Greater Manchester. And their sponsorships also help to fund our local journalism. It’s a win-win — and we’ve got some slots available in December. Get in touch to book your slot.
The big story: Christmas comes early as government cash rolls in
Top line: Tens of millions of pounds have been promised to local projects in the third round of the government’s Levelling Up Fund, including plans to redevelop “the Civic” in Wythenshawe and boost the economy of Denton. The funding awards were announced this afternoon, prompting delight from local MPs.
Zoom in: The winning bids in Greater Manchester (and let’s throw in Chorley since so many Millers live there) are helpfully summarised by Place North West as follows.
Manchester: Regenerating Wythenshawe town centre – £20m
Tameside: Destination Denton – £16.7m
Chorley: Town centre improvements and civic square development – £20m
Bolton: Town centre north regeneration project – £20m
Wigan: Leigh town centre £11.3m
The Civic: Let’s start in Wythenshawe, where Manchester City Council bought a 1970s shopping centre last year, a decision that might have seemed a bit rash at the time but has now been vindicated. A massive redevelopment is proposed in the area (see photo below) including “a new public square, new shops, net zero carbon commercial, community and cultural space, and around 1,600 new homes built on Council-owned land.”
But hang on… Why are cash-strapped local councils buying failing local shopping centres, you may wonder? Good question, and one we tried to answer in a very popular piece (members-only) by a former council leader who actually bought one of them himself. Sean Fielding, former leader of Oldham, wrote for us:
I think these purchases illustrate something interesting about the role of councils — which don’t just exist to make sure your bins get collected. Yes, providing key services (including bins and parks and social care) is key. But councils exist to provide leadership in the places they cover.
Ok, to Bolton, which has done extremely well out of the government levelling up agenda so far and its winning luck continues (is it luck or are there two marginal seats in Bolton? Who knows). Our friends at the Bolton News have a good rundown of the local reaction.
The politics: Today’s announcement all feels rather election-ey. Bolton North East's Conservative MP Mark Logan, who won his seat from Labour by a few hundred votes in 2019 and will be hoping massive government gifts like today will give him a fighting chance of keeping the seat at the next election, said today:
Since 2019, we’ve completed the £12m revamp of the Octagon Theatre, secured £23m from the government’s Towns Fund, £20m for a new Bolton College of Medical Sciences and now, a further £20m Levelling-Up bid for town centre regeneration projects.
What’s the deal in Denton? You might remember a story a couple of years ago about Denton having the most new independents opening up of any town centre in the land. Local MP Andrew Gwynne has been banging on about the area’s economic revival for years, often using the hashtag #destinationdenton. And now Denton is the destination for almost £17m of public funding.
In the bid: When Denton missed out on levelling up money earlier this year, the excellent Tameside Correspondent explained a bit more about the bid:
Highlights of the Denton submission included further capital investment for Festival Hall and Denton Town Hall to provide enabling infrastructure that makes best use of the council’s estate. That would have seen £2 million going towards improvements to Festival Hall to enable relocation of further council services into Denton town centre and creation of a ‘neighbourhood hub’.
Deadline day: In the letter to Gwynne about today’s funding news, levelling up minister Jacob Young congratulates the area for getting lots of cash — but he also refers to the need for the project to be “deliverable by March 2026”. Basically, the bids are all provisional on that basis.
Context: This highlights a point that is worth bearing in mind: the arrival of all this money isn’t guaranteed. “I anticipate we'll say we can indeed deliver it so we get the money,” texts one source in Bolton today, “but I wouldn't be that confident.”
The catch: Earlier this year it was revealed that the government had spent “less than 10% of its £4.8bn fund for levelling up since its launch in 2020”. Complex rules and lack of council staffing have been identified as causes.
Research by Jack Shaw at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy at Cambridge University has shown that a lack of capacity at hollowed-out local authorities makes it difficult for councils to actually spend the chunks of money they are given.
His work showed that lots of money distributed by the Shared Prosperity Fund has gone unspent. The Guardian reported: “95% of the local authorities that received funding in 2022-23 were unable to spend all of their share. Across the UK, 43% of £429m in funding was not spent.”
Real levelling up: That’s an important note of caution about these announcements: big chunks of money can be promised but that doesn’t necessarily mean the cash will be spent. High inflation this year means that building plans are more expensive to pull off and the funding is contingent on tight deadlines and fiddly rules. Plus, as the leading economist and longtime Miller Dame Diane Coyle explained on our podcast a while ago, “real levelling up” would probably require much larger and more strategic investments if it was going to revive local economies.
