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COVID-19 Local Update

Please find below an update on local services, and also the latest set of local statistics on COVID-19.

If you, or a friend or neighbour, is in need of support don’t hesitate to get I touch with the local team. You can contact your local community Hub directly via 0161 253 5353, they have a team of volunteers ready to help with essential tasks such as shopping or collecting prescriptions.

Important information from NHS Bury and Bury Council:
“Health leaders in Bury have urged residents to follow the official Covid-19 safety guidelines, warning that we are nowhere near ‘out of the woods’ yet.

They are extremely concerned about reports suggesting that the infection rate – the R rate – is coming down fast and the battle is being won.

And while the lockdown is being gradually lifted, it is vital that everyone maintains social distancing, washes their hands and obeys the rules about who and how many people they can meet, and co-operates with the Test and Trace service as lockdown is eased to avoid transmission rising again.

Lesley Jones, Bury’s director of public health, said: “Calculating the R rate is very complex, involving data from many sources. National experts at Public Health England and several academic units produce regional estimates for R. For smaller areas the numbers of cases is lower and this means that estimates are likely to be unreliable and possibly misleading.

“Cases of coronavirus infection in Bury, and deaths in all settings, are largely flatlining and, at best, showing a marginal drop. This is consistent with regional estimates that suggest the R rate in the North West is close to 1.

“We are at a critical stage in managing the pandemic. While everyone is keen to unlock, we are also mindful of how likely we are close to an ‘R’ rate of 1, and the danger of a fresh surge in the virus. Reports of large gatherings in public spaces and a sentiment of ‘lockdown is over’ are concerning.”

Even More Items allowed at the Tip!
Wood, rubble and scrap metal are now accepted at local tips (from Saturday 30 May). General waste (including small bulky items) and garden waste can also be taken to the Cemetery Road location as more sites and containers are gradually re-opened across Greater Manchester.

Social distancing measures will remain in place, and visitors must attend on the days set aside depending on whether their car registration plate is an odd or even number.

More information here.

Play Areas
Please note that children’s play areas remain closed (because of the need to maintain social distancing). There have been some reports of people ignoring this advice, the the play areas have all recently been ‘taped closed’ again. Please let us know if there remain issues with this.

COVID-19 Local Statistics
Bury Council and the local NHS have published this set of local statistics about COVID-19 in our area.

This shows trends of people who have died over recent months, with analysis for place of death (e.g. hospital, care home or at home), occupation and ethnicity. There is also a breakdown of COVID dealths as a proportion of all deaths by local area (see below map).

The full set of statistics is here.

Reporting Back: Annual Council

Last Wednesday was the ‘Annual Council’ meeting of Bury Council. Councillor Michael Powell reports: 


This is an important meeting, attended by all 51 councillors. This time, for the first time ever, the meeting took place as a video conference with all councillors sat in their own homes (apart from the Mayor who was in the Council chamber.) 

There were three main pieces of business: 

Appointments for 2020-21
The ruling Labour Group had changed who they proposes as Council Leader and Deputy Leader for this year. Our new Council Leader is Councillor Eamon O’Brien, and the new Deputy Council Leader is Councillor Tamoor Tariq. There has also been a change in the Liberal Democrat Group’s leadership and I have been elected as Group Leader with Councillor Cristina Tegolo continuing as deputy. 

The controversial aspect of the appointments were around the proposal for the Labour Party to increase the number of paid posts for Labour councillors. They increased the size of the Cabinet from 7 members to 9 members (all of whom are paid) and increased the number of ‘Deputy Cabinet Members’ from five to ten (all of whom are paid). In total this is an extra £25,000 being paid out to Labour councillors. A total of 24 out of 28 Labour councillors now get an extra allowance. We voted against this. It seems ridiculous in the middle of a crisis, where the Council is facing a £20 million loss as a result of COVID-19, to be making up new jobs and paying councillors extra. 

State of the Borough Debate
The new Council Leader led a short ’State of the Borough’ debate. Opposition Leader get a chance to respond and I raised the points about how we move forwards as a Borough from the Coronavirus crisis, and making sure that the future is a compassionate future and a green future. I also took the opportunity to place on record the thanks to everyone who has kept Bury’s key services going over recent months. 

