The first female leader of Manchester city council has pledged to put the safety of women and girls at the heart of her administration, and believes too much urban planning is “male-led”, which has created public spaces that do not feel safe for everyone else.
Bev Craig, who takes office on Wednesday, said she previously had to explain to male colleagues that “as a woman, I’ve been taught if you want to go for a run in winter, it’s probably best to go to the gym. Don’t go near the Fallowfield loop [an off road cycling and walking route that has been plagued by muggings]. And sure as hell don’t go near a park.”
Plans for public spaces tend to be led by men “who don’t have exactly those worries”, lei disse, aggiungendo: “If you think about any urban projects over a considerable period of time, not just in Manchester, they’re generally male-dominated. Architecture is often male-dominated.”
L'anno scorso, Manchester’s longstanding leader, Sir Richard Leese, a proponent of the skyscrapers that have been erected around the city, appeared to dismiss safety concerns around Piccadilly Gardens, one of Manchester’s main civic squares. Responding to the notion that it had become a no-go area for many after dark, Egli ha detto: “I just don’t get it. I’m a 68-year-old bloke, I’m the sort of person who is supposed to be petrified of spaces like that and I just am not.”
Craig, chi è 36 is almost half Leese’s age, said there had been “a generational shift in politics more broadly, about recognising that actually, people 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 IRA bomb in 1996 and went on to play a key role in Greater Manchester’s push for devolution.
Craig is also an adopted Mancunian. She dreamed of moving to Manchester from Northern Ireland after secretly watching Russell T Davies’s Queer As Folk, set in Manchester’s Gay Village, in her bedroom with the sound down.
Football also drew her to Manchester: while Leese supports City, she is a big United fan.
She came out as a lesbian aged 14 after joining an LGBT youth group. Her politics began to form there when she realised “the only political party at the time that would even speak to us was Sinn Féin”.
Craig joined the Labour party in 2009 while working for Blackburn council as an equalities and inclusion policy officer and was first elected to Manchester city council in 2013.
Leese is often viewed as a prickly figure who goes on the attack when criticised. Craig sees herself differently: “I’m naturally quite collaborative, in terms of my style. And I like talking to people, even when it’s a difficult conversation.” A “visible theme” of her leadership would be “not being defensive about things”, she added.
Craig pledged to use Manchester Labour’s near-monopoly – 94 fuori da 96 council seats – to demonstrate “political bravery” by focusing on tackling inequality and climate change. “Political bravery in leadership is the space that Manchester has occupied in the past and can occupy in the future," lei disse.
She promises “clear and decisive action” on carbon reduction, putting the city’s poorest communities at the heart of her agenda. One idea is setting up a council-run solar farm to provide cheap, sustainable energy to the most deprived parts of the city.
She has recently started cycling again after an accident and wants to see more low-traffic neighbourhoods “when done properly”. She wants to move towards a car-free city centre, but not at the expense of gridlocking suburbs such as Cheetham Hill, where almost half (46.8%) of children are growing up in “absolute low income” families, where households have less than 60% of medium income.
Craig said she wanted Manchester to continue to grow, but as a “genuinely inclusive city”. Developers will have to “demonstrably contribute to our city”, lei disse, explaining that they will have to pay so-called “section 106” contributions, which can be used to improve local amenities, as well the inclusion of affordable homes.
She added that “to do business in this city means that you have to believe in the city, you have to invest in the city, and you have to invest in our people.”