News digest 27 – 31 August

Article published: Monday, September 3rd 2012

Friends of Platt Fields warn the much-loved park is in desperate need of attention following a summer of rain, festivals and more rain, dozens of children may be left without new term places as pressure mounts on Primary Schools, and health clinics in some of the most deprived areas of the city are due to close from October.


Income squeeze will continue, say finance experts

Top financial analysts in companies including JP Morgan, Barclay’s Capital and Capital Economics expect higher utility bills to tighten the screws on British households. Economists at the firms have increased their inflation forecasts by between 1 and 0.5 per cent in response to a declaration by SSE, one of the “big six” energy companies, to hike its electricity and gas prices by an eye watering 9 per cent. Its rivals are expected to follow its example as the winter draws in.

The higher expected rates are likely to put pressure on the Bank of England’s attempts to wrestle down inflation to its 2 per cent target, and come on top of hikes in oil and food prices which some economists put down to a mixture of strained supply and financial speculation by some of those very same City firms. Amit Kara, a UBS economist, pointed out to the Financial Times that rising commodity prices were leaving central banks with a dilemma of either raising or cutting interest rates to cope with inflation and GDP indicators which were racing in different directions.


Osborne’s conservative club in cash crisis (yes, that Osborne)

A conservative club sharing the same building as Chancellor George Osborne’s Tatton constituency office in Cheshire could close for want of funds, reported the Manchester Evening News. Members have been forced to call an urgent meeting to discuss the crisis, and it is understood that if no money can be found the Knustford club may have to close its doors by Christmas.

Osborne, who took over the Tory safe seat after independent anti-sleaze candidate Martin Bell stood down in 2001, has become increasingly unpopular throughout the double dip recession and was nominated as the government’s most disliked politician in a recent opinion poll. Perhaps this was what he meant by saying we’re all in it together…

Festivals damage Platt Fields

Platt Fields park has been left “ruined” by a series of summer festivals including Parklife and the South Asian festival Mega Mela, organisers of the conservation group Friends of Platt Fields told the local press. A combination of dreadful weather in recent months and two large festivals have left fields in the park flooded and churned into mud.

North Manchester’s Heaton Park was also left damaged by the Stone Roses gig, and Friends of Platt Fields have previously urged debate on whether Manchester’s parks can continue hosting large festivals – a lucrative money-spinner for the city – in their sorry state.


Dozens of kids left without school places

Over 80 kids in Manchester may not be able to start school on Monday due to the city’s urgent Primary School places crisis, revealed the MEN’sDeborah Linton. A massive 20 per cent population surge in the city, and a 40 per cent rise in the number of pre-school aged children, has left schools unable to cope with one of the worst demand crises in the country.

Of the 82 children who need a spot 27 are original applicants, with another 55 applying for late spaces. Further headaches are down the line for education bosses, who need to find spots for another 7,000 primary school kids over the next four years. Over £34m in new school places has been invested in Manchester since 2008, with £12.6m coming on top of basic funding, but while there are still around 200 spare places available they are not located in the areas which need it most.

Homelessness up 10 per cent

The level of homelessness in Greater Manchester is up 10 per cent from last year, according to local authority figures collected by the Department for Communities and Local Government. The figures revealed that 2,071 people, including many children, are either living in shelters, on the verge of eviction or sleeping rough. Figures in Rochdale trebled over the period, leading local MP Simon Danczuk to accuse other councils of quietly moving their homeless people into the borough.

Surging house prices during the boom of the last decade left a massive housing crisis in its wake, while sell-offs have left many local authorities to shelter their homeless in expensive private landlord-owned housing in former council estates. Little affordable housing has been built to relieve this and new laws criminalising squatting in abandoned residential properties are widely expected to make the crisis worse. It’s almost as if the Tories were a party of landed interests…

MediaCityUK draws Atlantic eyes

Boston-based US magazine the Atlantic has an interesting feature on Salford’s MediaCityUK and its comparisons with the North’s great cultural TV export, Granada. While the magazine finds some room for optimism in that it may one day meet expectations of breaking up the UK’s rather centralised media, it recognises that the supposed benefits have not so far materialised for the people of Salford whose taxes are propping up the joint venture between unloved property giant Peel Holdings and various public agencies. You can read the whole thing here.


Health clinics to be scrapped in October

Two health clinics based in some of the most deprived areas of Manchester will shut their doors in October as part of the reorganisation of Manchester’s NHS. Services in the closed centres, first reported on by Mule back in May, will relocate quite a large distance from Ancoats to North Manchester General Hospital in Crumpsall, and from Wythenshawe Forum walk in centre to Wythenshawe hospital.

NHS managers insist they have the interests of local people at heart, although Health Secretary Andrew Lansley ultimately overrode the long standing opposition of local councillors to the change. Most walk-in centres were introduced four years ago but dropped, apparently, because they were too popular.

Residents speak out against airport expansion

Locals living near to a planned £100m Manchester Airport warehouse logistics hub have objected to the development, telling the MEN that it could ruin local countryside and snarl up traffic in the area. The Airport, which is one of the North West’s largest polluters, says the development will bring jobs over the next decade and link in the region to international markets.

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