Appointment of Mayor
Finally Councillors appointed a new Mayor for 2020-21. For the first time in 17 years this is a Liberal Democrat Mayor, my colleague and Holyrood Ward Councillor Tim Pickstone. Tim has served as a Prestwich councillor for the last 20 years and I know he will do a good job as Mayor. The existing Mayor, Councillor Trevor Holt, was appointed as Deputy Mayor. 



The papers from the meeting are here. Any questions please just ask. 

Reporting Back: Health Scrutiny

On 14 May was Bury’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting. The overview and scrutiny role involves reviewing and scrutinising any matters relating to the planning provision and operation of health services in the area of the Council, scrutinising organisations external to the Council and holding the Leader / Cabinet Members to account. Councillor Cristina Tegolo reports:

Bury Health and Overview and Scrutiny Committee met remotely and questions were invited from members of the public in advance of the meeting.

Geoff Little, Chief Executive Bury Council provided an update on the work that the Health & Care system in Bury have undertaken in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Julie Gonda, Director of Adult Social Care, provided an update on Bury Local Care Organisation. Dr Jeff Schryer, Bury CCG Chair, provided a verbal update on the response to COVID-19.

Introduction:

In Bury we have now registered in total over 100 deaths, with 39 deaths in care homes. The data needs a lot more analysis but the peak was around the Easter weekend. Geoff Little confirmed that, as yet, the Council doesn’t have a detailed analysis of the data, for example we don’t have analysis on BAME. Dr Jeff Schryer, told us that there has been a tailor off of the deaths in the last weeks but from the data across the world we know that we can’t afford to become complacent. We also don’t know when a vaccine will be ready and how long will take to vaccinate everyone in the country. 

Julie Gonda told us that we have a tremendous number of volunteers in Bury and that the Council’s success story has been the creation of 5 community hubs. You can find out more about the community hubs here

Bury’s Response and Objectives:

Bury has been ahead of the national response. Social Care and Care Homes were on the frontline, but bulletins and updates were provided regularly to care homes, GP practices were linked to care homes and also mental health support was offered for care staff. 

PPE was a huge issue in the early dates but Bury Council had a coordinated approach and managed to coordinate this well together with the testing. Julie Gonda confirmed that the Council is now testing workforce in care homes (local Care Organisation) and this exercise will continue and will be carried out in phasing to make sure that the workforce and patients are safe.

Geoff Little told us that, as the response continues, the Council’s efforts are now focussed on the sustain and recovery phases. These two phases will merge and overlap depending on circumstances.

Sustain Phase: A more flattened out peak of activity will require a sustaining of

services phase before a full recovery phase. The phase will also require flexibility of

services to react to peaks and troughs of COVID activity.

Recovery Phase: Longer term recovery will face its own challenges and may also

involve a pre-recovery or emerging phase as the system moves out of the COVID-19

lifecycle. Key challenge in this phase will to be understand what the ‘new normal’ will look like

Julie Gonda told us that in Bury we have learnt lessons and we want to embed the excellent model that has been put forward and carry on the positive and good aspects in the future. Social care services and private care services have worked together and this coordination has been very positive. Geoff Little added that the creation of 5 community hubs and the coordination of over 200 volunteers is a good model for a recovery program. The Council wishes to continue to deliver to the most vulnerable food, medicines and human contact to fight isolation. 

The Council must not lose sight of its original system intentions and ambition contained within the draft Bury 2030 Strategy. However, this emergency can be used as a way of enhancing the positive

changes to the system, building upon the co-ordinated system approach and becoming a more effective and efficient partnership.

Geoff Little confirmed that the Council has started planning now to move forward in the recovery phase. 

  1. Testing contact tracing for at least 12 months (this is mass testing together with contact tracing) this is a national exercise and in Greater Manchester and particular in Bury we are exploring ways to improve contact tracing.
  2. Recognising that there is a risk for another peak during this time of recovery
  3. There is also the risk of the after effect, mental health and people who were unable to grieve in the proper way, effect of isolation on elderly and adolescents
  4. There could be further waves that could increase demand during the winter period

Geoff Little confirmed that the Council is fully aware that we will have to deal with several issues such as inequalities and Increase in poverty (depravation) issues. He said that COID-19 has created “more dependency” and that, for example, at the moment all rough sleepers in “A Bed Every Night” facility have been moved into their own secure and safe accommodation with support and health provision but, he told us “this is not feasible in a long term”. He said that the financial system is very much in the flux and the Council is in the dark for the future.