Bottom line: But we don’t mean to play Scrooge. For the areas promised money today, the investment could make a huge difference locally. We’ll try to keep an eye on how these projects develop. With your help of course — always just get in touch if you have some interesting info.
Home of the week
This cosy two-bedroom cottage is in a secluded part of Bolton, surrounded by lakes and rolling hills. It’s on the market for £250,000.
Your Mill briefing
“The big thing in Manchester at the moment,” Ben Clay, an organiser from Greater Manchester Tenants Union, tells the Guardian, “is coming out of a viewing and seeing 10, 15, sometimes 20 other people outside, and then the letting agents hold an auction to see who will pay most.” The paper’s North of England editor Helen Pidd takes a broad look at the UK’s rental market, which is now bedevilled by bidding wars, rental CVs (where prospective tenants brief biographies and headshots to improve their chances of getting a flat), and increasingly aggressive landlords. “A renter in Trafford, Greater Manchester, said he called the police after his landlord punched him during a tussle over a clothes horse in the front room (the landlord thought washing should be dried outside despite the notoriously damp Mancunian climate).”
The father of Awaab Ishak — the two-year-old who died as a result of unchecked mould in his family’s flat in Rochdale — has said "I want those people who are responsible to get the punishment that they deserve." Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH), the housing association responsible for the management of the family’s flat, was criticised by levelling up secretary Michael Gove for having “failed its tenants,” and a housing ombudsman report found it was “dismissive” and “unsympathetic”.
On that note, a correction: In last Friday’s edition, we brought you an update about Manchester City Council being ordered to pay £5,000 in compensation to a family whose home had issues with mould. But while trying to combine that story with an update about the Ishak case in our Mini Briefing, we mistakenly muddled the two stories up. The Ishak case has nothing to do with Manchester City Council and we apologise for the error. If you ever spot an error in The Mill, please get in touch with us and we will publish a correction.
£450,000 has been raised to save Bolton Hospice, which earlier this year said it may have had to lose a third of its beds because of cuts. The fundraiser has been a joint effort between the hospice and The Bolton News — which has also produced a three part special report on the hospice. Dr Leigh Vallance, the hospice’s chief executive, said: "Every penny will be used to sustain our care and support for local people that bit longer, a priceless gift for the families we support.”
And finally, it looks like Manchester City Owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan is going to be taking over the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator magazine, or at least taking a big stake. The Telegraph itself reports that the Abu Dhabi-backed investment fund RedBird IMI “is in line to take control of The Telegraph within weeks in a deal that is causing concern among Conservative MPs.” As the Guardian explains, "RedBird is run by former CNN president Jeff Zucker, “one of the most well-known media executives in the world”.
🎁 When we published this old pictorial map recently the link became one of our most clicked links ever, so we’re pushing it out again for those who missed it and for any Millers who think it would make a lovely Mancunian Christmas present. It was published by The Manchester Guardian in the 1920s showing the major transport routes in the city, and it highlights the vast tram network we used to have before it was dismantled in 1949 (in 1930, Manchester had 163 miles of tram lines; Metrolink now has just 64 miles). One of our longtime members is selling the map via her online shop: you can buy a copy for £12 or a framed one for £28 by clicking here.
Our to do list
🎸 Band on the Wall is hosting a jam session featuring some of the best rising stars from the University of Salford’s music department, which spans genres like jazz, blues, soul and indie rock. Tickets here.
🎭 There are still tickets left to see Lin Manuel Miranda’s award-winning musical Hamilton at the Palace Theatre, which explores the story of America’s founding fathers through hip hop and spoken word. Tickets here.
🍷 West Didsbury’s tiny art cafe Sett hosts weekly art classes with DJs playing music all evening. Bring a bottle of wine and get creative. Book here.
📸 Inside Out: This is Manchester is a new exhibition that spans the entire ground floor of Aviva Studios and features 200 portraits of inspiring Mancunians, nominated by members of their own community. It’s free to visit.
🎨 Yes Lah, a lovely Malaysian and Filipino restaurant in Chorlton, is doing its take on Spanish Pintxos. There will also be cocktails, painting materials and a complimentary glass of fizz. Book here.
🖼️ Come along to the historic reading room at the John Rylands for a panel discussion about the evolution of independent press in Manchester, featuring The Mill’s founder Joshi and City Life’s co-founder Andy Spinoza. Entry is free and it starts at 6pm.