'Outstandingly bad': The verdict on Greater Manchester Police

Monday briefing: Covid on the rise again, the crisis inside GMP and things to do this week

Good morning Millers - welcome to our Christmas week briefing!

Today we have: the latest local Covid data, a quick explainer on why Manchester’s top cop has quit, and a great list of things to do and watch this week.

  • Plus: A special report on where in the country the government’s business and self-employed support has gone. Clue: It mostly isn’t to the North.

Police chief quits

The chief constable of Greater Manchester Police quit on Friday after inspectors found major issues with un-recorded crimes.

  • Ian Hopkins has led the force for five years, and was due to leave the role in the Spring. He has been under pressure for the stuttering rollout of a new computer system called iOPS.

The final straw: A series of inspection reports over the past few years have found that GMP has consistently failed to record crimes properly and protect vulnerable victims. Last week’s one found it had failed to record 80,000 crimes in a year.

  • "Outstandingly bad" — that was the verdict of the Victims' Commissioner for England and Wales Dame Vera Baird.

The context: GMP says it is moving to a new system whereby crimes will be recorded over the phone rather than relying on the officer who is sent out. They tried to implement that in February but say the pandemic made it harder to staff the new system.

  • … and the politics: Andy Burnham oversees the police and Conservative MPs and ministers have been quick to criticise his handling of GMP. They will want it to stay on the agenda during next year’s local elections.

Don’t forget: The Information Commissioner is still investigating the major data breach that The Mill revealed at GMP a few months ago. If you are a member, you can read more detail about that breach and the contractor behind it here.

Worth a watch: Feeding Britain's Children

Marcus Rashford’s mum Mel movingly describes the family’s former poverty in a new documentary. "Sometimes we didn't even have a loaf of bread in the house," she recalls, "But I wouldn't tell somebody I was struggling - it was embarrassing."

She worked three jobs when Rashford was growing up — including as a cashier in bookies and a pot-washer on Saturdays.

  • Watch it: Marcus Rashford: Feeding Britain's Children. Tonight at 7pm on BBC One and iPlayer.

The background: Rashford has used his upbringing in Wythenshawe as part of his campaign for the extension of free school meals, which won him an award at BBC Sports Personality of the Year last night.

  • “Food banks and soup kitchens were not alien to us,” he wrote to MPs earlier this year. “I recall very clearly our visits to Northern Moor to collect our Christmas dinners every year.”

Read more: We visited a food bank near where Rashford grew up.

A stunning shot of the Salisbury pub at the bottom of the Oxford Road station steps by Nathan Whittaker (@manc_wanderer), one of our favourite Manchester photographers. Have a look at his prints.

Covid data check

The new strain of coronavirus is behind a dramatic surge in cases in London and the South East, say government scientists. But so far we aren’t seeing those kinds of numbers here.

  • The latest data for the North West show a gently rising picture - see the chart above from the great @UKCovid19Stats Twitter account.

Rochdale and Oldham have the highest rates in Greater Manchester, but both are way outside the top 100 worst affected local authorities in England (140th and 148th). Rates are now rising in six of our boroughs and the GM trend is up again.

Key context: GM hospitals are much less full than they were a month ago, with roughly half the number of Covid patients compared to mid-November. Critical beds are just over 75% full.

  • The latest hospital numbers released by Andy Burnham last week are here.

Things to do this week

Festival | If you’re looking for a little bit of magic and wonder in these dark months, Lightopia Festival at Heaton Park promises to lift the spirits.

  • The lantern and light event is outdoors, wrap up and grab your tickets online.

Christmas | Tune in on Christmas Eve to McGoldrick, McCusker and Doyle’s “Christmas at Home” from The Met, Bury.

  • What’s in store: The concert features a “diverse mix of classic Christmas melodies, traditional and contemporary songs and tunes”. Book here

Exhibition | Whilst many of us will not be able to visit a physical exhibition for a while, The Portico Library has put together a great online exhibition about “Fun & Games: Playtime, past and present”.

  • We like the illustrations — it isn’t especially festive, but the exhibition resembles an advent calendar. Discover here.

Music | Feeling nostalgic about the days of live concerts? A music documentary made thirty years on from Madchester called “Manchester Music Then and Now: Music Worth Fighting For” has just gone live.

  • It features a stellar line-up of well-known faces from the Manchester music scene, including Elbow, Manchester Collective and New Order/Joy Division. Watch it here.

More green space to go

A 5,000 signature petition and a huge wave of local opposition couldn’t stop plans for an office development on a popular patch of land in Ancoats.

New Islington Green, as the five-acre site is known, is a green space beloved by residents, who fought a valiant battle against London developers General Project’s scheme on the land.

  • The vote: Manchester City Council’s planning committee passed plans for five office buildings.

The context: Campaigners say the council sold the land too cheaply. The council says it sold it on the condition that any future development would include a “significant area of public space.”

Do you have a connection with this building? Worked there? Lived there? We are witing about it, so please reply to this newsletter if so. And follow The Mill on Instagram to see some of our best photos, including this one by Dani Cole.

Special Report: Where the government’s Covid cash went

The government has dished out tens of billions trying to support businesses and self-employed workers since the start of the pandemic. That’s been funded by borrowing, and we can expect to pay for it in higher taxes.

  • Q: Where has that money gone? Our data reporter Jacklin Kwan pulled all the data from the treasury’s website and crunched the numbers to find out which part of the country each pound went to.

  • FYI: These numbers go up to October and we weren’t able to get a regional breakdown for the furlough scheme, the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, or the Local Restrictions Support Grant.

Surprise, surprise: Most of the money has gone to businesses headquartered in the South, who got £35.6 billion compared to £14.3 billion in the North and even less in the Midlands. The overall numbers are below:

The same is true when you look at support for the self-employed:

  • Data point: Between June and October, self-employed workers in the South received around £12bn more in support, with each claimant receiving an average of £357 more.

Most strikingly: Look what happens when you comare business loans and rates discount between just London and the North…

  • The gap: Rates discounts were £691m higher for London businesses than the entire North. £755m higher for business loans.

One the one hand: The numbers are more or less what you would expect — they just confirm how focused on London and the South our economy is, in terms of population, big businesses and wealth.

  • IPPR North, a leading think tank, says that regional inequalities in productivity, income and health are far worse in Britain than in any comparable country.

But they also show: A missed opportunity. There’s little sign from this data that the massive investment during the pandemic will help to level up the country.

  • “The assumptions of the support schemes have been that we are all in the same place,” says Sarah Longlands, director of IPPR North.

  • She says more could have been done to fix the structural issues that businesses outside London face disproportionately, like poor broadband connectivity.


Stuck for ideas?

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Coming up this week…

  • A fascinating feature about Christmas history and folklore in Greater Manchester.

  • Our look into the cladding crisis that is causing heartache and disruption across the city.

  • A gripping piece about a Christmas bombing raid on Manchester:

    “It was a cold Christmas Eve. A blanket of frost lay over Manchester that Sunday in 1944. In the suburb of Northenden - on the border with Didsbury – a little girl was fast asleep. Suddenly, just before 5.20am, she became aware of a horrible noise in the darkness. Even as an eight year old, Margaret Appleby, knew what it was…”

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