The issue of PPE will be a problem also in the future when the public will demand for PPE. The Council has purchased PPE for people in care and for people who carry on care roles. The stock is at Castle Leisure Centre, which is also used as a food distribution centre.

In the future the Council wants to 

  • Improve Mental Health offer in community hubs and 
  • Capitalise on lessons learnt in social care 
  • Shield vulnerable people
  • Offer support to symptomatic people
  • Focus recovering on housing/environment/productivity

Garden City Medical Centre
Dr Saad Al-Dubbaisi, a 59-year-old GP at the Garden City Medical Centre, recently lost his life to coronavirus, Dr Jeff Schryer, told us that Dr Al-Dubbaisi solely handed the Garden City Medical Centre and he was very popular among the community. The CCG has offered support for his staff and patients. His family will manage the practice for 28 days and then there will be two possible decisions:

  1. Keep the practice and go through a procurement program or 
  2. Disperse the list 

Dr Jeff Schryer highlighted that is important for the CCG to talk to patients and staff and to look at financial viability before making a decision and that both outcomes will take some time.

Reporting Back: Planning Committee

On the 18th February was the monthly meeting of Bury Planning Control Committee. This is the meeting made up of the 11 Councillors who represent the various wards of the borough of Bury. The committee determines planning applications for certain major developments and others where objections have been received. Councillor Cristina Tegolo reports:

Prior to the Committee meeting, a site visit took place in respect of planning application 64875.

At the Planning Control Committee meeting none of the submitted applications were refused but I raised concerns and voted against two out of three applications:

Land off Ainsworth Hall Road, Ainsworth, Bolton BL2 5RY, Application Ref: 64875/Full 
We discussed an application for a two-storey detached 4-bed house including an integral 1-bed ‘granny annex’ and detached garage in a site within Ainsworth Village and in the conservation area, washed over by the Green Belt. The plot is undeveloped and with a mix of protected trees and shrubs. The plot is within a residential area and is situated between detached two storey red brick houses to the north and south. There is an existing access from Ainsworth Hall Road serving the two residential properties at The Old Vicarage situated to the rear of the site.

Prior to the meeting the Planning Control Committee visited the site and I thought that the proposal was far too big for the site and intrusive to the adjoining property.

I suggested an alternative motion for a redesign to make the proposal more compact. Unfortunately, my motion was not successful and the application was passed with no amendments.

Margaret Haes Riding Centre, Moor Road, Ramsbottom, Bury, BL8 4NX, 64955/Full 
The riding school specialises in offering lessons and activities for those with special needs as well as the able-bodied, and of all agesThe application originally sited, without planning Permission, a green metal container on a concrete apron within the riding centre which is located on the edge of Holcombe Village and is within the Green Belt, Special Landscape Area and West Pennine Moors and the Holcombe Conservation Area. 

Following enforcement processes, an application was submitted retrospectively. Following negotiations with the LPA, the scheme was amended to re-locate the build and made changes to the external appearance. It is now proposed to re-site the container and it is also proposed to re-clad the entire exterior of the building with timber boarding and form a mono pitch grey felt shingle.

We analysed the merits. I considered that the proposed amendment would be appropriate and didn’t have any objections.

Land at Junction of Arthur Lane/Bury Old Road, Ainsworth, Bury, 64967/Full
The application site comprises a plot of land on the east side of Arthur Lane, close to the junction with Bury Old Road. The site, to the west is within open land in the Green Belt. The site is also within West Pennine Moors and a Special Landscape Area but lies outside the conservation area.

The proposed development involves the conversion and extensions either side of the central prefabricated building and demolition of the other buildings to the side and rear. The proposed extensions on either side of the converted ‘prefab’ would comprise single storey mono-pitched, timber clad structures. Each would extend out to the side by 3.4m and run back 12.2m to form a U-shaped building with an enclosed garden on the north side. Access would be taken from the existing access on Arthur Lane and visibility splays would require a short section of hedging to be cut back either side of the access point. There would be parking for two cars provided on hardstanding immediately to the south of the building.

