Manchester may be red, but how about green? Parties ‘not interested’ in environment

We might be a red city, but how green are our councillors? Manchester Friends of the Earth have reached out to all of Manchester’s prospective candidates to find out how highly they prioritise the environment ahead of tomorrow’s election.

Having contacted all candidates across six parties standing in Manchester for election this week, the environmental action group asked for our representatives’ views on topics like pavement parking, speed limits and cycle investment.

Results showed that almost all councillors support tough action on cutting down air pollution across Greater Manchester, while almost nine in ten back the campaign to make their local authority declare itself ‘frack free’.

Ali Abbas, Manchester Friends of the Earth co-ordinator said: “We wouldn’t dream of telling people which way to vote, but everyone has a right to know where candidates stand on key issues that affect our health and the environment we depend on.

“As last week’s Supreme Court decision on air pollution shows, we will need urgent action from our newly elected politicians to improve air quality and tackle climate change.”

While almost all respondents to the survey keenly supported action on air pollution, the issue of fracking divided Manchester councillors, with not a single Tory or Ukip respondent agreeing with the call to make their local authority ‘frack free’ – a stark contrast from the complete support from TUSC prospective candidates.

Devo Manc was also a divisive topic even among party members, with a third of Labour candidates supporting a referendum compared to the two thirds who opposed the plans.

Issues like £20 per head cycle investment drew little support from Conservative (33%) and Ukip (50%) councillors, while other parties – boasting rates of 70%+ – were more supportive of the ideas.

The group are urging all of the Manchester electorate who care about the environment to use their vote on Thursday wisely by choosing their local councillor based on how much they care about the planet.

Manchester Friends of the Earth spokesperson Pete Able commented on the results: “It’s disappointing. Part of the problem is that there’s no requirement for candidates’ contact details to be published.

“Out of just over 1000 candidates, we were able to contact 460, who we emailed and tweeted regularly. They were all given an equal chance to respond to the survey.

“If you look at the few respondents from the Conservatives and Ukip, they largely agree with the statements. The questions weren’t actually all that ‘out there’, and there was always a ‘don’t know’ option.”

DIVISIVE: The survey’s questions on fracking drew mixed responses from participants across six parties (© Mike Kneic, with thanks)

Within the survey responses, some councillors across Manchester from within the same party disagreed internally on the issues – something Mr Able said represented the non-partisan nature of the research.

Defending the poor response rates of their councillors, a Ukip spokesperson said: “Election candidates get a huge number of requests to complete surveys, questionnaires, petitions and the like.

“They do not have time to complete them all, so often adopt a policy of not completing any but concentrate on proactively communicating their message.
“This is borne out by the fact that only a minority of candidates from all parties, including the Greens completed this green issues survey.”

The Conservative Party could not be reached for a comment.

Image courtesy of Mike Kneic, with thanks

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