I was in Spain when Alicia Keys played Manchester Cathedral in a one-off free concert for MTV a few days ago. What I didn’t realise was that Manchester City Council underwrote the event to the tune of £450,000. I would not have expected an invite as I only contribute a not inconsiderable sum of money in business rates for an empty building in the city centre (in return for which the council provides me with unrestrained scrotes and drunks to break windows, inadequate street lighting, copious amounts of litter and some over zealous parking wardens). I don’t begrudge the legions of underpaid premiership footballers being invited along because, after all, council tax bills are high in Cheshire and Trafford. Those hard pressed Labour councillors who had to attend the concert and the VIP drinks party before should also be commended for their commitment in giving their time outside working hours.
It was with some sceptism though that I read Manchester City Council’s Leader, Richard Leese’s latest blog post: – “What isn’t a sensible option would be to not invest in an economic future for the city-region. In this age of not entirely necessary austerity, Councils have some very tough decisions to make. However, as well as supporting the most needy in our communites, as well has doing preventative work to reduce the number of people falling into the most needy category, we must also continue to invest in a better future otherwise the problems we currently face will just grow.”
I cannot help wonder how that “better future” is acheived by a decison to fork out almost half a million quid on this concert, flimsily touted as a way of putting the city “on the map”. There are dozens of ways that putting “Manchester on the map” could have been achieved and in a far more permanent way then this jolly for the usual suspects. Put the money towards renovating Heaton Hall, contribute to the Manchester Food and Drink Festival or the Manchester comedy festival, keep a library or two open a bit longer, free parking on Sundays to help retailers…the list is longer than some of the councillor’s noses.