Discover more from The Mill
New art galleries and old-style politics - the latest bids go in for 'levelling up' cash
Plus: Manchester's barristers strike for the first time since 2014
Dear Millers — it’s crunch time for councils across GM to apply for the next round of levelling up funding. Wigan wants an art gallery, Tameside wants active travel links, everyone wants to renovate their town hall. But some say levelling up is going to take a lot more than that. Also in this week’s newsletter, we’ve got a 17th-century farmhouse in Chorlton up for sale, and some great recommendations for the week ahead, including intergalactic roller skating, a hidden literary gem, and a language exchange club.
On Saturday we published a profile on Bev Craig, the new leader of Manchester City Council. Joshi spoke to property developers and housing campaigners to hear their thoughts on Craig’s tenure so far. “The private sector has noticed Craig’s pragmatism, and been reassured by it,” he writes. You can hear Craig talk to Joshi in our latest podcast episode. You can also listen on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Last week, Mill members received a lively feature about the Manchester-based woman behind an Instagram account with over half a million followers, who shares the woes of Gen Z dating via screenshots of weird, rude or toe-curlingly awkward messages. They also got a bumper Thursday edition that looked at how online activist Raja Miah and his supporters reacted to Oldham’s CSE report. They had long accused Oldham Council of covering up a Rochdale-style grooming epidemic — did the report change their views?
Despite lots of media coverage this week focusing heavily on the Sophie story, Miah can see that the review has not supported his version of what has happened in Oldham, and he now says the 200-page report is a part of the ongoing conspiracy. “Andy Burnham’s Oldham CSE Assurance Review has itself been a cover up exercise,” Miah wrote on Facebook this week.
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This week’s weather 🌦
Our forecast comes from local weatherman Martin Miles, who is forecasting a wetter week ahead but says: “Hopefully a pleasant weekend to come!”
Tuesday ☁️ Cloudy and breezy for most of the daytime. Rain will arrive from the west during the evening. Max 18°c.
Wednesday 🌦 Warmer with sunshine and showers. Most of the showers will come during the afternoon, heavy and potentially thundery. Max 21°c.
Thursday 🌦 Another mixed day with sunny spells and showers. Cooler. Max 19°c.
Friday 🌦 More of the same with sunny spells and showers. Again, most showers will come during the afternoon. Max 18°c.
Weekend High pressure will attempt to build in from the south-west. Conditions will likely be more settled.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook. Daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
The big story — New art galleries and old-style politics
Top Line: Councils around Greater Manchester have until next Wednesday to bid for levelling up money for town centre regeneration, cultural investment and infrastructure schemes.
Context: This is the second round of funding allocated by the government as part of their levelling up agenda, which looks to narrow economic disparities between parts of the UK. It comes as the first round of grants — awarded last year — fall under scrutiny.
A recent report by the Public Accounts Committee found that the government was allocating money without a proper sense of how it would be spent, or how it would help. The report said:
Over-optimistic bids were awarded money over more realistic plans. These have since been beset with delays.
The government was announcing funds without giving councils sufficient time to prepare fully fledged bids.
As a result, the government allocated money to half-baked ideas, and has since held off funding while council’s develop them. The committee also found that councils were only told what kinds of bids the government wanted after they had already submitted their own. That shouldn’t be a problem this time: many applications are looking to expand on funds received last year or are resubmissions of those that were rejected. So councils should have an idea of the government's criteria for awarding funding.
Cynics abound: “I think it [knowing the criteria] helps,” says David Thame, an editor at the property website Place North West who writes their weekly subplot newsletter about the property market. “But previous experience suggests that when governments do issue a whole load of metrics and criteria, many of the most important aren't tied to any kind of numerical or easily measurable outcome.”
What Thame is saying: it’s politics. The levelling up fund has been marred from the beginning with what has been called “pork barrel politics”. Recall: Rishi Sunak’s leafy constituency of Richmondshire — which is 252nd place in the latest Indices of Multiple Deprivation — being placed in a higher priority group than Salford — 19th place.
“Here’s a cynical view,” Thame told The Mill. “Why would I, a Conservative government, wish to distribute goodies to Angela Rayner right now?”
Speaking of: just last week, Tameside Council — which oversees Rayner’s Ashton Under-Lyne constituency — finalised £35m worth of bids for Denton and Stalybridge.
The Denton bid — for £13m, plus £2.5m from the council — will focus on improving active travel links, new residential developments and regenerating the Town Hall.
