Road safety on Great Ancoats Street, Manchester – letter to Councillor Mick Loughman

Below is a letter I emailed to my local councillor, Mick Loughman, on 26 June 2013 (two weeks ago). As yet I’ve had no response.

I believe politics should be open, so I wrote this letter privately and hoped to receive a response before I published the correspondence and discussed it further

Dear Cllr Loughman,

I’m writing to raise my concerns with the dangerous state of Great Ancoats Street. Specifically the section including the junction with Newton St/Blossom St, all the way to and including the junction with Store Street. Continue reading

On the Manchester Digital council

Manchester Digital logoIf you haven’t heard already, I was elected to Manchester Digital council following a vote of the 30 odd members who turned up at the AGM. The full list is available on the Manchester Digital website.

It’s great that we have a mix of new and re-elected council members, meaning that we have a blend of experience and fresh input. My intention is to use the discussion I posted on my blog the week before as a starting point for my actions on the council. In the spirit of openness, collaboration and events, I hope to use this channel to keep members updated as well as come along to a range of digital community meetups to meet people directly.

With that in mind, I’ve been keen to go out and about and fly the flag for MD in my new role. Over the last two weeks I’ve been out with FutureEverything volunteers, at the Creative Times relaunch (featuring  Phil Jeffs) as well as sticking my head into Manchester SEO meetup. This week, we also held the regular Social Media Cafe where regular attendees Tim Dobson and Richard Hudson also made themselves known as council members. It’s been great to keep in touch with what’s going on and introduce myself to people in my new role.

I also set up the @McrDig twitter account (unfortunately, ‘ManchesterDigital’ is too long to be used as an account handle!). We’re using this to engage with the community and share news, in addition to our usual weekly emails (do you get these?). It’s regularly monitored, so just tweet @McrDig to get in touch, ask questions or get something promoted. We’re also using and monitoring the #McrDig hashtag for relevant content.

It’s worth touching upon my thoughts about the AGM itself. The formal report, drawn up by last year’s council, is available on the website. In the future, however, I will be aiming to arrange for the meeting to be live-blogged and more accessible ‘outside the room’. There was a fair bit of chat on Twitter and it would be great to be able to include some of the feedback from that in future plans as well as allow the meeting to be engaged with, erm, digitally.

This also means getting the paperwork out ahead of the meeting and putting any resolutions out for comment beforehand, like I tried to do with the Google Wave for the joint statement to the new coalition government. To aid with this sort of approach, Phil has set us up a Basecamp account so the council can more easily keep in touch.

I’d also ultimately like to see MD move towards a model of electronic voting, but this carries a number of questions that are worth exploring with the community. I’ve had experience of implementing this at a previous charity but it was not without its flaws and the process must be subject to scrutiny. Still, it is not impossible nor uncommon and I think it’s an ideal way to let more members help set the direction for the organisation.

All of this, I hope, will add up to a more inclusive approach to our main democratic meeting of the year. It will build on the themes of openness, collaborate and better events, but I hope people see the digital engagement elements as additional to attending the meeting in person. There’s a lot to be said for coming along, meeting other members and questioning the council and chair in person. I hope that by promoting it well in advance and engaging people with the content, we’ll be able to make it a more useful event for the membership to turn up to.

Our first council meeting is now set for the start of July and I hope we can put together a calendar of our events over the coming year. If you have any ideas, get in touch. We’re already working to identify the range of groups across Manchester and the north-west that we should be talking to, in addition to those with whom we already have a relationship. I also hope that we’ll look at what we can offer by way of support in order to focus on our core aim of making Manchester and the north west an even better place for digital business.

I’m running for council – Manchester Digital council

Update: my nomination has been accepted. I found it pretty difficult to cut down this blog and all the feedback into 100 words, but you can see what I submitted on their website.

Update 2: one of the items on tonight’s (unannounced) agenda is a memorandum to government by Manchester Digital. Here’s the proposed spiel. If you want to discuss it before the meeting, check out this public Google Wave I’ve set up.

Update 3: I’ve been elected! Here’s the full list.

Next week, I’ll be making a bid for the Manchester Digital council, the 12-member governing body for the Manchester Digital Association.

But how many of you have actually heard of – or from – Manchester Digital?

In their own words, Manchester Digital “is the independent trade association for the thriving digital sector in the North West of England”.

I believe it is essential to have a strong, representative and campaigning trade association that is relevant to everyone in the “digital sector”. That includes big digital business, SMEs, microbusinesses and freelancers. But it also includes the network of digital user groups and interest groups that are a vast, but often hidden part of the north west digital community.

So far, it seems that Manchester Digital has not been successful in representing the full diversity of digital sector which has evolved in Manchester.

If Manchester Digital does truly seek to represent the rapidly changing digital sector then it must change with it. If I’m elected to the council, I will work to massively improve Manchester Digital’s external communications and bring about a more collaborative approach to its work.

It’s important for Manchester Digital to better represent everyone because of their unique relationship with bodies like the Manchester Digital Development Agency, local and regional authorities and because of their national representative role. These bodies help set policy on digital business in the north west and are sources of potential funding for digital activities and it’s essential that they get to hear about everything that goes on in the diverse digital sector.

Electing me will bring lessons I’ve learned from helping organise the successful Social Media Café events to Manchester Digital. The events are free, run entirely by volunteers and are now the lynchpin of a network with over 550 members. To me, this suggests that successful networks don’t require paid-for staff to run them.

Previous relevant experience includes being elected a trustee for three years of a large membership-led charity with a turnover of £5 million, including serving as chair of trustees for a year. Since then, I’ve worked in digital communications, primarily in the public sector in both technical and non-technical roles.

I believe opening up Manchester Digital’s communications, connecting with existing digital communities in the north west and building a series of free events are the keys to expanding membership, promoting collaboration and, most importantly, making Manchester Digital more relevant to all of the digital sector it seeks to represent.

In that spirit, I’m opening up my manifesto to you.

Your thoughts and comments on this blog post will help shape what I put forward in my meagre 100-word statement for election. More importantly, I hope it will start a discussion around the role and the future of Manchester Digital which, if elected, I will take forward as my agenda for you on the council.

I want your advice and suggestions around the following themes. I have thoughts of my own around each, which I will be happy to discuss in the comments.


  • How can we improve Manchester Digital’s communications?
  • Do you have a clear idea of who Manchester Digital are, and who they’re for?
  • What are the benefits of Manchester Digital to members and the wider digital community?


  • Do you feel part of a Manchester Digital community?
  • What communities could Manchester Digital plug-in to, support or help create with its influence?
  • Should Manchester Digital represent you?


  • Have you attended any Manchester Digital or MD-supported events?
  • What sort of events could Manchester Digital put on, or support through other networks?
  • Would a regular Manchester Digital meetup add to, or detract from/conflict with other types of meetup that already exist?
  • Are you aware that the Big Chip awards are run by Manchester Digital?

Feedback and comment on any other aspect of Manchester Digital that you feel should be in my manifesto would be more than welcome.

The deadline for nominations is 5pm, 13 May so get posting and tell me what you think needs to change so that Manchester Digital can represent everyone it should.