The appearance and feel of the city centre has not kept pace with its rapid growth, council leader Sir Richard Leese conceded as he unveiled a package of spending on measures to tackle a range of issues.
Manchester City Council’s executive will consider the findings of a major city centre review when it meets on Wednesday 8 February.
Leese said: “Manchester city centre has experienced remarkable growth in jobs, visitors and residents in recent years and is in many ways a success story. But that dramatic growth brings its own complex challenges and, combined with cuts to government funding to us and our public sector partners, it is fair to say that services have not quite kept pace with some of the issues created.
“The council is committed to improving people’s experience of the city centre. We believe the proposals emerging from the City Centre Review, based on what a wide range of people have told us, will have a positive impact and increase pride in – and a shared sense of responsibility for – Manchester city centre.”
The review was commissioned to understand the challenges facing services in the city centre, examine the issues concerning the public about the appearance and feel of the city centre and look at how public services can be strengthened and how other organisations, businesses and individuals can play their part.
The council said “extensive engagement has taken place with city centre residents, employers, town centre workers and other stakeholders to home in on the key issues.”
Manchester’s growing pains are perhaps best highlighted by the rise in population of the city centre ward, up 63% from 12,374 in 2006 to 20,176 in 2016, and predicted to reach 31,719 in the next four years.
There has been a 7% increase in jobs in the city centre between 2009 and 2015, from 110,500 to 118,600, despite a challenging economic period. The annual number of domestic visitors has gone up by 316,000 since 2006-08 to 2.68m in 2014-16 and the city is the third most visited in the UK for international visitors. The number of licensed premises in the city centre has gone up from 604 in 2010 to 758 in 2016, a 26% increase.
A spokesman for the council said: “Participants in the review identified many strengths of the city centre including its cultural offer, diverse communities, architecture, transport infrastructure and independent retailers in areas such as the Northern Quarter. But with the level of resource to manage and maintain the city centre reducing at the same time as this growth, it is recognised that the quality of the city centre environment and experience has not kept pace. Themes which emerged from the review included issues with anti-social behaviour, litter and waste, homelessness, begging, peddling, specific locations causing concern and the condition and maintenance of some public realm.”
An implementation plan stemming from the review sets out how it is proposed to make improvements.
These are focused on three main themes: management of city centre, visibility of public services and guardians, links between services and partners.
The proposals include £4.6m of council investment in improving public services in Manchester city centre. Measures include:
- £1.5m to strengthen services for homeless people including a new Emergency Hub and more community-based support to stop people becoming homeless
- Greater litter enforcement and a campaign to encourage those who drop it to change their behaviour
- More visible guardians in anti-social behaviour hotspot areas and increase in enforcement staff to 24 hours a day, seven days a week
- Stronger management of city centre and improved use of technology to help identify and respond to issues, improve co-ordination between services and encourage people to respect their environment
- New city centre public services manager to lead and co-ordinate improvements and new cross-sector City Centre Accountability Board
- Encourage businesses to help influence and share in the management of the areas where they are based
- Lobby government, together with the Core Cities and other cities and towns for greater legal powers to better combat environmental issues such as littering from cars, vehicles blocking junctions and flyposting
- The £4.6m of investment between 2017 and 2020 will be funded through £3m of business rates surplus – used to establish a City Centre Reserve. A further £1m will come from the existing Our Manchester Reserve to boost support for rough sleepers and together with £0.5m of external funding will help prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place and help tackle begging
The council spokesman said that although it is one-off funding for now, its impact will be evaluated with a view to finding further sources of funding for future activity where success can be demonstrated.