The Stalybridge bid — £20m — aims to deliver a new cultural quarter, with £2.8m to be spent renovating the Civic Hall and Astley Cheetham Art Gallery.
When asked what success would look like to him, Tameside’s business lead David Sweeton told The Mill:
It's very simple for me, I would like this to bring action on the ground that is befitting of the residents’ expectation. For too long we've had aspirations without plans, and without the money to actually galvanise them.
Elsewhere in GM:
Bolton Council is looking for £50m to improve roads in Horwich and Westhoughton, after they missed out on funding last year because — wait for it — they couldn’t fit the required files in one email.
Manchester City Council will be bidding for funding to give their plans for Wythenshawe Town Centre a leg-up.
Wigan Council announced a bid for £20m to transform the Grade II listed Haigh Hall into an event space, restaurant and art gallery.
Thame thinks the levelling up fund is a sticking plaster, “the sweepings off the table”. The kind of regeneration needed in places like Tameside takes generations, not a few million and a spruced-up high street. He says the development of the city centre proves that:
I remember the problems the economy had in 1990, when I first moved to Manchester, and here we are, 32 years later. That’s how long this takes.
The questions stacking up against the latest round of funding are manifold. Will it prove as scatter-shot as the first? Will councils have more developed bids prepared this time?
A report published today found that levelling up will cost billions more than anticipated, and that merely spreading investment across the country for new buildings and cultural assets isn’t enough to boost productivity. There will also need to be investment in people and skills to boost long term growth. “No economy will be successful,” says Thame, “until you've got people with skills that other people want to buy.”
Home of the week
This 17th-century 3-bedroom farmhouse in Chorlton features wooden beams, a conservatory and a beautiful garden. It’s on the market for £750,000.
Your Mill news briefing
Muted thuds could be heard from a white prison van as it reversed outside Manchester Crown Court this morning. The people inside it were banging their fists against the windows — though whether it was in support of the barristers’ strike, was uncertain. A group of barristers, some holding protest signs, looked on. Across England and Wales, criminal barristers are striking over legal aid fees — according to the Criminal Bar Association, barristers have suffered an average decrease in real earnings of 28% since 2006. Over 1,000 cases will be impacted each day of the strike, which will last for four weeks. Clare Ashcroft, 47, who works at Garden Court North Chambers, told The Mill that the median income of a junior barrister, with 1-3 years post-qualification experience is £12,200. “When you break that down, that equates to less than the minimum wage for highly qualified, highly skilled individuals.” She motioned to a young woman next to her, Rosalind Burgin, 27, who was a former pupil of hers. “She's now fully qualified, working in excess of 60 hours a week for that annual income. And over time, that low income has affected the diversity of the criminal bar.”
A new support programme is aiming to keep hospitality workers in the industry by offering free training and advice. As of August 2021, there were around 2,500 unfulfilled hospitality jobs in Greater Manchester. Sacha Lord, GM's night-time economy tsar, said: “This programme offers hope to operators across Greater Manchester’s hospitality and night-time economy sector and will give them a real helping hand through these difficult economic times."
UK-Med, a medical aid charity based in Manchester that has been delivering frontline support in Ukraine, has been awarded Emergency Medical Team status by the World Health Organisation. This means they can be called upon at any time to fly anywhere in the world to deliver critical medical aid. They will be the only UK charity verified by the WHO in this way. You can listen to our interview with UKMed's founder, Tony Redmond, on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. You can also read our short report about one of UK-Med's nurses, Becky Platt, and read our long-form profile of Redmond.
Figen Murray, the mother of Martyn Hett — one of 22 people killed in the Arena attack — was made an OBE over the weekend. The award was in recognition of her work in counter-terrorism, having spent the years since the attack campaigning for better venue security. The Protect Duty Bill, also known as Martyn’s Law, will give venues a duty to secure against terror attacks.
HOME has announced its 2022/23 theatre season, which will run from this September to March 2023. The programme includes dance, drama, cabaret and puppetry, and there will be a performance of The Cherry Orchard, a “loose, playful adaptation” of Chekhov’s final work, which is set on a distant starship.
In photos: Barristers on strike
Jennifer, why are you here today? “When you're being asked to work for minimal amounts of money for extraordinary long hours, then that really starts to bite you. And what happens essentially, is a lot of people — like myself and [those] even more senior — decide to go to a more lucrative area of the profession, and hence our criminal bar is diminishing which then has a direct impact upon the people that need it most.”