As the site is within the Green Belt, I analysed the proposals against the NPPF and I referred to Paragraph 79, which  states that planning policies and decisions should avoid the development of isolated homes in the countryside unless one or more of the following circumstances apply:

a) for an essential agricultural worker

b) secures a heritage asset

c) the re-use of redundant or disused buildings and enhance its setting.

d) sub-division of existing dwellings

e) a design of exceptional quality

I analysed the merits and I raised at the meeting the following points:

  • The proposed development is not for an agricultural worker
  • The proposed development doesn’t secure a heritage asset
  • This is not a “re-use” as with this term we describe that a building is capable of conversion without the need for extension, significant alteration or full reconstruction of redundant or disused buildings 
  • The proposed development is not a sub-division of existing dwellings
  • The proposed development is not a design of exceptional quality

I voted against but the application was passed with no amendments.

More information and the full papers for the meeting are here.

Reporting Back: Answers to Questions

Just to report back on some of the responses to some of the formal Council Questions that have been submitted by your team of Liberal Democrat councillors:

Councillor Steve Wright asked about the current trend of free to use cash machines being withdrawn:

Can the Leader inform members about any work the authority has done to ascertain how many free-to-use cash machines have been lost from Bury in recent years? What proportion of residents do not live within walking distance of a free-to-use cash machine?

Answer:
An analysis of the Link website has shown that within the Borough of Bury, according to latest records, there are 88 free-to-use cash machines with a further 29 that incur a charge for usage. The proportion of free-to- use versus paid varies throughout the Borough, for instance within the Ramsbottom/Tottington area 2/17 charge, Prestwich area this is 3/8 whilst in Radcliffe the 7/12 charge.

In terms of spread of machines generally and specifically free-to-use machines there are a few of areas of which there is approximately 1km of coverage without a free-access machine, which include around Fishpool, the area north east to Bury town centre/south of Clarence Park, Summerseat and Ringley Road (west Whitefield).

It is proposed that the figures referenced above are kept under review and that correspondence is made with the Voluntary, Community and Faith Alliance with respect to engaging populations in these locations of the Community Access to Cash Delivery Fund.

Councillor Michael Powell asked about the large amount of advertising banners which are on park fences:
Could the leader inform members what the Council’s approach is to advertising banners, for example on park railings, and who is able to put these up and who is responsible for taking them down?

Answer:
The approach taken for park railings is that permission is requested from Parks and Countryside by groups wanting to put a banner up. The banners need to be from the Council, charity, community group/volunteer, event sponsorship or Parks related, this can mean other parks as well such as Heaton Park, Manchester. The people putting the banners up are requested to look after them, ensure they are kept tidy and remove them when the event/activity is over.

Other banners do appear from time to time such as St Mary’s Park in Prestwich which are commercial in nature, a sweep to remove banners is carried out across the Borough periodically when resources allow.

Councillor Cristina Tegolo asked about the problems of fly-tipping in the Baguley Crescent area:
At the end of 2019 BBC Radio Manchester reported on the flying tipping and waste management issues in Baguley Crescent. This has been a problem that both the local councillors and the residents in Baguley Crescent have been raising with the Council on many occasions. Could the Leader inform members how the Council is learning from the outcomes of complaints to improve services in Baguley Crescent and can the Council share the changes to the refuse and recycling service strategy that have been introduced with the public?

Answer:
As a result of a high turnover of tenants, this leads to flats being regularly cleared out by landlords of bulky wastes such as mattresses and furniture, which tends to dumped on the adjacent land.

There is very little recycling by residents, leading to overflowing general waste bins and in addition recycling bins are constantly contaminated. Some recycling bins have been removed in recognition of the above problems. Collection crews make every effort to service the bins on the scheduled day but access is sometimes not possible due to parked cars.

The land in question is private and although the Council is not required to maintain it Waste Management undertook a thorough clean-up of the area on 21 December 2019 (the second one in 13 months). Two additional communal general waste bins were also delivered.

A Waste Management Officer visits Baguley Crescent on a weekly basis to monitor the situation and maintains contact with some local residents, including the chair of ABC- Action for Baguley Crescent – who have overseen the installation of 5 CCTV cameras overlooking the bins on the problematic side. Images are shared with GMP. There is also a Council CCTV camera overlooking the site.

