Homeless teenage girls. You don't tend to see them - but this house in Whalley Range does
Plus: 'They hate him' — why Team Starmer aren't fans of Andy Burnham
Dear Millers — welcome to our Thursday edition.
The whole newsroom team is about to head over to Cambridge Street for our Mill Members Club at the Anthony Burgess Centre, where Sophie is interviewing the author Dave Scott. She’s sitting in the meeting room as we speak, sharpening her questions and rehearsing her jokes. If you’re coming along, see you in about an hour.
If you’re not, you will still have the benefit of some excellent journalism to take you into your evening. This edition brings news of the widening schism between Andy Burnham and his party leader. But it also takes you to Whalley Range, where in a normal-looking semi on a quiet street we found a shelter for teenage girls that is doing extraordinary work. Our first-time writer Kate Woodmass spent time documenting the story — scroll down to read that. And scroll even further to get our unmissable list of recommendations for the weekend, including an arts festival in south Manchester, Klezmer music and Vietnamese street food.
As always, this edition is members-only and regular Millers can scan the top of the email. If you’re not a member yet and you think it’s time you became one of the most well-informed people in Greater Manchester — someone whose connection to this wonderful and crazy place is enriched and deepened by extraordinary journalism every week — then please do hit that button below and join up.
Your Mill briefing
It’s kicking off between Andy Burnham and Sir Keir Starmer. It’s been said for a while that the mayor and the Labour leader don’t talk much, but things have now blown into the open after Burnham accused Starmer’s aides of briefing against him. “Whenever I go out there with something positive, the negative Westminster briefing machine somehow flicks into gear,” he told Times Radio. “All that I’d say is, ‘leave me alone’”. Starmer “conspicuously declined to mention Burnham when launching Labour’s flagship missions for government in Manchester in February,” notes The Times, which adds: “At the same event, Lucy Powell, Starmer’s shadow culture secretary, mockingly referred to Burnham and his close ally Steve Rotheram, mayor of the Liverpool city region, as ‘the Chuckle Brothers’”.
“They hate him,” said one Westminster hack when we asked them how Team Starmer feels about Burnham. Why so? The mayor’s knack for keeping talk of his future leadership credentials alive by the way he answers questions from journalists apparently gets their backs up. When asked if he’d make a good prime minister last year, Burnham said: “I think people are seeing the real me” — not exactly the robotic non-answer you’re supposed to give in service of party unity. We’ve been told that at an event at Salford Lads Club earlier this year, Burnham was able to pick out questions that members of the audience had written down. He proceeded to pick out a question about whether he’d make a good Labour leader.
A hasty merger? “There has been little, if any, national or local news coverage of the imminent demise of an important and longstanding financial institution,” Mill member James writes in. He’s talking about the Manchester Building Society which has 11,000 members and has been going for 101 years. As of July 1, it is set to be swallowed up by the larger Newcastle Building Society, and James says some members cannot see any benefits of the merger and that Newcastle Building Society is not offering to open a Manchester branch. He particularly objects to “the haste with which the boards of the two societies are seeking to push through the proposed 'merger',” he writes. “Manchester members are being deprived the opportunity either of a special meeting to discuss the proposal and of a vote on the matter.”
A fourth arrest has been made in connection to a mill fire that killed four Vietnamese men in Oldham. Cuong Van Chu, Uoc Van Nguyen, Duong Van Nguyen and Nam Thanh Le were found by workers demolishing what remained of the burnt-out mill. A 36 year old is being held on suspicion of manslaughter and is also suspected of drug and organised crime offences. Read our report from the scene last year: A burnt-out Oldham mill gives up its secrets.
Chris Twells, the Salford councillor who won another council seat 150 miles away in the Cotswolds in this month’s elections, says he will still be able to manage all the work. He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the "workload of a councillor in an English district is not enormously onerous". Twells was suspended by the Lib Dems but maintains that it was legal to hold seats on two separate councils, despite angry pushback from Salford’s mayor Paul Dennett.
And finally, some more Andy Burnham news if you can bear it: the mayor has launched plans for a Manchester Baccalaureate — described as a technical alternative to the existing academic English Baccalaureate. The aim is to offer more non-academic options to students who aren’t planning to go to university and to address well-known skills gaps in the local economy.
By Kate Woodmass
When I visit Contact, I almost walk past it. I’m looking for something to distinguish the hostel from its leafy surroundings in Whalley Range, but in reality, it blends in perfectly with the other semi-detached houses around it. Even as I’m shown into the lobby, apart from the visitors’ book which I’m asked to sign at the front door, it feels like a regular family home.
This sense of homeliness is at the heart of Contact. It was set up in 1970 by Brigid Murphy, an ex-nun who worked at an “approved” school which specifically housed neglected children and young offenders. Brigid found that many of the girls leaving the school were ending up homeless, turning to prostitution, or even disappearing on the streets of Manchester.
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