Reporting Back – Full Council July 2014

Earlier in the month was the regular meeting of Bury’s Full Council – the opportunity five times a year when all Councillors meet together.

The meeting interestingly too place the night before the announcement in the press and on TV about the three-weekly bin collections. However no mention was made of this new policy at Full Council (TV interviews had clearly already been recorded). Papers for the Cabinet meeting which contained the proposal seemed to be handed out as people left the meeting.

This was my first Full Council meeting as the only Liberal Democrat councillor. Although it has its advantages ( for example it’s easy to decide how the Liberal Democrats will vote) it also has significant disadvantages. We can’t propose motions and any questions to the Leader get put at the very bottom of the list and then don’t get answered! (I understand this might be reviewed, as hopefully it fairly clear that this isn’t a fair way of doing things…)

Public Question Time
Two main issues were raised:
– the speed limit of the unrestricted section of Turton Road, which I understand will be reduced to 50mph, and the possibility of 40mph is being investigated.
– a second issue was the proposal for the withdrawal of the (commercially run) bus service which serves Affetside. Thankfully Transport for Greater Manchester have stepped in and a solution for a subsidised service has been found.

Questions to the Leader
I submitted two questions – which were only answered in writing.

Councillor Pickstone
Could the Leader say what proportion of staff who are currently employed by the Authority at levels below the ‘living wage’ are employed in schools? The Council is currently proposing to increase the pay of staff on the minimum wage to something a little higher, but still below the recommended ‘Living Wage’.If I had been given a supplementary question I would have asked about how the Council was addressing the issue of schools budgets that would have been affected by this.

A. There are 646 schools-based employees who currently earn an
hourly rate of pay that is below the Living Wage of £7.65 per hour.
This amounts to just under 56% of the total number of employees
who earn less than the Living Wage. This Labour administration is
very clear that it aspires to pay all staff at or above the Living Wage
and the simple reason that we cannot do this at the present time is
the sheer scale of the cuts imposed on us by the coalition
Government which Councillor Pickstone’s party plays a full role in.
However, despite this, the proposals on terms and conditions that
we have just begun to consult on provide for a move towards the
Living Wage for the lowest paid of our employees.

Councillor Pickstone
Will the Leader join me in welcoming the £245,000 extra money for potholes for Bury from the Government? How will the funding be split between townships?

A. As I said in an earlier answer, I am pleased that we have qualified
for this funding because it shows that the Government recognize that
Bury Council delivers best practice when it comes to highway
maintenance. However this money only goes a fraction of the way to
making up for the savage cuts that the Government has previously
made to our highways funding and so it is clear to everyone that the
blame for potholes on our roads lies firmly at their door.We intend to
spend the money in the areas of most need and so it is not possible to
provide a township split at this stage.

A Labour motion on a ‘Fair Deal for Bury’ proposed calling for all-parties to lobby Government for a review of the ‘funding formula’ which (for many years) has been viewed as unfairly underfunding Bury compared to other councils. There was a long debate, including an amendments from the Conservatives. I ended up supporting this motion.

A Conservative motion addressed the issue of Bury’s ‘Core Strategy’. The consideration of this issue has been suspended by the Planning Inspector, as there are issues around the supply of land for future housing. The Conservative motion also included opposition to all wind farms, which I don’t support.
In the end a Labour amendment was adopted which I was able to support.

Any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


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