Hope this is useful the full text of all questions and answers are here. Let us know if there are things you would like us to raise at future meetings.

Council Budgets Next Week

Next Wednesday, Bury Council will set its budget for the 2020-21 financial year, and also outline plans for the coming three years. For residents we find out what the Council’s plans are, and importantly how much Council Tax we will be expected to pay from 1 April 2020.

The final details won’t be known until next Wednesday, when the ruling Labour group makes its proposals, but we already know a lot of information.

The Council has already announced that the budget requires substantial savings, but this is less than might have been required because of ‘one off’ items that have been found.

The Council Tax proposal at this stage are for an increase in the Bury Council element of 2%, plus a further 2% increase in the adult social care levy.

However, this 4% rise is only part of the picture, as residents will also have to pay the Greater Manchester elements of the Council Tax (Police, Fire and Mayor). Added together this means that Council Tax will rise by more like 5% for residents.

Last week was the Greater Manchester Scrutiny Meeting where the Greater Manchester presented his proposals to Councillors. The proposals are:

Police – Council Tax will rise by £10 for a Band D property which will deliver an extra £10 million for Greater Mancheter police. This rise in itself doesn’t pay for any extra police officer, but the Government will also provide Greater Manchester with just under £10 million which is about 347 police officers.

Fire – Council Tax will go up 10% £6.25 for a Band D property. This is the first rise for the Fire Authority for some time in Greater Mancheter. What this rise means is that, for 2020-21 only, the Fire Service will not need to reduce the number of fire-fighters in post across the service. There are still big decisions to be made here, but these will be made over the coming year.

Mayor – the Council Tax we pay for the Mayor of Greater Manchester will go up by 45%. The vast majority of this increase will be going to pay for the Mayor’s plans to make bus travel free for 16 and 17 year olds.

We will do a full report next week, when the full budgets are understood, as well as what proposed your local Liberal Democrat councillors make.

Reporting Back: Planning Committee

On 21January was the monthly meeting of Bury Planning Control Committee. This is the meeting made up of the 11 Councillors who represent the various wards of the borough of Bury. The committee determines planning applications for certain major developments and others where objections have been received. Councillor Cristina Tegoloreports: 

Prior to the Committee meeting a training for the Planning Control Committee took place. Usually the training is arranged monthly by the Planning Department. This time, following consultation with Dave Marno, Head of Development Management Planning Services Department of Resources and Regulation Bury Council, I invited Stephen Hodder to speak to the planning committee and planning officers. Stephen is a local architect and Past President of the RIBA who won the inaugural Stirling Prize for the Centenary Building at Salford University. He’s currently Chair of the Construction Industry Council. His talk was about design quality in the planning process.

At the Planning Control Committee meeting all submitted applications were approved but I raised some concerns on the following applications:

Access road off Halsall Close, Gorses Quarry, Bury, App No. 64022
We discussed an application that was submitted retrospectively for the removal of a stretch of vegetation and trees to an access track which is located within a semi-rural area and is in the Green Belt. The access track carries a bridleway and footpath reference 24BUR.The works caused the embankment to become unstable in parts and some tree roots were exposed and protruded from the side of the embankment. The works had also caused minor landslides of earth and stones to fall into the access track. The application submitted wanted to implement a scheme of ecological mitigation and re-profiling/stabilising works.

We analysed the merits and I raised at the meeting the following points:

I considered that the engineering works would not constitute inappropriate development in the Green Belt and would comply with point b) in para 146 of the NPPF. However, I suggested that the works were offering the opportunity to introduce a rest area with benches by the side of the now enlarged access track. My comments were taken on board and will be incorporated into the scheme. 

Site at corner of Spring Lane & Bury Road, Radcliffe, App No. 64518/Full
We discussed a proposed development, on the corner of Spring Lane, Bury Road and Pine Street, for the erection of 15 no. x 1-bedroom apartments, provided over 3 floors with the main entrance on the side elevation facing the associated car parking. 

The site was previously occupied by St Mary and St Philip RC Church, which was demolished in 2009, and is currently vacant. The scheme will deliver 100% affordable housing.

