Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

THis first female head of Manchester City Council has promised to put women’s and girls’ safety at the center of her administration and believes that too much urban planning is “male-led”, creating public spaces that do not feel safe for everyone else.

Bev Craig, who joins on Wednesday, said she previously had to explain to male colleagues that “as a woman I have been taught that if you want to go out running in the winter, it’s probably best to go to the gym. Do not go near the Fallowfield loop [an off road cycling and walking route that has been plagued by muggings]. And don’t go near a park. ”

Public space plans tend to be led by men, “who do not have exactly those concerns,” she said, adding: “If you think about urban projects over a long period of time, not just in Manchester, they are generally male-dominated. Architecture is often male-dominated. ”

Last year, Manchester’s longtime leader, Sir Richard Leese, an advocate for skyscrapers that have been traveled around the city, seemed to dismiss security concerns around Piccadilly Gardens, one of Manchester’s most important civilian squares. In response to the notion that it had become a no-go area for many after dark, he said: “I just do not understand. I’m a 68-year-old guy, I’m the kind of person who’s supposed to be petrified of such spaces, and I just am not. “

Craig, who at 36 is almost half of Leeese’s age, said there had been “a generational shift in politics more broadly, about recognizing that people actually experience the city differently, and we need to be open to those experiences.” “

Leese, a former youth worker from Nottinghamshire, is retiring after 25 years in the top job, saying he wants to spend more time with his grandchildren. He was instrumental in the city’s rebirth after the 1996 IRA bombing and went on to play a key role in Greater Manchester’s push for decentralization.

Craig is also an adopted mancunian. She dreamed of moving to Manchester from Northern Ireland after secretly watching Russell T Davies’ Queer As People, which takes place in Manchester’s Gay Village, in her bedroom with the sound down.

Football also drew her to Manchester: While Leese supports City, she’s a big United fan.

She came out as a lesbian at age 14 after joining an LGBT youth group. Her policy began to form there when she realized that “the only political party at the time that would speak to us at all was Sinn Féin”.

Craig joined the Labor Party in 2009 while working for the Blackburn Council as an equality and inclusion politician and was first elected to Manchester City Council in 2013.

Deansgate Square, Manchester
Deansgate Square, Manchester. Developers will have to ‘demonstrably contribute to our city,’ Craig says. Photo: Christopher Thomond / The Guardian

Leese is often seen as a stinging figure who goes on the attack when criticized. Craig looks at himself differently: “I’m obviously quite cooperative in terms of my style. And I like talking to people, even when it’s a difficult conversation. ” A “visible theme” for her leadership would be “not to be defensive about things,” she added.

Craig promised to use Manchester Labor’s near-monopoly – 94 out of 96 council seats – to demonstrate “political bravery” by focusing on tackling inequality and climate change. “Political bravery in leadership is the place Manchester has occupied in the past and may occupy in the future,” she said.

She promises “clear and decisive action” on CO2 reduction, putting the city’s poorest community at the center of her agenda. One idea is to establish a municipally run solar cell farm to supply cheap, sustainable energy to the most disadvantaged parts of the city.

She has recently started cycling again after an accident and would like to see more neighborhoods with low traffic “when done properly”. She wants to move toward a car-free city center, but not at the expense of locked-in suburbs like Cheetham Hill, where nearly half (46.8%) of children grow up in “absolute low-income” families, where households have less than 60% of middle income.

Craig said she wanted Manchester to continue to grow, but as a “truly inclusive city”. Developers will have to “demonstrably contribute to our city,” she said, explaining that they will have to pay so-called “section 106” contributions, which can be used to improve local facilities, as well as the inclusion of affordable housing.

She added that “doing business in this city means you have to believe in the city, you have to invest in the city, and you have to invest in our people.”

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