Why I don’t think we should be celebrating Manchester being named the best UK city to live in (yet).

Before I get accused of high treason and lynched by an angry mob in the centre of Albert’s Square, it is probably worth starting this blog with a bit of a disclaimer. I love Manchester and feel incredibly proud and privileged to have called the city my home for life (except of course when I ‘moved away’ to go to University in Salford) and in return have a lot to thank Manchester for. There’s no doubt our city is a great place to live and work. We have a thriving food and drink scene, an ever-expanding city centre and a culture of music, football and the arts so deep that it is practically impossible not to find something to do, however when I saw the recent announcement that Manchester had been named the greatest UK city to live in (for the second year running), I couldn’t help but feel that the subsequent fanfare that followed on social media was a bit misguided.

I first saw the announcement shared via Twitter with a link to an article from The Manchester Evening News (link below) which featured the results of The Global Liveability Survey where Manchester had finished 43rd in a global countdown of the best cities to live in whilst also finishing highest in the UK. The article features a beautiful photograph of the library and town hall and goes into a bit of further detail about the scoring criteria and highlights some of the challenges faced by other cities in the list in maintaining their position on the list.

In case you’re wondering, Melbourne was named the best city to live in and London finished 53rd.

It’s obviously great news to be featured, however it doesn’t sit easy with me celebrating an announcement like this when there are so many living in our city that are having a bit of a shit time.

A recent study revealed that 620,000 in Greater Manchester are living in poverty, that’s 1 in 5. Greater Manchester is a big place and includes all of our attached boroughs but that is absolutely nuts. Quite frankly, whilst our economy has grown rapidly that wealth and prosperity has not trickled down and the gap between the haves and the have-nots is becoming alarming.

A year ago, I was part of the team that set-up a homeless support network called Not Just Soup. Each week we get a different city centre restaurant to provide food for the homeless and whilst we’re there we team up with another local organisation, Coffee4Craig, to provide further support like clothes, camping gear and medical support.

Our numbers are growing week on week and we now consistently feed over 100 people each time. When walking through the city centre I see so many other homeless people that I recognise from our Tuesday night street kitchen that I think we’re really only scratching the service with who we feed. Listening to these guys speak and hearing their stories every week really drives that there are many that are having a terrible time in our city.

As a city we’re absolutely smashing it in business, property, music, science and sport but believing your own hype has never been a particularly Mancunian trait yet it’s something that we’re in grave danger of. A truly great city is one that sorts it’s own shit out and looks after each of it’s own, that’s what we need to do right now.

I once read that the first step to solving a problem is admitting there is one. I’m not actually sure who that quote is attributed too but it is an absolute belter, and if we can spend a bit of time making sure we can become a city that is great to live in for everyone then you never know, we might just knock Melbourne off their perch too.

Links and reference points:

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/business/business-news/manchester-voted-uks-best-city-11759363

http://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/over-half-a-million-living-in-poverty-despite-greater-manchesters-economic-success

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/greater-manchester-poorest-areas-poverty-11315738

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/greater-manchester-2016one-five-breadline-11700331

https://twitter.com/notjustsoupMCR