We analysed the merits and I raised at the meeting the following points:

  • I fully appreciated that the scheme provides 100% affordable housing but I pointed out that in this block of apartments there are only one-bedroom flats and there isn’t a lift.
  • I also said that in a 3-storey apartment block without lift, people with long- and short-term mobility impairments, elderly couples that wish to downsize, parents with toddlers will be excluded or disadvantaged.
  • I was happy to see that a scheme for the provision of electric vehicle charging points would be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority. However, I said that Bury Council should do a lot more to create sustainable buildings and minimise their environmental footprints. Ideally. we should also have renewables energy systems (such as solar and wind) and we should conserve and reuse rainwater.

I also said that that the perimetral metal fencing around this block of apartments should be replaced with green hedging plants to give privacy and at the same time to support wildlife and create a small eco-friendly habitat. This comment was taken on board and will be incorporated into the scheme. 

Land adjacent to 152 Butterstile Lane, Prestwich, App No. 64902/Full
We discussed a proposed development in a small rectangular plot (70sqm) of hardstanding at the southern end of the Neighbourhood Shopping Centre, on the corner of Butterstile Lane and Carr Avenue. The development consists of a two storey red brick building attached to the existing unit at 152 Butterstile Lane. The new build has a retail unit (40sqm) at ground floor with a shopfront onto Butterstile Lane and a 2-bed flat at first floor level.

We analysed the merits and I raised at the meeting the following points:

I said that the external appearance and design of the proposal in relation to its height, scale and layout was not in line with the adjoining buildings. I considered that the relationship of the proposal to the surrounding area was not acceptable as the proposed development had a different finished floor level, its windows were at a different level and the height of the roof (both the ridge and the gutter) broke the continuity of the row of terraced houses and shops on Butterstile Lane. I said that the scheme in my opinion should have been redesigned and that this was a miss opportunity to create a corner store with some quality design in a lively neighbourhood.

My comments weren’t taken on board, I voted against and the application was approved with no amendments.

More information and the full papers for the meeting are here.

Reporting Back: Full Council

Last week was the regular ‘Full Council’ meeting for Bury Council – the main meeting of all 51 councillors. Almost all the meeting this time was taken up by policy motions proposed by the different political parties.

The Liberal Democrat Group proposed a policy motion on Loneliness and Isolation, an important issue that we wanted the Council to take more proactive action on.

Councillor Michael Powell, who proposed the motion said:
“(our) motion this evening seeks to address the growing trend of loneliness and isolation felt amongst many individuals in our various communities. To give you an idea of how far reaching these issues are, it is estimated that one in ten people over the age of 65 are likely to be classed as either isolated or severely lonely.

However, it is also very important to note that loneliness and isolation are not issues which exclusively effect a particular area of society or age-range. They effect a wide range of people, regardless of age or background. For example, research conducted by the group ‘Campaign to End Loneliness’ has found that an increasing number of young people are being found to suffer from loneliness and isolation, and that 16 to 24 year olds are actually the most likely age group to report feeling lonely or isolated.”

The motion proposed that Bury Council takes a number of steps to make residents aware of all the support services that are in place, and make sure it has a ‘joined up’ approach on other policy issues (e.g. transport or communications) to make sure that wherever possible everything contributes to tackling loneliness and isolation.

The motion received the support of all parties, and has now become the agreed position of the Council.

The Conservative Group proposal was to have a ‘Community Governance Review’ for Radcliffe. Essentially this would have undertaken a formal review to decide whether it would be a good idea to have a Town Council for Radcliffe in the future.

Town Councils are a common feature in many areas of England, but not in Bury. They are additional to the Borough Council, but provide local services in a town. Next door in Bolton, for example, both Horwich and Westhoughton have their own Town Councils.

In principle we would support the idea, through it is important to say that we should make sure it didn’t cost more money for residents, but we don’t see why it is just Radcliffe that should have this review. Other areas of Bury (Ramsbottom, Prestwich, Whitefield etc) might also want their own Town Council.

We proposed an amendment to the motion, to make it cover the whole of Bury. Our proposal was agreed and is now the Council’s policy. The Conservatives voted against wanting the review to just look at Radcliffe.

The Labour Group proposed an important motion on tackling Islamaphobia, which included signing Bury Council up to the International Definition on Islamaphobia. We were very happy to support this important proposal which was agreed.

