Jonathan Schofield thinks filling out this council form promotes a sense of well-being

I USUALLY consider myself a poor team player or committee member, too selfish I suppose, too driven by my own interests. This changes if I’m completely fascinated by whatever project I’m team-playering with, but I have to be really interested.

The one thing that particularly makes me run to the hills is form filling. Of course, even being called ‘a form filler’ is in itself an insult, indicating someone who tows the line and is incapable of free thought. 

But this opportunity was too good to miss. The City Council is encouraging us to have our say on the city centre.

Is drug dealing now tacitly tolerated in the city centre?

The invitation goes: ‘At the end of 2016 we did a city centre review to understand the challenges facing us as the city centre grows. This included asking residents, visitors, workers, and shoppers about their experiences and views of the city centre. Then in 2017 we started working to improve the things people said needed work. Now, one year into our three year plan to improve the city centre, we're doing another survey to see how you think we're getting on with these improvements.’

The survey takes about ten minutes to fill in and covers areas such as how the city centre is policed, which areas you feel safe or not safe within, homelessness, begging, the care of the city centre, its cleanliness and amenity.

170629 St Peters Square
St Peter's Square is a recent triumph - but there is much to improve

As a tour guide as well as a writer for the city I filled it in very fairly. Anybody who thinks that people don’t want to come to this city and enjoy it are plain wrong, or rather they are gazing at the city through the tunnel vision of the frustrated local rather than the eyes of the hundreds of travellers and tourists who frequently tell me how much they have enjoyed the city. So there is plenty to praise, and in the survey that is what I did.

However, if you feel frustration about the lack of any police presence at almost any time of the day and night, about how rarely you see community bobbies or city anti-social activity officers, then have a good rant. If you feel unsafe in any part of the city centre at certain times of the day then vent that too (I don’t feel unsafe anywhere at any time and I put that down).

If you cannot understand how, when the sun shines, or when there are more than usual numbers of people out on the city streets, the private companies who have been contracted to empty litter bins don’t respond, and when they do they do so in such a rush that they leave trails of coffee and other liquids in drip lines behind their little trucks, then slam your irritation across the page.

180613 Piccadilly Gardens 5
Too often drug users go unchallenged in Piccadilly Gardens

If you think the aggressive begging has gotten worse, put that in. I did. If you are left speechless about the scale of drug dealing taking place across the city centre amongst the beggars, in Piccadilly Gardens, the Northern Quarter and Chinatown, then register that. I, for example, simply don’t understand why openly criminal acts in heavily CCTV’ed areas can be allowed to take place. Is drug dealing now tacitly tolerated in the city centre?

And what about the fact that the one public toilet on Lloyd Street, close to Albert Square, is closed on a Sunday? Can’t rotas be changed to cope with a very popular day to visit Manchester?

Fill in the form you’ll feel better. 

Then after the closing date of 24 August, Confidential will check to see whether the survey goes anywhere or is logged in the ‘phew-glad-that’s-out-the-way’ drawer. But let’s not be cynical and let’s hope that some change might come in the areas that people highlight as broken.

180618 Dirty Manchester Street Pavements City Centre Img 6547
Many city centre streets are filthy

Two last things.

The survey draws to a conclusion with a question which is phrased very strangely. It asks: ‘What is your age in years?’ Now, call me weird, but I always answer that question in years even though I am somewhat more than 473,040 hours old and counting.

There’s bribery at work too.

‘At the end of the survey,’ the City Council write, ‘you can give us your contact details to be in with a chance of winning a prize in our draw’.

These include: ‘an Annie Swynnerton catalogue and a private introduction to the show with a curator from Manchester Art Gallery; 2 tickets to any of the summer season concerts from the Halle Orchestra; 2 tickets to a 2018-19 season show (including Hacienda and Northern Soul) from Manchester Camerata; 2 tickets to a theatre show or cinema screening at HOME; a meal for 2 at the restaurant in HOME.’

Not bad.

For such fun.

You can find the survey here.

20180606 Mfdf
...but remember, life is good