Beetham Tower Deansgate
A report published in November 2016, by the ‘Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change’ (CRESC), based at the University of Manchester, outlines Manchester’s transformation over 25-years and shows how councillors and officers working with property developers, transformed Manchester City and Salford.
The report says that what has been built, is a parallel new town in Manchester City, of office blocks and adjacent one and two bedroom flats, occupied by a 25 to 34-year-old in-migrant workforce, that lives, works and plays, within the city centre. Of this in-migrant workforce, 34% were born outside the UK and Ireland and 24% from outside Europe. The report says that many work in junior white-collar occupations, linked to local government, health, education, or the private sector. Alternatively, they work in retail, restaurants, or hotels, which employ 25% of the workforce. The report asserts that this has led to ‘exclusive’ growth and inequalities – “Dubai on Deansgate”, that has not spilled over into other areas of Greater Manchester.
Other areas within Greater Manchester, are described has being economically ‘dire’ and characterised by low-wages and precarious employment. These areas, the report says, have never fully recovered from the ‘de-industrialisation’ of the 1980’s. The report states:
“The plight of Bolton, Rochdale, Stockport, and Tameside, is dire, because from 2008-14 they have lost both private and public sector jobs and, in a period of austerity cuts in public expenditure, some boroughs are now losing private sector jobs faster than they are losing public sector jobs.”
Seemingly, only Manchester City and Trafford have shown significant increases in job numbers, while four of the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester saw net job losses. In addition, 21% of Greater Manchester’s neighbourhoods are in the top 10% most deprived in England and Manchester City, has 41% of Greater Manchester’s neighbourhoods in this category.
The report points out that central Manchester is not like central London, which relies on radial commuting by public transport from outer boroughs – “Long distance commuting is discouraged because Manchester city region combines relatively cheap central flats and inner residential suburbs with low wages and high fares… Most commuting into Manchester City is by car.”
The people who live within Greater Manchester are heavily dependent on public sector jobs. The public sector accounted for more than half of the 46,000 extra jobs created in ten Greater Manchester boroughs between 1998-2008. Manufacturing employs less than 4% of the Manchester City workforce but still accounts for 10% of employment in northern boroughs. Out of total Greater Manchester employment of 1,197k, 447k or 37.3%, are employed in “mundane”, activities. Manchester’s public and state-supported sector, now employs more than 35% of the workforce in a city heavily dependent on health and education spending. The report argues that the Greater Manchester private sector economy, has a very limited capacity to generate good jobs which pay high wages.
It has been argued by some social pundits that Manchester’s growing inequality, is a good thing because like London, it is proof that it has managed to create well-paying jobs for at least a minority of its population, whereas, in other areas, they may be more equal, but this is because everyone is poor.
The report rejects this and says that what is needed is not ‘exclusive’ growth, but ‘inclusive’ economic growth, that spills-over into other areas of Greater Manchester and provides people with real opportunities. What is needed, in the view of the authors, is a move away from property development as the accelerator of urban growth, which has only benefitted the city, towards “welfare-critical basic goods and services” for the whole population – “affordable transport, accessible broadband, and social housing – 80,000 people are on the housing waiting lists of the ten GM boroughs – that would take precedence over ostentatious tower blocks.”
The report also says that there ought to be investment in the foundational economy – food distribution and processing, education and health, adult care, pipe and cable utilities and public transport, leading to low-fare public transport, for all Greater Manchester residents. It is also argued that the 185,000 businesses in Greater Manchester should be made to pay decently (the living wage) and to employ and train local workers, as their businesses, draw revenue from Greater Manchester.
The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF), will lead to the new town in Manchester City, doubling in size from 2015 to 2035. Alongside this, there will be large edge of city housing developments and warehouse parks off the orbital M60. A quarter of housing, is earmarked to be built on green belt sites. The term “social housing”, does not appear anywhere in the GMSF draft.
The authors of this report, argue that the political elite of Greater Manchester, ought to learn lessons from the Brexit vote which revealed an increasingly disgruntled electorate that are asking local, regional, and national politicians, “What have you done for us!” They also warn that Brexit, increases the likelihood of “capital flight, currency depreciation, a rise in interest rates, and a slump in house prices and in construction activity”, which could lead to a property bubble crash in and across Greater Manchester.