The papers for the meeting are here, any questions please ask!

Council Budgets set next month

Next month (February 2020) both Bury Council and also all the joint authorities that cover Greater Manchester will be setting their budgets for 2020-21.

In Bury, the Council (like all local authorities) will continue to need to save very significant amounts of money. Nobody knows what the Government’s plans are beyond 2020-21, but the current estimate is that Bury Council faces a challenge of c £31 million over the next 5 years. This estimate assumes that Council Tax goes up by 2% a year.

Bury Council has an unusually low level of ‘reserves’, so using reserves to fund year-to-year service is not possible.

The Council will set its budget on 26 February 2020. Councils are ‘capped’ by Government on how much they can rise Council Tax (without a referendum). This is just below 2%, though once again the Government is allowing a further 2% ‘Social Care Precept’ rise, so effectively this is just under 4%. Even if Bury does rise Council Tax by this amount there still needs to be savings of nearly £9 million in 2020-21. We don’t yet know what proposals will be brought forwards by the ruling (Labour) group on how to meet this gap.

Many of our services are provided at a Greater Manchester level:

Police – remarkably the Government hasn’t event told police forces what their level of grant will be from 1 April. There is the Government promise of extra police officers, but it seems like police forces like GMP will be made to put up Council tax locally make the budget balance. The Government sets a maximum rise that is allowed, something like £10 a year for a band D house.

Fire – fire faces significant budgetary pressures. In the current year the budget has balance by using reserves to prop up spending. It could be that this continues in 2020-21 but ultimately this is not sustainable.

Transport and Mayor – the biggest areas of change we are likely to see at a Greater Manchester level in 2020-21 are around the Mayor’s own council tax and particularly around transport.

The Mayor introduced free bus travel for 16-18 year olds last year. If this is going to continue then he will need to put up his own Mayoral Council tax significantly to pay for it.

The other very major piece of spending that won’t have an impact on our bills this year, but very much will in the future is the prospect of bus re-regulation. The cost of this in the first five years in Greater Manchester is early £140 million and about £23 million of that would need to come from putting up Council Tax more that it would have been over the next five years.

More information as we get it and any questions please ask. Please let us know your views on Council finances (comment below, or email Councillor Tim Pickstone).

Reporting Back: Cabinet

This week was the regular meeting of the Council’s Cabinet. This is made up of the ruling (Labour) group cabinet members. A representative of the two largest opposition parties is invited to attend but not vote. Councillor Steve Wright reports:

Radcliffe Strategic Regeneration Framework
The Cabinet received an update on the Radcliffe Strategic Regeneration Framework. This is a continuation of the £500,000 approved in 2018 much has already been spent. The council will now be consulting stakeholders and and develop the Strategic Regeneration Framework, and then take it to public consultation.

Bury, Town of Culture 2020
Bury has been chosen to be Greater Manchester’s ‘Town of Culture’ for 2020. There are various events planned across the Borough in a roughly six months festival linked to the town’s association with Victoria Wood. The project has a starting budget of £150,000 made up of £60,000 from the Victoria Wood Foundation, Greater Manchester Combined Authority £50,000 and Bury £40,000. The council will be looking for to have many and various events in different areas and will be looking for offers from local groups.

Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone
The Cabinet received an update on the proposed Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone – the plan to charge lorries, buses, vans and taxis (that do not meet stringent emission standards) a daily fee to drive in Greater Manchester.

Further implementation of this has been delayed until after the local and Greater Manchester mayoral elections in May this year (readers will remember a similar delay to the next proposals of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework………). They are hoping to get funding for Automatic Number Plate Recognition and that this might help with enforcement of ‘ no idling zones, e.g. outside of schools). The cabinet were reminded of the Liberal Democrat motion on no idling outside the boroughs schools and that there has been little or no action on it in past two years. The cabinet agreed that this plan should be pushed forward.

Mayor of Bury 2020-21
The Cabinet agreed that Holyrood Ward Councillor Tim Pickstone be nominated as Mayor for 2020-21. Tim will be the first Lib Dem Mayor of Bury for 17 years. The Mayoral year starts with the annual ‘Mayor Making’ event late in May 2020.

Papers for the meeting are here, any questions please ask.