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Meet the secretive Manchester tech firm whose clients are spies
'We operate across intelligence, national security and law enforcement' they told us
Good morning, and welcome to The Mill’s weekly news briefing. These emails pick out some of the most interesting local stories and try to put them in context or add a bit of reporting to help you understand what’s going on.
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The start-up and the spooks
Harry Pearce, M15’s head of counter-terrorism in the BBC’s long-running series Spooks
A Salford-based tech company called Naimuri has just been acquired for £25 million by a large defence contractor. Naimuri has around 70 staff, who provide data services for “the UK Intelligence and Law Enforcement communities,” according to the announcement of the deal. The company doing the buying is one of the country’s biggest defence firms, Qinetiq, which was created when the Ministry of Defence sold off its technology development arm. Qinetiq owns a string of former army bases and airfields, and makes robots that can scout out dangerous territory in a war zone.
But who are Naimuri, the Manchester company with a Japanese name? The company’s website is vague and doesn’t list clients. After I contacted Naimuri yesterday, I was surprised when the company’s Managing Director and co-founder Paul Omar gave me a call. “We operate across intelligence, national security and law enforcement,” he said. Naimuri was set up by Omar and four fellow co-founders five years ago. “Our clients are kind of secure clients,” he said. He describes the word Naimuri does as “data intelligence” and “solving problems with data.”
Staff who join the company (mainly clever-looking developer dudes, judging by the profiles on LinkedIn) have to go through security clearance. The company is based in Media City, and it probably wouldn’t be a huge leap to assume that one of its clients is the government’s listening service GCHQ, which opened a Manchester office on Albert Square last year. Omar wouldn’t be drawn on that or naming any of his clients. “Our mission is to make the UK a safer place,” he said. “We think we make a difference.”
Omar - who is a Scouser - said Naimuri is staying in Salford, and he hopes it will contribute to “a capability for data intelligence” in the North West. I.e. we might see more start-ups like this popping up, especially now GCHQ is in town. Soon Manchester will be, like they used to say about Beirut, a city of spies.
BREAKING: Marcus Rashford is going to receive an honorary doctorate from The University of Manchester, it was announced this morning, recognising his campaign this summer against child poverty. Previous recipients include Sir Alex Ferguson.
Covid leap in Lancashire
A council in Lancashire has asked residents to wear face coverings in all public places and take other steps to stop the spread of Covid-19 after seeing a spike in new cases. Blackburn with Darwen council is also doing “targeted work” within the South Asian community, in which most of the new cases have reportedly emerged. The BBC reports that the local authority has gone from having 29.5 new cases per 100,000 residents over the course of a week, to 41.
That’s nothing like Leicester, which had more than 150 new cases per 100,000 and has now seen the rate fall to 114.3. For context, the most recent published number for Manchester is 12, whereas Bolton’s is 15 and Oldham’s is 19. It’s the sharp increase which is obviously concerning officials in Lancashire. Blackburn with Darwen’s director of public health, Dominic Harrison, implored residents to follow the guidance, and said: “If we don’t, a local lockdown, like in Leicester, becomes a very real possibility.”
While that’s concerning, there is better news in the death numbers (which necessarily lag a bit behind new case numbers). In the week ending July 3rd there were only 100 deaths in which Covid was mentioned on the death certificate in the North West, which is less than half the number we were seeing a month before. The number for total deaths in the North West has also dipped 2 per cent below the five year average for the week in question, meaning there were fewer deaths than in a normal year. To put that into context, there was a week in late April which had almost 2,000 more deaths than the five year NW average.
WATCH: Andy Burnham is leading a service of remembrance for those who have lost their lives to Covid-19 - watch on Manchester Cathedral’s Facebook page at 11am tomorrow.
READ: The Financial Times just published an interesting tracker showing economic numbers relating to Covid, and how different sectors are performing.
When shall we three meet again?
Since March 3rd, Manchester’s planning decisions have been made not by a full planning committee, but by a panel of three people, one of whom is the city council’s chief executive Joanne Roney. Concerns have been bubbling up about this for a couple of months now, especially because nearby councils found a way of running virtual planning committees since almost the start of the lockdown.
The chief executive explained the long suspension of normal practice in an interview with Place North West:
Roney responded that it was “unfortunate” that the council was unable to pivot to virtual planning committees before now, but said it had been “working diligently” to get them up and running.
Several other councils across the region, including Tameside, Liverpool, Cheshire East and Wirral, were able to operate virtual meetings as early as April.
“We could only agree to a move to a virtual meeting when absolutely convinced the system worked, it was safe and secure, and that committee members had the training necessary to ensure they were ready for the change in process,” Roney said.
Make of that what you will. The article lists the major applications approved by the temporary panel, including the “Shudehill Shard” - a 17-storey glass office building which will protrude incongruously out of the Northern Quarter. Local ward councillor Sam Wheeler says it is wrong that Roney, “who has no background in planning law”, has been making these decisions.
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