Earlier this month (8 April 2019) was the regular ‘Full Council’ meeting of Bury Council. This is the meeting, six times a year, where all 51 councillors are in attendance.
This meeting, as you may have seen reported online and in the press, was controversial before it started. At each full Council all political parties submit motions for discussion. However at this meeting, one motion (the Conservative Group one) was ruled out of order and both the Liberal Democrats and Labour motions were withdrawn upon advice from the Council Solicitor.
The reason for this is a law around what is called ‘Purdah’, which is the period running up to an election where a Council must be ‘non-political’. We obviously understand the law, but the way that this meeting was scheduled has meant that very important issues – like the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework – have not been properly debated by your local Councillors. This is wrong and we asked the Mayor for a review of the whole process around Council motions to make sure this never happens again.
Without motions, the remaining business of the Council was:
- Additional daytime ‘panels’ for the Licensing Committee to consider applications to become taxi drivers. At present these take place in the evening, but in the future daytime meetings will also take place with smaller panel of (3) councillors. We opposed this because we feel that this sort of function, where councillors sit in a quasi-judicial role (ie non political) needs to be where all councillors can attend – in the daytime we are restricted to just councillors who do not work.
- Questions to the Leader of the Council – our questions included a question on preparation for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit (this was before the European Council had met!), childhood obesity and also a question about the Council’s ‘investment’ property in Lytham St Annes. this was an Italian restaurant, but sitting empty and costing Bury’s Council Tax payers over £2,500 a month business rates and service charges. With reference to Bury Pride (which was coming up on the Saturday) we also asked the Council Leader if he would raise with the Mayor of Greater Manchester to write to the Government about the appalling situation in one Commonwealth country (Brunei) where the penal code now says that lesbians and gay men should be stoned to death.
- Questions on Joint Authorities – our questions included a question about the fact that Greater Manchester Police are bottom of the table when it comes to racially and religiously-motivated hate crimes being closed without a suspect (46% are). What we were told is that theprimary reason for this figure is the fact that Greater Manchester have been particularly successful in increasing the reporting of Hate Crime. We understand that, but surely other police forces have done similar things, and it is no excuse for Greater Manchester being at the bottom of the table.
Mary D’Albert, who has was first elected as a Liberal Democrat councillor in Prestwich in 2008, is finishing as a Councillor in May and we took the opportunity to thank her for her service at the meeting. Mary and her husband Vic have given Prestwich and Holyrood Ward three decades of service as local councillors which is an amazing contribution.
Any questions on the meeting please just ask. The full papers are available here.