'Let’s go f***ing rat hunting'
Anti-vaccine activists turn on our reporter Harry, and we examine Andy Burnham's big bus promise
Dear Millers — it’s been a glorious day in Manchester and we’ve got a sparkling edition for you to read as you bask in the last of the sunshine. It includes:
News of Andy Burnham’s pledge to reduce bus prices from September. “BUS FARES TO BE SLASHED” screamed the front page of the MEN this morning, but we’ve been told the bus operators only learned about the plan on Tuesday, and they haven’t yet agreed to it.
A report from Harry Shukman, who was warned recently that anti-vaccine activists were looking for his house after he wrote about them for The Mill. “Let’s go fucking rat hunting,” one of them posted, “Let’s find this Harry’s home address”.
A lovely feature about FC United of Manchester, the fan-owned team set up after Manchester United was taken over by the Glazer family, which has grown into much more than a protest club.
Dani meets Kate Moorhouse, a graphic designer whose stylish 3-bed semi in Firswood was just featured on the front cover of Real Homes magazine.
As always, if you want to read this edition in full, join up as a member by hitting the button below. Only the top of our Thursday editions is free to read. Is that because we love “pay-walling” our journalism? No. It’s because journalism isn’t free to produce, and pretending it is has led to the ruination of local newspapers that we can all see with our clickbait-addled eyes. We will need thousands of paying members in order to build the kind of high-quality news organisation that Greater Manchester needs (we’re currently on 1,350), so please jump on board and then drop us an email to introduce yourself.
Your Mill briefing
"Bus fares to be slashed,” said the front page of this morning’s MEN (“Mayor to set caps to help with cost of living crisis”). The story says fare caps will apply to all of Greater Manchester, with a single capped at £2 and a day's travel capped at £5 (for reference, a day saver for all buses is currently £6.40). Then Andy Burnham arrived for a press conference at Media City and announced his "intention" to introduce the fare caps, if the government agrees to cover the cost from its bus fund, and the operators agree too. Which they haven’t yet. In fact, the companies were only told that GM leaders were meeting to make the decision on Tuesday, then told the decision had been made yesterday. Those on the call say they were given no further details beyond the proposed fare prices. "We've not been involved in any of the discussions, we've not reached any agreement,” says Gary Nolan, chief executive of One Bus, a partnership representing bus operators. “There's been no discussion whatsoever with bus operators as to how it's going to be implemented, or how the reimbursement will work." Nolan still supports the decision but says today’s big announcement was more about Burnham getting one over the government by showing he’s taking steps to tackle the cost of living crisis. “Yesterday you tweeted that using publicity is no way to govern!” replied one person under Burnham’s tweet of the MEN front page. “The difference is this is actually going to happen,” said the mayor.
The fight over Hulme Hippodrome, a dilapidated theatre built in 1901, would appear to be entering its final stages. Over the past year, campaigners from Save Hulme Hippodrome have blocked the building's sale at auction and enlisted an angel investor to help them buy and renovate the building. But current owner Charles Gassell Gordon — a Croydon-based businessman — seems to be intent on selling it for redevelopment. In February, the council issued Gordon with a section 215, requiring him to make superficial repairs to the building. Gordon appealed the decision in court, putting the S215 in abeyance ever since, with the first hearing scheduled for the end of July. “Word on the street is he hasn’t got a smoking chance of getting it revoked,” says Tony Baldwinson, one of the directors of Save Hulme Hippodrome. Campaigners hope that, should Gordon lose his appeal, he’ll have few options but to accept their offer, which is above the building’s guide price and above the £450,000 he originally paid.
The Department for Education has issued Tameside Council with an official improvement notice after its children's services were criticised by Ofsted. The inspector found capacity issues and delays in assessing children's needs. Last week, MP Andrew Gwynne called for Tameside's children's services to be taken out of council control. But, at a council meeting on Tuesday, councillor Bill Fairfoull — whose brief is children and families — said there was "no intention" of handing children's services over. Handing over to a private entity would mean Tameside paying for an entirely new department: "the costs go through the roof, (and) the local authority picks up the bill," Fairfoull told The Mill. He and other children's service colleagues feel they're already on their way to making the changes recommended in the Ofsted report. A new director of children's services had been hired only weeks before the inspection, and the council have since introduced a children and family scrutiny panel, to review services on a more regular basis and track the pace of change.
The restaurant Mana, Manchester's only Michelin star recipient, fell 67 places in the national restaurant awards this week, from 11th to 78th. We investigated Mana earlier this year and reported that founder and head chef Simon Martin treated his staff badly and embellished his CV, a story soon picked up by the Times. If you found that piece interesting, you might like to read a recent long read by the Financial Times Magazine into the working practices of restaurants in Copenhagen, including the world-famous Noma, where Martin worked.
2,500 civil servants will move into First Street Hub, a 12,000 square metre site near HOME. It’s part of the government’s Places for Growth Programme, moving 22,000 Civil Service roles out of London by 2030. The increased footfall and spending brought by civil servants is expected to generate £31m in economic benefits for the city, but the real win will be the slow weakening of Whitehall’s notoriously centralising grip over the country.
Nine teenagers have been re-arrested on suspicion of murdering 16-year-old Kennie Carter, who was stabbed as he walked towards his home in Hulme. The group, aged between 13 and 17, were previously released on conditional bail.
And finally, listen to our latest podcast about Ahmed, an asylum seeker who told us in detail about his long, perilous journey from Sudan to Manchester. What’s it like trying to get into England on a lorry from France? And how did he cope with the racism he experienced in Warrington? You can listen on Apple Podcasts, and on Spotify.
The campaign to free an anti-vaxxer turns on me
By Harry Shukman
A couple of weeks ago, I woke up to messages from a reader alerting me that anti-vaccine activists were searching for my home address. I was sent some voice notes recorded off Telegram, the messaging app. They made me sit up. “Let’s go fucking rat hunting,” said one of the notes, sent by a campaigner called Michael Photiou. “Let’s find this Harry’s home address and we’ll go and serve him notice as well, for misinformation.”
This followed my story for The Mill about the campaign to free Simon Parry, an anti-vaccine activist from Oldham. Parry has been sectioned under mental health laws but his followers say the state has incarcerated him for his political beliefs (Parry believes Covid jabs are genocidal bioweapons).
In the aftermath of that fairly innocuous report, I was accused of belonging to the Army’s 77th psychological warfare brigade and called a “sneaky little rat”, a grave insult to rodents. I was also called an extreme left-wing activist and a communist agitator (I would have thought working for the Times would forever make me immune from that particular accusation, but here we are).
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