Rosalind, what is the most rewarding part of your job? “I had a case of a kid who got involved in criminal activity when he was in his mid-teens. Two years have passed since that activity and the sentencing that I represented him in — in those two years, he turned his life around and got counselling. We just — by the skin of our teeth — managed to get a suspended sentence for him, out of prison, into a community order. He was such a lovely kid and was so hopeful about his future. I am not a crier, and I cried all the way home.”
Go deeper: “The Criminal Bar on strike – 9 things you need to know”, by the Secret Barrister.
Our favourite reads
Bread and roses — Big Issue North
American writer and activist Rebecca Solnit tells Antonia Charlesworth what Putin, Wigan and gardening all have in common, as they discuss her latest book Orwell’s Roses. Charlesworth asks: “In what way was Orwell’s garden a reaction to what he’d witnessed in the North of England while researching The Road to Wigan Pier?” Solnit replies: “He came straight from the bleak and deadly landscape of the industrialised and coal-fouled North to this cottage in Wallington and began building a real garden, after years of only having allotment plots.”
I read Molly Mae’s girlboss bible so you didn’t have to — Dazed Magazine
Culture writer Diyora Shadijanova waded through Manchester “influencer” Mollie Mae Hague’s new memoir, which is, in part, a handbook on how to be successful like her. Shadijanova writes: “The most frustrating aspect of the memoir is Hague’s vague fascination with manifestation. When she first moved from her childhood home into a flat in Manchester, the influencer worried she wouldn’t make up the rent, but managed it with her income from the early days of brand deals. ‘I do feel like I manifested that flat’, she says.”
AI’s first philosopher — Aeon
This fascinating article looks at the philosophical foundations of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the role Alan Turing had in shaping the modern computer. “Turing died young, however, and for a long time most of his work remained either classified or otherwise inaccessible. So it is perhaps not surprising that there are important lessons left to learn from him, including about the philosophical foundations of AI.”
'I know what it is like to suffer and to be silenced' — Manchester Confidential
You might have seen Allie Crewe’s portraits in St Peter’s Square and across the Metrolink network. The powerful I Am exhibition featured portraits of survivors of domestic abuse. In another exhibition Your Own Light, which ran throughout June, Crewe turned her lens to the transgender and non-binary community. “But it is not just visual, physical changes that draw Allie,” Lucy Tomlinson writes. “The tectonic emotional shifts that take place inside her subjects attract her just as much, if not more. One of her sitters, Olivia Fisher, accompanied Allie to the launch of the exhibition. Her portrait is direct, powerful but luminous.”
Our to do list
📝 The Portico Library invites you to “Rewriting the North”, an event celebrating the work of 15 debut writers from British South Asian backgrounds. They’ve been published by new Bradford publishers Fox & Windmill. Starts 6pm. Book here.
🚶♂️The MileShy Club in Urmston is a gentle walking group to help with flexibility and mobility. Each session is run by a trained professional who will guide you as you warm-up and cool down. Starts 11am. Book here.
🗣 Practise new languages or share your native language with others at the Manchester Language Exchange at Lock 91 on Century Street. It runs every Thursday at 7pm. £1 on the door. Book here.
👶 There’s a Stay & Play session at Emmanuel Church in Salford for babies and toddlers. There will also be a trained peer supporter available for breastfeeding advice and information. Starts 10.30am. Book here.
🚴♀️ The Cheshire Dash starts on Saturday 2 July. It’s a 100-mile charity bike ride raising funds for The Joshua Tree, a charity that supports families living with the experience of childhood cancers across the North West and North Wales. If you’d like to take part, click here.
⛸ If you want to do some intergalactic roller skating, try out Paradise Skate World on Deansgate. They’ve got cocktails and great music to enjoy as you whizz around. Book here.
📚 Another ‘out of this world’ recommendation — bookshop Anywhere Out of The World is a literary gem hidden away in the Northern Quarter. It’s open Wednesday to Sunday, 11am-6pm. 70 Tib Street, First Floor, M4 1LG, Manchester, UK.
☕ Have a brew
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Letters to the editor
Loved reading about the Manchester 'softbois' Gen Z (‘Meal deals, dubstep DJs and rude DMs: is this how Gen Z dates now?’) Being a babyboomer I'm now wondering what the 1960s equivalent was! Anne
It was great hearing Bev Craig talk at length on the podcast (‘Bev Craig has her own ideas’) quite personally at times but also talking in-depth about housing policy in terms a layman like me can understand, but also in a way which suggests she lives and breathes issues like this. The article then provided interesting alternative perspectives. As a Stopfordian I’m looking forward to a future interview with our own new council leader (and maybe some vehement rebuttals from his opponents too). John